Tag Archive | children

Stretching: Help or Harm?

I’ve recently been taking a good look at stretching, specifically the benefits and when during a training session you should or shouldn’t be stretching. Some of my findings were new to me, so I thought I’d share a general overview and some of what I learned.


What is stretching?

The movement of your muscles through their complete range of motion. There are two types of stretches: Dynamic and Static. Dynamic is the continuous movement of a muscle smoothly through its complete range of motion, for example leg swings. Static stretching is placing a muscle in a stretch and holding it in that position, for example if you were to raise your leg at a height and fold your body over it, holding the stretch for a fixed amount of time.

Dynamic Stretching is great at the beginning of a session because it helps to improve metabolic activity and blood flow to the muscle. This in turn helps with the muscles range of motion and power output, as well as preventing injury.

Static Stretches initially cause muscles to contract, and are proven to decrease the power available in the muscle for a short period – not what you want before a training session requiring maximum power. However when held for around 20 seconds post-workout, static stretches are effective at helping muscles to recover and heal, gently increase your flexibility and relax your muscles.

When is it best to stretch?

Based on my research, Dynamic activation stretches are great to include in your warm up. Static stretching in a fixed position for 20 seconds are most effective after exercise, during your cool down.

For a brief dynamic warm up, check out the video below from 13’07”. This video also really makes you think about the best use of a training session, especially when as Nath discusses (11′ in) the most ‘efficient use of time for optimal training’ doesn’t include static stretching, which can be done anywhere at any time, instead of getting onto the equipment you’re there to work on. He also makes a good point when it comes to young kids and the lack of ‘fun’ in stretching as opposed to using the equipment in the gym.

I hope you found this interesting and informative. I know it’s helped to inform what stretches I use in my training and coaching sessions. I’d really appreciate your thoughts below. On a side note, I was taught a warm up is for both the body and mind, do you think shortening the warm up could pose a risk to a athlete being less mentally prepared? Comment below with your opinion, I’d love to hear it!

~ Bella


What Athletes Remember Most About Coaches

Hi All, just a quick one, as I have been SO incredibly busy of late. I’ve been on my first Level 3 coaching module (WOO!) I’m learning to drive so I can get my full car license and I went on a workshop for coaches in multiple sports, which has had me thinking about my Coaching Philosophy. – I’m sure I’ll get round to that post at some point :s But in the meantime, I wanted to share this inspirational post about being a coach – are we as coaches all of these things? Some of them? None of them? They certainly all have some merit as good qualities to have as a coach…

Read more below about “What athletes remember most about coaches” – it’s not a Coaching Philosophy, but it’s certainly several philosophies to live by as a coach, if you want to be remembered… Let me know in the comments at the bottom what you think your kids will remember you for.

Ciao! Bella 😉


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When it is all over, what will your athletes remember about you?

Your terrific technique?

The number of elites you trained?

The incredible advice you doled out?

Probably not.

As Maya Angelou is quoted, “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”

Or as Lori Gard writes about teachers: They will remember you.

They will remember things like:

You being supportive.


You being patient.


You being kind.


You being positive.


You being compassionate.


You being inspirational.


You being fair.


You being joyful.


You being genuine.


You being passionate.


You being silly.


You being approachable.


You being accommodating.


You being interesting.


You being loving.


Coaches, it’s not the technique, the medals or even the skills that they will remember.

It is you.

Not stock photos in this blog post–these are real shots pulled from random posts of…

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5 Simple Reasons Your Son Should Do Gymnastics (Even if He Doesn’t Want to Be a Gymnast)

So I know I am guilty of neglect here, but I’ve recently discovered this great Gym blog and thought I’d share this post about Boys, Gymnastics and why gymnastics really should be a starting point for every child in sport. Because where else are you going to learn strength, balance, flexibility and control in one sport, as well as discipline, self-control strength of character, perseverance and focus? Hope you like this post as much as I did! Ttfn Bella x



Gymnastics is not just for girls.

Not even close.

