A hit is important. It’s no doubt that you’ve heard the industry all chattering that “technique” is the buzzword for the 2015-16 season, and rightly so! With the widening of the technique ranges on the scoring system created by The JAM Brands, Epic, and Varsity, it is now more important than ever that teams focus on hitting their routines at competition.
Are you in the cool club?
Yes, every team always wants to hit their routine. But, I hope that you are making this a priority for you and your team. Will you make it into “Club Zero”? It’s the hot new trend! Instead of focusing on winning each competition, which is out of your hands and in the judge’s hands, focus on zero deductions and hitting your routine. Teams with zero deductions get to be a part of Club Zero and often give themselves their best chance at winning, too! Zero deductions is a victory in itself to be celebrated! Not only do deductions take points off your total score, but also the mistakes that receive deductions take away from the strong technique and visuals that you were intending to show there. In this way, deductions can hurt a judge’s overall opinion of your routine.
“A life of frustration is inevitable for any coach whose main enjoyment is winning.” – Chuck Noll (Steelers Coach)
So, how do you find the Hit?
It is most likely to come with proper preparation, both physically and mentally. Athletes need to be in top physical shape, so don’t skimp on the conditioning at practice! Athletes need cardio, plyo, and strength conditioning. Their bodies need to be ready to handle the toll their nerves will take on them and the adrenaline rush they will have on competition day. Athletes need to be conditioned to be able to perform their routine with effortless confidence even after a long warmup and walk to their arena.
“Nothing will work unless you do.” – John Wooden (Basketball Coach)
Technique! Technique! Technique!
If “perfect practice makes perfect”, then strong technique should be established in the gym if you want to be able to show it at competition. Once athletes are conditioned with the strength necessary to learn skills, they should always be practiced with technique in mind. Reaching for a hit by focusing on physical preparation at the gym has other important fringe benefits, like increased safety of the athletes, potential for faster proper progression, and stronger visual appeal to judges at competition.
“I figure practice puts your brains in your muscles” – Sam Snead (Professional Golfer)
Believe it to achieve it.
Even once your athletes are physically capable of producing a hit in practice and their bodies are competition ready, will they be able to pull it off? To help your teams achieve the hit, don’t forget to prepare them mentally, as well. Get to know your athletes and their individual strengths and weaknesses. Don’t be afraid to adjust your coaching style to help each athlete grow and improve in their own way. Visualizing their success can also build confidence.
“Mental will is a muscle that needs exercise, just like muscles of the body.” – Lynn Jennings (Long Distance Runner)
Fake it til you make it.
Make smart choices with the content of your routine. If no one knows your team like you do, be sure that you choose skills that flatter your team’s strengths and hide their weaknesses. Don’t be afraid to go against the grain if your team’s skill set is best shown in a non-traditional way. That can add to the creativity, uniqueness, and visual appeal of your routine! Challenge your athletes, but find the right balance of skills that lets the team build confidence at practice.
“Wisdom is always an overmatch for strength.” – Phil Jackson (NBA Coach)
And, don’t forget the fun!
Team bonding activities help your athletes enjoy the hard work they are putting in and are also great for building the trust needed to get through the routine together. Once you have prepared your athletes mentally and physically, it is all up to them to execute on competition day, you’re now just their guide.
“The rewards are going to come, but my happiness is just loving the sport and having fun performing.” – Jackie Joyner Kersee (Track and Field Legend)
When in doubt, take it out!
Don’t fall victim to pressure to focus solely on difficulty! Years ago, some teams focused on having the hardest routine content, regardless of how it was performed. Avoid letting this old-school mentality seep back into your decisions for your teams. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of new skills in a competitive atmosphere. But, focus on technique and preparation to find the hit. Ignore the pressure from parents at the gym to put in that extra tumbling pass for their child. Make those type of decisions based on your knowledge of that child as an athlete. And, ignore the social media posts about insert favorite team here’s new, super cool stunt. You’ve chosen your stunt skills based on what your team can do while showing strong technique, to make a favorable impression on the judges. Again, no one knows your team like you do.
“Know yourself and you will win all battles.” – Lao Tzu (Chinese Philosopher)
Clean to win!
The numbers favor a strong hit. In capped categories like jumps and tosses where most teams are likely to earn the Max difficulty score, what will separate the winners from the rest of the pack? Technique! If everyone is going to do a quad jump (or triple + additional), then yours should be the best. If everyone is going to show a squad toss and an additional toss, then yours have to be higher and prettier. Even in other categories that don’t have a max, the math says to focus on technique! Most teams will score in the high difficulty range, which means you can only be separated by at most one point. But, the technique range that goes with that category is worth two points – twice as much! If most teams score in the Average technique range, aim for the Above average technique range. “Hit, hit, hit, pull” should take on an entirely new meaning when thinking about scoring this season. If it doesn’t hit, hit, hit then maybe you should pull it for the benefit of the team. Try to find the best possible score for your team that is the perfect balance of difficulty for specifically them.
“Sometimes, as in a game of chess, we must strategically regress so that we might progress toward our ultimate objective.” – Crystal Woods (Author)
Use the feedback you get from judges at competitions to supplement your own thoughts as to what they are looking for. If judges are consistently complimenting the flexibility of your top girls, then show it off! On the flip side, if judges consistently talk about the timing of your synchronized standing tumbling pass, then really work on the timing of that pass. Even if you thought it was good, consider their unbiased opinion of your routine, a routine they don’t know by heart like you do. Something about that section of the routine drew the judge’s eye in a negative way. Use that feedback to make your team stronger.
“If you can’t accept losing, you can’t win.” – Vince Lombardi (Legendary Football Coach)
– Sarah Smith