Friday, February 24, 2012

If at first you don't succeed, do it a different way.

I have been struggling with my girls competing on bars. They have made huge improvements in practice and are hitting more and more routines and parts every day. But when we go to competitions it all just falls apart. First I thought it is just nerves, the girls are too worked up about competing again and it will work it self out. Then it was a bad day maybe, then it was my fault. But then I started to think what if they and I are doing everything we can? What if we are missing something, something simple. We do routines where we simulate competitions, we make the girls do routines with too much rest, too little rest. Then it hit me, at least I think I have it this time. I think this is something that a lot of gymnastics bar coaches might agree with me on.

In our gyms our bars are fastened to the ground with 4 cables. These cables screw directly into the ground and allow us to loosen and tighten the cables as much as we want. When the cables are very tight, it makes the bars fast and responsive. My girls like the bars like this. When the bars are tight you get back almost all of the power you put into them, so who wouldn't like that.

Now when you travel to competitions for the most part the bars are not screwed into the ground. The facilities that large gymnastics meets use will not allow us to drill holes into the ground. So how do we hold the bars down?
We use what American Athletic calls a Freestanding Uneven Bar Adapter. It is a spider like, mass of steel that screws into the base plates of the bars and then attaches the cables coming from the bars to the outstretched arms of the beast, at the barrels. Now I have heard that those barrels are supposed to hold sand but I have never seen that. They have always been filled with water. It is much easier to move them around that way because you can remove the water when you are done. The problem is that water weighs less than sand, and the arms that extend out from the base flex. This causes a problem for the coaches and athletes whenever we use these setups. No matter how tight you get them they seem to only get looser. The more tight they get, the more the water jugs are lifted, and when an athlete is swinging around the bar they also lift the barrels, and flex the extended bars. This causes the bars to feel "different" than they would in the gym. So if you trained an hour a day on a piece of equipment, everyday for years, and then you show up to compete in front of judges, your coach, friends, and family, you would expect a piece of equipment that looks like yours to act like yours as well. But it doesn't, it steals your power. You have to work harder than before, change your technique. You start to doubt your self, thinking you are week. And then you are done. Once you think you are week, you are.

So how do you fix this problem? You don't want one of these contraptions in your gym. The bars footprint is already 18' x 13' and this thing adds another 3 - 4 feet in each direction. No one has that kind of room. So what then? Easy, loosen your bars, waaaaayyy loose. At least that is my theory, and I am sure there are coaches out there thinking duh, and some out there are thinking are you crazy you are going to kill your kids! For the first, sorry I'm a little behind, but why didn't you tell me this before? And to the second, it actually makes the bars less likely to fail. I had to explain it to my girls 10 times before they would get on the bars. Now I do have tension in the cables still, the bars aren't just slouching over to one side. I just have them so if you give them a shake from side to side they might move 3-6" each way. Now I don't think that this mimics the characteristics of a set of bars on a Freestanding Uneven Bar Adapter perfectly, but it gets them close. And anything that can get my girls to feel more comfortable at a meet the better.

So give it a shot, I will see how my experiment goes tomorrow night, competing at Team Central's STL Classic. I'll let you know.

Ooo and the first part of my fun weekend started with me getting my team's new kit in. As well as our new helmets and Shoes. I love getting new stuff. :-)

Mike Rickey, owner of Quantum Solutions, and I, after our first ride in the new kit.

The road team got white helmets while the off road guys did black

Everyone could pick their own color shoes, this is what I got!

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