With every gymnastics pit system we design or sell, we always send along a gym pit warning poster that lists pit safety protocols. We recommend gyms, clubs or schools that train gymnasts using a gymnastics pit post these safety protocols near their pit, so that coaches and gymnasts will see it and be reminded that training acrobatic skills into a pit can be dangerous and is not to be taken lightly just because it’s commonly done in the sport of gymnastics.
Several of these protocols are self-explanatory, but some of the reasoning behind them might not be so obvious to the newbie coach or athlete or to their parents, so we thought we’d do this post to talk a little about our gym pit safety protocols and what reasoning lies behind them in the hopes that knowing they WHY behind these safety principles will help keep more folks safe out there.
- Use the pit only under supervision of a gymnastics professional.
- Always make sure the foam is adequately fluffed before using the pit. There should be a mountain of cubes to the point of overflowing the edge of the pit. The foam should be fluffed up after every 3 to 5 entries.
If your pit doesn’t look like a mountain of cubes, then that could indicate the cubes are compressed or that you don’t have enough cubes in the pit. Having a pit which doesn’t have enough cubes or whose foam pit cubes are compressed will not displace or absorb the incoming forces of the gymnast’s body and thus will not offer the cushioned landing or slowing down that a pit is there to provide. Landing into a pit full of compressed foam cubes would be like landing onto just a big block of foam.
Most gyms have the antiquated, super tight trampoline bed that is lower down than our Sag Bed trampoline system. The older system causes foam cubes to get compressed over time because the trampoline is strung so tight that it does not allow for the bed to go down and back up. Bodies hit, the bed stays taut and the foam gets smashed or compressed.
In our Sag Bed Pit System, bodies hit, the bed is strung loose such that it allows for more movement, so bodies hit, the bed is strung loose so everything goes down, the forces at play are distributed and displaced across the surface of the cubes and the bed, and then everything goes back up. There’s more action to our Sag Bed Pit System, so it’s not a hard surface where pit cubes are as easily compressed. Of course, even with our Sag Bed Pit System, your pit still needs to be fluffed and you will still want that mountain of cubes almost to overflowing at the edge.
3. Never land head first, or on your face and chest or in an arched position. It is best to enter the pit in an open, tucked position landing on the middle of the back.
We could write this one over and over again #’s 3 to 300. It just can’t be stated enough. It’s That Important. Here’s why:
You can snap your neck or spine.
You can compress your neck or spine. We can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard about heartbreaking accidents that have changed young lives, forever.
See, your spine curls forward really well. Your spine curling backward, not so much.
You can land on your feet and roll back into a tucked, open position on your middle back. And that part about an open tuck? That’s a really big deal. Tuck too tight and you can hit your knees into your face. Or, if you’re in too tight of a ball, you’ll just cannonball right through the foam.
The way a pit full of foam cubes works is that you want to land as kind of a bigger, wider object, creating a large surface area; so that the forces you bring with you displace over a large surface area of foam cubes.
4. Become familiar with the performance characteristics of the training pit by first practicing already learned skills.
Understand how your pit works. Know how deep it is. Is it a soft Sag Bed Pit System or is it an antiquated, tight trampoline bed system where the bed is strung low down in the pit. How many feet of air is there before you hit the cubes? How wide is it? How long is it? What do those dimensions mean for the skills you are training into it? How do they relate?
5. Always use the appropriate progressions and consult with your instructor before attempting a new skill.
6. Consult with your instructor to determine whether a spotter is needed at the end of the pit, especially for vaulting and tumbling.
This is sort of the sum of #’s 4 & 5. You want to make sure you’re ready for each skill and you want to make sure you know how to apply it to the pit and you want to have a spotter, if needed. Specifically, you don’t want to hit the back wall!
This goes double for tumbling and vaulting. You don’t want to be going so hard that you travel too far and overthrow it and go crashing into that back wall. Gym owners, you want to make sure your pits are long enough, as well. We recommend a minimum of 16 feet on a pit.
7. Always be sure to have properly measured steps, particularly when tumbling backwards into the pit, especially when tumbling.
Often times it comes naturally, but before it gets to that point, when you’re still counting or learning it forward first, make sure you count it out in the opposite direction, so you don’t bang a shin, scrape a knee or stub a toe on the edge of the pit. Ouch!
Most start 12 inches from the pit and count and tumble away from the pit to figure out the steps and pacing first before reversing that into the pit and doing it backwards. Better safe than sorry, for sure.
8. Check to see that no one is in the pit before entering.
Seems elementary, until you land on an elementary school kid’s head because they were hiding from the coach or their best friend.
9. No horseplay. Develop a healthy respect for and an appreciation of the risks involved.
No wrestling moves. No swan dives. No doing stupid stuff. Don’t try out anything you saw in a America’s Funniest Videos or on JackAss.
10. Don’t wear any jewelry, attachments on clothing or items in your hair. These items could come loose in the pit and cause eye injuries, puncture wounds etc..
Yep. No list of safety protocols would be complete without the phrase, “You could put your eye out with that thing.” But no, really, you could put someone’s eye out with those things and it’s all fun and games until someone gets their eye put out or gets their neck snapped or well, you get the picture.
Gymnastics pits make for beautiful gymnastics, but what’s so jaw dropping and heart stopping about gymnastics is that element of danger, that streak of fearlessness that fire of incredible bravery that courses through the veins of gymnasts along with their grace and strength. But what makes you a superb, elite athlete can take away even your most basic every day movements, if you don’t afford it the healthy respect and reverence those risks and skills demand.
Keep these safety tenets in mind and you should be fine. Please, be safe out there everyone.