Yes, the sport is considerably more popular among girls. But did you know that many regard male gymnasts as the strongest of all athletes?

In Men’s Health’s list of the 50 fittest athletes, it is a gymnast who is ranked third, ahead of sports stars like Michael Phelps, LeBron James and Usain Bolt. And, the magazine admits that the gymnast, Kohei Uchimora, “might be pound-for-pound the fittest guy on the planet.”

So that sounds like he should be ranked first to me…but I digress.

Even if your son has no desire to pursue gymnastics as a sport, there are still many benefits for boys to participate in gymnastics.

I know that might sound confusing: why would you have your child enroll in gymnastics if he had no interest in being a gymnast?

For these 5 simple reasons:

Gymnastics is the…

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Hopes, dreams and goals

Having dreams, turning them into goals and how I am achieving them.

I’m in a pretty good place right now… I started this blog with some vague notion that maybe blogging about something I was really passionate about, not just stuff I enjoy doing would help me not to lose momentum. And I’ve gotta say, so far it really have helped- not just with writing about Trampoline but it’s also kick started other baby steps.

I’ve come across stuff like this and had the kick start and motivation to give it a try, rather than putting it off. You always achieve more when you’re headed toward something and I think that as other areas of my life aren’t going forward pursuing this means I’m more focused on making it happen and helps keep me positive.

Walt Disney quote dreams

I didn’t really have any fixed goals when I left university a few years ago. To be honest I’m still not sure now and that’s even further down the line of adulthood – I’ve entered the big bad world as an independent woman! There was this one goal though and it was something that I kick started 2 years ago. Trust me – if someone had told me it was going to take this long over a year ago, I’d have looked on my dream as too high a mountain to climb right now and put it off.

Incidentally taking the time on this one has put me right where I needed to be I’d say. But enough about the waffling- I’ll bet by now you’re dying to know what this insurmountable Pipe-dream was? It sounds stupid and really not that difficult but I guess the fact that it’s taken two years puts it into perspective right? Well, that’s because it started out as a dream. Maybe if I’d started focusing on it more, earlier I might’ve got there quicker. I guess I’ll never know- until I re-achieve my goal that is..! (You have no idea how excited that thought makes me!)

My dream was to take a kid through all of the somersault progressions, from scratch, all by myself.

Here’s why:

As a coach with experience on a recreational and club level for pretty big clubs in the past, I was in two totally different positions that blocked me from achieving this one in either case. In the big club environment I started out as a Level 1 Assistant Coach. This meant that I had a small group of kids I worked with every week and whose progress I could nurture and follow all the way – until the club recognised children in my group with somersault potential… Then they got moved up the hierarchy of coaches to someone more qualified than I to nurture the seed of talent. It’s quite a common trend in clubs to do this and I’d say there are numerous benefits to the performer, but I can’t help wondering if there are potential flaws… Is it fair that all your hard work isn’t rewarded in seeing the full potential realised? I think it’s good to see the fruits of ones labour and to have it recognised but perhaps keeping it for yourself is selfish. Top level coaches (Head Coaches) also have the huge advantage of picking le creme de la creme – so some kids you might’ve nurtured and seen something in fall to the wayside, out shine by better peers.

Here clearly was an opportunity lost. I was not to remain frustrated by this for long though, as I then qualified at Level 2. Bingo. I now get some potentials – I’m a part of the talent spotting and development chain now, surely? Well that’s when moving clubs lost that one – I joined a new smaller club as coach no.3 where the children all already could somersault! You see the policy here was not to accept members until they could somersault already. So that was scuppered. Perhaps I would have more potential opportunities at this dream of mine if I was more in control of my destiny? So take control I did! Grabbing the bull by the horns, I jumped in with both feet!

I was self employed at the time and working exhausting hours, halting all social activities and I sorely missed what I realised had become a passion. I quit work every Thursday completely, making this my new weekend and pursued a new opportunity on a recreational level. It was probably the best thing I did and I was far more enthused about the day job having this passion return to my life.

