As a coach, you know that every athlete on the mat is vital to the competition’s teams’ success. You want all of your athletes to have a strong base to thrive in their position. Flyers hold very instrumental roles on the team, and having strong flyers is a big step towards the team’s success. For new flyers and even flyers who have previous experience, there are basic strengths you as a coach can help developers to make flying seem like second nature for your athletes. This will not only give you confidence in your athletes as performers, but it will help them have more fun performing as well.
Body Control and Awareness
Body control and awareness are the essential things to drill and train in your flyers. Their bodies need to be strong to help make flying easier. There are a couple of critical areas that can be concentrated on making this happen. These areas are the ankles, legs, glutes, and hip flexors. Flexibility is also essential for flyers to have to pull body positions. There are several things that you can do to build their strength and flexibility.
It is very common for new flyers to roll their ankles in the air. If this is happening, it means that their ankles are not strong enough. Having proper ankle strength is essential to be more stable in the air. Here are some drills that you can have your athletes do to strengthen their ankles:
Suggest that they practice balancing one-one foot while brushing their teeth or getting ready in the morning. This may seem strange, but balancing on one foot will ultimately strengthen all of the small muscles inside their ankles. It is essential to practice balancing on both ankles as flyers need to fly on both legs.
Another drill you can suggest or implement during practice is heel and toe raises. Have flyers slowly rise onto their heels to stand on their toes then slowly lower them back down. Have them repeat 20 times. Then do the opposite and have them raise their toes so that the weight is in their heels. Repeat this 20 times as well.
One helpful tip to give to your flyers is to remind them to keep their feet as flat as possible while flying. To help them do this, have them curl their toes down and under. This will not only prevent them from putting too much weight into their toes or heels, but it helps engage the ankle and makes it easier for bases to hold their weight.
The next important part of the body to focus on training in your flyers is the leg muscles. Your flyers need to get their legs locked out and straight as fast as possible when standing up into their stunts. You can implement the following drill at practice or suggest they do it at home.
Step up drills.
These require the flyer to place their foot on a taller surface than the ground, just under hip height. This could be anything like a mat, chair, couch, or stunt stand. Once they place their foot on the object, have them stand up onto it and get their leg locked out as fast as possible. Have your flyers do this about 20 times on each leg daily to get their bodies comfortable with the feeling. If they do this regularly, it should become a natural feeling for them, and when it comes time to stunt, they won’t even have to think about it.
Your flyers need to have a tight backside when they are flying. Squeezing the glute muscles is very important to stability in the air. There are a couple of things you can incorporate into practice to strengthen these muscles.
Have your athletes perform exercises such as glute bridges, fire hydrants, and glute kickbacks to develop basic muscle strength in this area. Have them perform each exercise 15 to 20 times. These exercises are easy to incorporate into any conditioning or stretching time you provide during practice.
Another drill you can incorporate is to have athletes practice pulling the arabesque body position while standing on the ground or on a stunt stand. If the gym has ankle weights, you can have your athletes wear them while performing the drill to make it more difficult and build more muscle.
The hip flexors are a vital muscle group for pulling body positions such as libs, heel stretches, bows, and scales. Having these muscles developed in your athletes will make pulling these body positions easier for them to perform without losing balance.
Have your athletes sit on the ground with legs directly in front of them, then have them try to lift their legs off of the ground without using their arms. Another variation of this is to have them stand with one of their legs straight in front of them and have them try to hold it there for 20 seconds at a time. Have them practice these drills with both legs as they need to pull body positions on both.
Another thing you can do is have flyers practice pulling heel stretches, bows, and scales on the ground or a stunt stand with or without ankle weights. This develops the muscles needed for them to pull the body positions required.
Marking stunts and body positions on the ground or a stunt stand will help your flyers have more confidence in the air. This act of removing the pressure of standing on people creates a sense of not worrying about anything but themselves and what they need to control. Once again, the stronger the muscles, the easier it will be for your athletes to pull their body positions.
It is highly recommended that coaches implement a stretching class or set aside time to stretch before or after practice. This time would mainly be for flyers and focusing on body positions. However, it could be open to all athletes because, as you know, cheer is a sport that requires flexibility from all members on the team. Make sure athletes warm up before stretching to prevent injured muscles. Having flyers with good flexibility will create more beautiful body positions. The better these body positions look, the better your scores will be at competitions.
Have a competition between stunt groups at practice. See how long flyers can hold body positions in the air. This will not only help the flyers but the bases under them to stay stable. It will also be a fun activity at practice and a chance for you to reward your athletes and easily assess their skills.
Another fun drill is to get balloons and toss them at flyers while they are in the air. This helps them learn how to squeeze tight and not let small movements affect them while they are in the air.
Remind your flyers that although it may seem like they have to balance themselves in the air, they shouldn’t. It is the bases’ job to balance their weight. All the flyers have to keep their ankles strong, lockout their legs and squeeze their muscles. The bases will do the rest.
Encourage your flyers to perform in the air and smile even if something is going wrong. Most of the time, people look at the flyers during stunts and they won’t notice if something is going wrong underneath the stunt as long as the flyer maintains confidence and keeps performing with their facial expressions.
These are just some of the things that you, as a coach, can do to help your flyers succeed and have fun while performing. Having strong flyers is one step closer to having a strong overall team.