We know how much we love to see dancers, gymnasts, and acrobats with those amazing leg lines. Extension that seems to be flawless, lines that seem to go on forever….
We know that we are striving to teach our students to have those lines but we also need to remember that there is some serious biology going on to get those lines!
We live in a heavily visual age and you can bet that your students, especially the teens, have been following professional gymnasts, dancers, acrobats, and saving elements and routines they love and dreaming of being able to emulate them. You can also bet that they have seen comparing themselves to those pros and making a list, mental or otherwise, of ways they feel deficient ….. especially our teen students.
That being said, we are still going to strive to have them be THEIR best, but we need to remember that we need to work with the legs they were given, and teach them to love the legs they have.
This is where we as teachers and coaches need to take the time to correct the form of our students individually, and be mindful not to make ‘lump’ corrections that may not be right for all students.
Here is an example:
Some students may have legs that when they sit with legs extended and knees squeezed have feet that do not touch.
If we are cuing squeeze the feet together to these students we are going to end up with sickled feet or bent legs to achieve this, and more importantly, we are going to create a striving for something that is not aligned for their legs.
With these students I cue, 'Jada, squeeze your knees together and keep long ankles while you point your feet.” This is a great kind of student to cue the squeeze from the pubic bone to the knees.
Alternately, some students have legs that, when they sit on the floor with legs extended will have toes and ankles that touch but their knees do not touch one another.
If we are cuing “squeeze the knees together”, these students will need to bend their knees to achieve this, which is counter to the lengthened leg and to eliminating the ‘micro-bend’ that we are all striving for in our students.
With these students it’s totally cool to cue “Brianna, stretch those legs and keep your feet squeezed together.” I focus my cues on stretching the legs and feet with these students.
I know that when you are running a busy class it can feel difficult to have to cater your comments to each student individually. It’s a little more work to have to say “Jada squeeze from the knees to the pubic bone” and then “Brianna, squeeze your toes and heels together” but we have to remember we have to work with the legs they have and we’re here to build them into confident, strong, students who own their self-worth and have body positivity.
PLUS, never underestimate the power of having your students feel ‘seen’ by their coach or teacher. When students feel invisible in a sea of students, especially if they don’t naturally exude a strong presence in the room, hearing their name in class with a cue and then a “Yes, that’s it! Great job!” You are creating stronger aerial acrobats and nudging their view of themselves in a positive direction…..which as teachers of youth, is our first and most important job.
You’ve got this my friends!