On Thursday evening, approximately 60 coaches from Great Britain and Ireland attended a Chinese Coaching Masterclass in City of Lisburn Salto National Gymnastics Centre. The class, taught by coach to Sui Lu and Yao Jinnan, Xu Jinglei and coach to reigning Olympic Bars Champion He Kexin, Liu Guicheng, spent two hours educating the enthuasiastic coaches. Coaches were encouraged to take photographs, videos and notes, questions were also welcomed.
Beginning on bars, the Coach Liu used Salto gymnasts Casey Jo Bell, Nicole Mawhinney and Sarah Beck to demonstrate common mistakes seen in moves. On bars, the coaches taught, via a fantastic translator, the Pak Salto, Reverse Grips, Reverse Swings, and Giant Blind Turns. They split their time between demonstrating on bars and also some prep work on the floor bar. They continued to highlight shoulder flexibility and the ability to change shapes as a key feature needed to have successful bar moves and also how we should spend a lot of time working on swings from a young age, shaping the gymnasts as they go. Coach Liu told us that despite seeming to be similar moves, there is a lot of difference btween the Pak Salto and a Shoot Half Turn to the low bar, that the technique is very different. Approximately one hour was spent covering bars, an apparatus which especially needs a lot of work in Ireland as Irish gymnasts tend to lack great bar routines.
Coach Xu took over on beam, showing the coaches how to work on Free Walkovers, Flip Layouts and Onodi’s. One point that was constantly highligted out throughout was the lack of flexibility in the gymnasts, the Salto gymnasts were relatively flexible but nothing like the Chinese gymnasts are. During this time Coach Liu sat back with Salto Manager Clare observing but stood up at many a time to point out that good flexiblity is key to these moves. Coach Xu told us that the gymnasts require a lot of stretching but in Ireland this type of stretching would be frowned upon. We are all aware of the photos that emerge, especially in an Olympic year of Chinese gymnasts being stretched by coaches and put through their paces with conditining.
Moving to Vault, Coach Liu took up his position again giving great insight to the Yurchenko vault. He discussed Beijing 2008 Olympic bronze emdalist Cheng Fei and her positioning on the board and her take off. Having Yurchenko’s covered in the Masterclass was a real treat, you don’t see many of those vaults in Ireland. Some preps were shown on the floor and on the spring board to demonstrate good drive and shaping for Yurchenkos.
A fascinating discovery I learn last night was the fact that the Chinese coaches found it difficult to work with gymnasts who perform on their right leg, apparently this is highly unusual in China. Coach Liu explained that Chinese gymnasts tend to perform on their left leg. I am presuming this is something taught since the beginning of their gymnastics career. You can see Sui Lu and Jiang Yuyan below taking off from their left legs.
Whilst the Chinese did not give away any of their secrets and language barriers proved to be a tad bit difficult the 2 hour Masterclass was worthwhile attending, I came away feeling positive and ready to go back to my gymnasts to work on new skills with some valuable lessons learnt from the Chinese Olympic Coaches. I feel that they are very much “hands on” coaches, the handled the gymnasts alot, constantly correcting shapes, something I feel that is not emphasised enough to Irish coaches on coaching courses, although we are instructed where is permitted and where is not permitted to touch the gymnasts. We have previously been told to be cautious touching a gymnasts stomach, their backside and chest. The coaches had no problem poking the gymnasts into the right shapes, very good to see.
Many thanks to Salto Gymnastics Centre for their hospitality and organising this excellent opportunity for coaches. Salto should be extremely proud to have organised such an event to help the progression of coach education in Ireland. A huge thank you to the brilliant translator (who’s name I cannot remember) and also to Coaches Liu and Xu for taking time out of their busy schedules. They had only finished a three hour training session prior to our arrival.
I have included some photographs, taken via iPhone for you to view. Click on the images to view them in bigger format.