Assisting the Flyers “Seat”
(By “seat” I am referring to the flyers, posterior, derrier, bottom, or for those of you who are unfamiliar with these more polite words, the flyers butt.)
There has been much debate and disagreement on the subject of if, when, and is it ever advisable for the back spot to assist the flyer during stunts and transitions by helping to support her (or his) seat. The more you read this blog, the more you will see me give this answer, “It depends.” I have grown to believe that when it comes to technique, there are certainly norms that you can expect to work best in most circumstances. However, there are always exceptions to norms. I’m going to write about what I think works best most of the time, but feel free to disagree if you know something else that works better for you.
On to the discussion…
When dealing with one-legged stunts, such as liberties, it is pretty much universally agreed upon that the back spot starts with one hand on the flyers base leg ankle and one hand under the flyers seat. On the way up, the back spot assists the flyer, pushing straight up to the top and then puts both hands on the ankle or as high as they can reach to assist with stability. Likewise, when transitioning down to the ground in a double take (or retake) where the flyer’s base leg remains in the hands of the bases and her other foot “taps” the performing surface (hopefully that’s the ground), the back spot reaches up and contacts the flyer’s seat as high as they can and assists the bases in slowing and controlling her descent. Please feel free to shout out if I’m wrong, but I believe this is commonly understood and accepted.
The debate occurs when dealing with 2-footed stunts, such as halves (preps/elevators) and fulls (extensions). The debate turns into a full out battle royal when talking about basket tosses.
The argument for assisting the flyer’s seat in both situations is the most simple so I will start with that. The back spot can take some of the weight off the bases, making the load into the stunt smoother. The back spot can help the flyer maintain her balance, assuring that the stunt will go straight up and not travel in any direction. Doing so can make the flyer feel more secure and confident, which usually results in better execution on her part. During downward transitions such as crunches (sponges, squishes), the back spot can assist the bases to slow and control the descent of the flyer. I’m sure there are others, but I’m going to cut it off here.
The argument for NOT assisting the flyer’s seat is mainly that the flyer should support her own weight using her arms to push down on the bases shoulders, so it should not be necessary to have assistance from the back spot. By having the back spot assist, the flyer becomes dependent on that assistance and never learns to support themselves. And in the case of basket tosses, by assisting under the seat, the back spot essentially is cut off from helping the toss before the bases even get their arms to shoulder level. The back spot will be much more useful in terms of achieving maximum height be assisting under the basket (the interlocked hands of the bases) all the way to the top when the “break” the basket. Once again, I am sure there are other arguments to be made but I think this hits the main points.
OK, here’s where I stand on the subject…
For 2-legged crunches, I want the back spot assisting under the seat on the way down, just like on the 1-legged double takes. I have not noticed a negative consequence of using this technique, and I have not noticed any benefit of other techniques, such as holding the flyers ankles or waist on the way back into the load position.
For halves and fulls, I teach both techniques, but we execute the majority of repetitions WITHOUT the back spot assisting under the seat. This is because, when everything goes correctly, the flyer should not need the help. However, if there is some kind of breakdown or slip that causes the flyer to lose her balance in the load position, the back spot can potentially muscle the flyer back into the correct position and save the stunt. Personally, I consider this technique a short cut to teaching the flyer good form, so I prefer not to use it. However, just like a “sweep” cradle needs to be used when things go bad, so can the old seat assist.
In basket tosses I am much less inclined to allowing the back spot to assist under the seat because it is so limiting to how much they can help on the toss. However, I will sometimes have them assist under the seat if a flyer is especially nervous of baskets and using such poor form than she is jumping or slipping off the basket before the bases can extend their toss. If the seat assist gives the flyer the confidence to use proper form and ride the basket correctly, that will result in a higher toss than having her assist under the basket but have the flyer sliding off. I liken this teaching technique to giving a spot on a new tumbling skill. Obviously, the spot has to be taken away once the tumbler is proficient in the skill. Just like that, once the flyer is proficient in her basket toss technique, you should start weaning her off of the seat assist.
So there you have it, almost 1,000 words about whether or not to touch someone’s butt. Not exactly Pulitzer Prize material, but I hope this contains some useful perspective to someone. 🙂