As time went on I was asked to cover more recreational classes, and the day job became a chore, meaning sales dropped and I was no longer successful at it. I realised I loved coaching far more and wanted a better home work social life balance – I was ‘sick and tired of being sick and tired’ all the time, so I folded the business and went looking at last for something that would fit round more trampoline. Exciting times!

I was able to say ‘yes’ to far more cover-coaching opportunities, and with more kids progressing in the sport perhaps now I could finally get that somersault achievement? It wasn’t to be. The very nature of cover coaching means that you’re there when the regular coach is not, and I encountered two situations that challenged me – one was that as I was temporary cover, I was rarely privy to a progress report on where these children were at, and had to be careful about how much progress I could safely make in one session, and come to terms with the fact that any progress I made would be subsequently lost when I was no longer there the following week to reinforce and develop the next stage.

The second issue was more frustrating. For me, any kid making progress is great, and I get s real buzz from it, so I didn’t mind the dream being on hold if the children I saw infrequently we’re learning new things and having fun. I think I made a real impact on some of them.

No the most frustrating thing I found was getting there and having a child who is really keen to take their trampolining to the next level, but having to go backwards because somewhere along the line they’ve learnt a bad technique. I know I’m only the cover coach, but I have high expectations of even a seat drop before I allow progress, and the quality for some children just wasn’t there. I think one of the kids resented that she was in a group of three girls learning ‘turn-overs’ and starting to do double hand supported somersaults, when I halted her progress individually and took her back to front landings on the mat! Poor kid. I’d like to hope that I made a difference to her understanding of rotation that day, but I think I’d be lying to myself if I believed that stuck without further reinforcement the following sessions she attended.

That’s why I wanted my own group. I didn’t care how small, but I was growing tired of fixing other people’s mistakes and, honestly? Frustrated at how little progress children made between my cover sessions – if I’d managed to get a push and go front landing off the mat, I’d return weeks later to find it either still on the mat, or the technique gone to pot and take it back to the mat myself.

I realise this is a very negative view of cover coaching and I can assure you that there were also many high points during this time. But I wanted that little group and my own trampoline to nurture a group of children week to week and share their progress and successes – to be a part of them even. I wanted to be able to plan sessions and work towards something longer term and bigger than an hour here or there. Even if I was inspiring these guys just a little bit.

Achieve dream goals

So I started my Thursday sessions. In an area with a dubious reputation, which completely changed my perceptions, outlook and rekindled the dream – it became a goal now, because here I could see this dream as happening one day in the future if I kept at it. And I have. Here I was nurturing every week and celebrating at even the smallest results. I’ve had ups and downs, I’ve got close with kids who then left, I restarted from scratch with total beginners and I’ve been a part of some children’s journeys, only for their journey to continue elsewhere. But there’s always a few that stay and I have their parents to thank for this blessing. For bringing their kids to be taught by me every week.

Last Thursday I made a significant step towards my goal. Little Petal is now doing somersaults.

Granted, they’re hand supported and it’s only a front somersault… but they’re also the way I taught them with all of the progressions in between and as a coach the step from a 3/4 turnover to a full somersault hand supported wasn’t nearly such a big leap as it felt, and a big part of that goes to Petal who many a time has probably found the progress slow and frustrating, but I hope that we will now soon be at the fully unsupported stage! And I didn’t need the double hand support after all because she was just so ready it felt a natural step for us both this week. And I’m a seriously proud coach and happy as a kid at Christmas now that I’ve achieved that goal (at last).

Watch this space for more progress, ’cause it’s onwards and upwards baby! And now, I can plan ahead with my group. 😊

Happy bouncing!

– Bella 😉

Is he okay? It’s like I’m coaching a different child…

If you’re thinking something’s not quite right, maybe it isn’t… Warning signs in children that something’s not quite right.

