Hardest Standing Tumbling
I’ve had a lot of readers writing it to ask about standing tumbling. The most common request is to hear about what tricks are the hardest and/or score the highest. I can’t do anything the easy way (ask my wife), so rather than just talk about skills and scoresheets, I’m going to go on a little rant as well. But I promise I will ALSO answer the two questions mentioned above.
I remember when standing fulls were first coming around in cheerleading. There were only a small handful of people throwing them. They were freakish athletes with huge vertical leaps and incredible body awareness. Nowadays, a lot more cheerleaders are throwing “standing” fulls. However, they aren’t really standing. They are taking 3 or 4 running steps backwards (maybe more), pounding their feet into the spring floor, and letting their momentum and the springs throw them over into the skill. Don’t get me wrong, this is an elite trick. Not everyone can do this. However, it is NOT a standing full and should not be given the same credit that someone should get for doing a true standing full. In fact, if you take steps into it, it shouldn’t even be considered standing tumbling at all.
Before anyone starts to argue, here is an example to help explain why I have this opinion. Consider front tucks. The traditional (and easiest) way to perform a front tuck is to take a few running steps, perform some kind of a hurdle (overlift, underlift or Russian-my favorite), and perform the front tuck. This is a running tumbling skill. No one would disagree with that. It is not uncommon to see a level 3 team throw about half-squad running front tucks (which to me is one of the best ways to max out level 3 running tumbling). However, when someone performs a standing front tuck, that is a true showcase tumbling move. You’ll put that single cheerleader out in front so the judges can’t miss it. In fact, a true standing front tuck is so difficult most cheerleaders will actually perform a toe touch before it so they can bound into the front tuck and get a little momentum.
I’ll throw you for a bit of a loop now. A true standing front tuck is a heck of a lot harder than one of the backward running things people are passing off as standing fulls these days. Don’t believe me? Take any of the cheerleaders throwing the aforementioned “standing” fulls and ask them to try a standing front tuck. The vast majority of them probably won’t even try it. If they do, most will land right on their seat (that’s cheer talk for “butt”). The one’s that make it to their feet will almost certainly fall back onto their bottom (another cheer word for “butt”).
So how is that for a news flash. A standing front, which technically is legal as a level 4 skill, is vastly harder than a standing full, which is not legal until level 5. As for what is THE hardest standing tumbling skill, it is hard to answer. I once saw a true standing double full (with no steps back). That was pretty hard. Much harder than the long, complicated passes people perform from a standing position, because in those passes, you gain momentum as you go. They basically turn into running tumbling. So for now, my answer to what trick is hardest is a true standing double.
Now onto the point of what scores the best. First, you have to consider whether or not an event differentiates between standing and running tumbling. Most seem to do so. And most seem to say if it doesn’t come out of a round-off (or some kind of forward running skill), it counts as “standing” tumbling. As you might have noticed, I strongly disagree with that definition, but for now, I’m out-voted. For purposed of this article, we’ll use the commonly accepted understanding of what qualifies as standing tumbling.
Generally, to get perfect scores in your standing tumbling, you need excel in 2 aspects. You have to show off a high difficulty squad tumbling skill. You ALSO have to demonstrate a handful of “specialty” or “elite” tumbling tricks.
The second category is the simplest to talk about, so we’ll knock that out first. We’re talking about standing fulls, handspring-handspring fulls, handspring-full-punch front-roundoff-handspring-double full, etc. This part of your choreography is kind of a no-brainer. If you have any cheerleaders on your team with this level of tumbling, FIND A PLACE TO PUT IT!!! I think having 1 cheerleader bust out this something truly memorable like this adds about a point to your overall tumbling. If you can pull together 3 elite standing tumblers, you are practically guaranteed maxed out standing tumbling scores. Throw more than that and they’ll be talking about your routine next year at Worlds. So the point is, obviously, if you have elite standing tumbling, use it. I told you it was a no-brainer.
As for the squad tumbling, what we’re usually talking about to get consideration for high scores is some form of back tuck. It can be a standing tuck or a standing handspring tuck. Either way, if about 80% to 90% of your team throws (and lands) them, you will be in the high range for level 4 or 5 teams. By the way, the 20% to 10% that aren’t throwing them, the judges notice when you “fake” it. It does hurt your score, but not as much as busting on your knees. So fake it if you can’t land it, but keep trying to catch up with your team.
Anyway, if a team manages to actually have 100% participation in a tuck, that can max out scores, depending on the competition. If that is the best tumbling all day at a certain event, you might max out. But judges will still probably hold back on perfect 10’s.
If you want to make sure you max out your standing tumbling, you really need to throw a jump combination right into a back tuck. You can get away with faking 1 or 2 cheerleaders, but you need almost 100% team participation. Full squad tripple toe touch back tucks is sort of the standard judges look for to give 10 out of 10 in standing tumbling.
I kind of ranted longer than I planned, so that made the explanation part of the blog a little thin. Sorry about that. But I really think standing tumbling choreography is less flexible than most other parts of the routine. That is, in pyramids, you can make up for lower difficulty with complex, creative and visual elements. In standing tumbling, you can’t choreograph what your team doesn’t have. You can only get so creative with presentation of standing tumbling. So the only sure-fire way to improve that part of your scoresheet is to get in the gym and practice those standing skills.