EUGENE, Ore. – The University of Oregon’s Acrobatics and Tumbling team won its second consecutive National Championship in April, but to get to this point the team used basic skills as the building blocks of its program to establish confidence in all of its athletes.
Each season begins with Head Coach Felecia Mulkey preaching to her team the importance of mastering the basic technical skills. From the get-go Mulkey has her team doing drills of basic maneuvers, because it is this repetition that reinforces them.
“You have to have the fundamental skills, and have to be able to do them technically sound, so that you can build on those,” said Mulkey. “All of the things you see us do now are based on those fundamental skills.”
“The first skill that everyone learns as either a gymnast or a competitive cheerleader is a handstand,” mentioned student athlete McKenzie Wilcox. “Through every skill that you do, you do a handstand.”
In nearly every whirl, twirl or flip that the acrobatics and tumbling team does in its routine, the athletes perform a handstand, which is why the perfection of this skill is crucial.
Dr. Andrew Karduna, of the University’s Orthopaedic Biomechanics Laboratory, explains the science behind the handstand each gymnast performs.
“When you’re doing a handstand you need to be able to lock out your elbow,” said Dr. Karduna, “and that is actually going to make it easier to do the task, because it’s going to take less muscle contraction.”
It is important for acrobatic and tumbling athletes to do this to conserve their strength in competition.
“Though we have won two National Championships, it still doesn’t get any easier,” Wilcox said. “We still have to work from the basics.”
Story from the University of Oregon Sports Media Workshop