Acrobatics and tumbling: Oregon practices ‘perfection before progression’ to reduce injury
The back-breaking turns, the flips, the holds and formations on display at a collegiate acrobatics and tumbling meet don’t come to fruition over night. Choreographing the chaos of flying athletes into one symbiotic show takes practice.
“What you see at meets has been drilled so many times, and perfected, so you see the final product,” head coach Felecia Mulkey said.
Although Oregon puts in a large amount of time focused on technique, it’s still difficult to stray away from injuries in such a physically demanding sport.
“Just like any other sport there is a risk of injury, always,” Mulkey said. “We use a proper progression of technique. That cuts down on a lot of injuries.”
Mulkey’s motto of “perfection before progression” has sliced the odds of a player getting hurt substantially, but there is still a commonality of injuries in the sport.
Junior top Miranda Merkison knows first-hand the nature and risk of injuries in acrobatics and tumbling. During her freshman year, Merkison suffered a shoulder subluxation while practicing her tumbling. The pain was excruciating, but Merkison fought through it. @@http://www.goducks.com/SportSelect.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=500&SPID=11402&SPSID=105363&[email protected]@
“It started as a tumbling issue, but then it went into acrobatics and anything I did,” Merkison said regarding her shoulder injury. “I decided after my sophomore year that I would have surgery and now I’m cured.”
With injuries being essentially a certainty in sports, teams are required to have multiple backups with the capability to be plugged into numerous spots if necessary.
For junior walk-on Amanda Kay, her versatility has been the reason for her early success with the team.
“When I first joined they told me — since I was so new to the sport — that I probably wouldn’t be in the routine as much,” Kay said. “I worked really hard and learned as many skills as I could.”
On a roster of 37 women, there are bound to be some athletes not featured in the final product during a meet. With injuries being a major factor, backups have to be prepared to enter into the starting lineup. Due to this, Kay was featured in the starting lineup of the first meet, replacing an injured Blaire Wilson as a back base. Kay also was practicing with the starters prior to Monday’s home meet at a different position in the routine.
“They saw that I was working hard so they put me into the routine when someone got injured,” Kay said. “I’m really versatile and they can throw me in basically anywhere.”
Kay’s versatility made her an easy insertion into the team’s cohesive routine.
“She’s one of the people that could literally do a hand-in-hand with everyone,” Mulkey said. “So when we had an injury, she was an obvious pick. The more versatile you are, the easier it is to sub you in.”
Injuries are an unfortunate side effect of acrobatics and tumbling. But with preparation, perfection and progression, Mulkey is making the sport as safe as it can be.
“It could be a dangerous sport if you don’t do it the right way,” Mulkey said, “but I feel like we do it the right way.”
Follow Joseph Hoyt on Twitter @jhoyt42
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