Everyone has an ‘off-day’ now and again, some more frequently than others, and sometimes an obvious effect is noticed, other times you can’t tell. I suppose this could be the resilience of different people and the different affects of their personalities, but if in doubt you should always ask… Upset So I was coaching a boy a couple of weeks ago, (lets call him Robin) who seems naturally quite talented at picking things up quickly and has the advantage of some background general gymnastics. On this particular occasion though, none of these usual characteristics were displayed. I had my first spoiler just after I arrived and was checking the trampoline. Robin was on the crash mat on the other side of the trampoline, on his own.

Something happened while I was completing the centre’s weekly safety checklist and he suddenly burst into what can only be described as whining tears. I looked up startled, glanced at mum who was nearby, and then asked him what was wrong. Rather than being his usual communicative self, he continued to whine something I couldn’t comprehend and went to him mum for a cuddle. Now at this point I’m sure you’ll agree that there are children for whom going immediately to a parent is their normal response. For ‘Robin’, this is less usual and the whining tears were completely out of character.

Anyway, as accidents happen and he was keen to have his warm up go, the class progressed as usual and he seemed to perk up, so I didn’t think anything more of it- Until we were working on a new skill for him, hands & knees forward turn over. Robin hasn’t progressed very far because his attendance isn’t very high, so whenever he’s had a break, I go over the previous progressions, which for him doesn’t take long. So I asked him to do a forward roll, something easy, and usually fun for those that can do it. His first response was a whined “No, I don’t waant to.” That was odd.

Robin’s the kind of kid that loves doing two or three in a row, and now he didn’t want to do any? I carefully explained that this was what he needed in order to do the H&K 3/4 somersaults that we were doing a couple of weeks previously. The answer was still no. I changed tack and said we could do something else now, but he was going to do some on his next turn. Reluctantly he agreed to do 3 forward rolls on his next go, if he could do the ‘other move’ (3/4 turnover). I countered that they had to be good ones. They weren’t.

I began to doubt why there was a tick in my handwriting next to the skill – they weren’t straight, veering lopsidedly to one corner and then sort of collapsed like a sack of potatoes, without any ‘feet’ or attempt at a stretch. One of them even stopped upside down on the head (which wasn’t tucked) and didn’t ‘roll’ at all. I said to Robin that I needed to see 4 that were straight, with his head tucked in, chin on chest before I could let him do the h&K turnover. When they weren’t consistent enough to move forward, he got upset and burst into tears!

At this point mum stepped in to play rescue and tried to explain over the whines why the answer was no this week (thank goodness she was around and paying attention to what was going on!) When she managed to calm him down and send him off to play, I mentioned it wasn’t like him to be so upset (I was thinking it also wasn’t like him to be so… inconsistent on the trampoline either!) That’s when mum said that Granddad had died a couple of weeks previously and that he was tired after a late night last night. The veil was lifted. This of course could explain the unusual behaviour and I could certainly afford to cut the poor kid some slack. I was hitting myself, because I’d been thinking in my head that he was behaving unusually, and really, I should have asked, since mum was there, if there was any reason for it.

Alas that is one lesson learned in hindsight! Let’s hope my tale will help you in spotting the warning signs and remember to ask if something’s ‘different’.

Happy Bouncing everyone 🙂  

Safety: Garden Trampolines

Have you thought about purchasing a Garden Trampoline for your little sprogget? Here’s a few things to consider before you do, as well as British Gymnastics’ Safety Statement on the matter…

My favourite point on this subject which I think sums it all up is this:

Having a trampoline in the garden can be looked upon in the same way as a swimming pool, it can be great fun, but there is a need for training and rules. No parent would dream of buying a swimming pool and allowing their children unrestricted or unsupervised access or not teach them to swim before allowing them in.

But that’s not to deter you from purchasing one – these days trampolines for gardens are very affordable and can offer hours of fun for years to come. They even come with a their own ‘Safety Features’ (I’ll go into the pro’s & con’s of those). The main things to consider in my opinion are that these trampolines are very different from any found in a leisure centre, school or Trampoline Gymnastics Club and those differences are what can lead to significantly more injuries. trampoline That said there are a few things that you should definitely have thought about before you tell wee Katie that she’s getting a trampoline for in time for Summer Holidays…

  1. Rules!
  2. Clear the Area
  3. Consider the Height
  4. Skills and Levels of Skill
  5. Netting or Not?


Set out the conditions for your child and his/her friends to use the trampoline. This should include 1 person on the trampoline at a time, no jewellery and strictly no somersaults – EVER! Speaking from experience (because what trampolinist wouldn’t try something when presented with a trampoline?) These trampolines are very different with significantly reduced power to them and the risk of landing on your head, even when you’ve done somersaults hundreds of time on a 6×4, 4×4 and even a 1/2 inch bed is just too high.

Clear the Area

It seems like an obvious one, but this is something to be aware of every time the trampoline is used, not just when you’re initially setting it up – has Johnny left his scooter lying in the grass a few feet away? You don’t want to land on that by mistake whether you’re coming off the trampoline intentionally or not! Incidentally grass is one of the safer things to land on in your garden, so keep this nice and cushy around the trampoline and don’t put your lovely new decking too close to the Trampoline – solid surfaces to not allow kids to bounce back up again if they fall.

Consider the height

Older kids will (obviously) bounce higher, and this means that they have further to fall – so is there a way to reduce this by setting the trampoline in the ground? It’s quite common practice in some countries for trampolines to be built this way rather than up on stilts and personally I think this is an excellent way to make it much safer, regardless of the cost implications of removing 1m depth of soil the size of a trampoline. Incidentally, this also means that grown-ups are safer too – especially the tall, less athletic ones that think it’s cool to have a go… They’re most likely to cause injury to themselves – none of us are as young as we used to be, and we definitely don’t bounce as well as kids! :-S

Skills and Levels of Skill

In terms of what skills can safely be performed on a trampoline at home I would advise as a general rule of thumb, not to attempt anything more than what is taught in the Level 1 Syllabus – that is seat drops, hands and knees, front landings, back landings, shape jumps and twists. As BG says: There are many safe and impressive skills that don’t involve turning upside down. Different skills and combinations of skills can offer great variety as well as small soft-play items to mix things up a little. A soft beanbag or two can be good fun, though balls are not recommended a soft or lights plastic one could be suitable under appropriate supervision.

Netting or Not?

So far I’ve not once mentioned netting that can often be bought separately as an additional level of safety, or sometimes comes with circular trampolines as standard. British Gymnastics doesn’t offer guidelines on this matter, but in my opinion these can be more of a hazard. The idea behind the net is a good one- it stops children from falling off, which is what we do as coaches if a child is coming towards the edge of the trampoline. The net is providing safety similar to that of a coach, and therefore all worries about hazards around the trampoline can be laid to rest surely? Or can they? Having seen many houses where people have trampolines, I can describe the frankly dangerous state of disrepair most of these are often left in. Being out in all weathers these nets can fray and develop holes, especially in the moment when they are most needed and put to the test – a new hazard should a foot or hand be caught in one. These nets will also often come loose or detached from one of the surrounding poles, meaning part of the net begins to hang over the trampoline bounce area – again, a new slip and trip hazard. Finally, if your child has grown and is now able to bounce above the height of the net, it is no longer offering any safety to your child at all.

To counter my obviously strong opinion on the matter, I will endeavour to point out the safety that the net does offer for young children. Being light and not always steady on their feet, the net is a great object to steady a younger child bouncing on the trampoline who wanders too close to the edge. The nature of the enclosure also provides the perfect obstacle to avoid un-supervised trampoline activity- especially if your child is too young to climb onto the trampoline themselves without help.

I hope that’s given you food for thought. Ultimately the safest and best way to enjoy Trampoline Gymnastics is to participate in Trampoline as a sport – it’s a lot more fun than jumping up and down in a garden! If you want you can read more about these things from an official source: British Gymnastics has an official Garden Trampoline Safety statement on the subject. That’s all from me for now, Happy Bouncing! 😉