With the current interest in safety in the United States, the safe conduct of a sport like gymnastics is essential to its very existence. It is a basic assumption that gymnastics can be conducted safely. To make safety a reality students and teachers alike must be alert. Teachers must explain hazardous qualities of every stunt, and students must take their role as spotters (helpers) seriously.
Every participant can have fun, but no participant should ever fail to carry out his responsibilities as a spotter. Likewise, if a student does not fully understand his spotting assignment, or has not been taught the spot in question, he should inform his instructor promptly so that no unnecessary hazard need be overcome by his buddy.
If a student discovers a potentially hazardous situation relative to the condition of apparatus or other equipment, he should be encouraged to report the condition promptly. The class should recognize that some risk is inherent in any activity, but that needless risk is foolhardy. Needless risks should never be tolerated. The activity is by nature daring, and as such, even under ideal conditions, will test the mettle of any male.
Selection of Apparatus
The selection of apparatus and equipment for gymnastics activities is a very complex undertaking. It is perhaps sufficient to say that quality gymnastics apparatus must be considered a long-term investment. All effort and attention should be directed toward obtaining the best quality material and workmanship. There is no real need to seek a bargain in this area, because the equipment will still be in use 25, 35, even 50 years after the original purchase - if quality materials are selected initially, and effort made to maintain the apparatus.
Care and Repair of Apparatus
There are numerous reasons why equipment should be cared for and maintained in top condition. The foremost reason, of course, is that students would be needlessly injured if allowed to work on faulty equipment. This same consideration might become a financial one if needless injury occurred and a lawsuit developed.
The other chief consideration is that it is financially much more prudent to maintain any sort of equipment in top repair than it is to allow it to depreciate. For instructional purposes, equipment should always be in good repair. In general, it is an excellent policy for the instructor to examine all equipment at least once each week, and for maintenance or engineering personnel to examine the structural aspect of the equipment once each year. Any needed repairs should be made promptly.
Use of Mats for Protection
Mats are much less costly than doctor bills or the inconvenience of injury to students. Sufficient mats should be available to place under the apparatus being used and around the area if dismounts are likely. Wherever possible, the mats should be cut to fit the apparatus and protect the student from making contact with the apparatus itself, in the event of a miscalculation when dismounting.
The Use of Mats for Spotting
Ropes and web belting materials are frequently interlaced beneath mats which are held by six students to provide a pliable landing surface for the student who is attempting a difficult or dangerous stunt, such as the front somersault. Under these circumstances, the mat is usually held about waist high and allowed to descend to approximately six inches above the floor upon contact of the participant.
Protecting the Hands
It is recommended that beginners be introduced to the use of palm protectors early because often the condition of the hands limits the workout period. It seems that boys who work as beginners without protection find it difficult to utilize palm protectors when they become competitors. With particular reference to the horizontal bar, use fine memory cloth to keep the bar free of caked chalk. Always provide plenty of hand chalk, and insist that it be used to keep the hands dry.
Take these few safety precautions and all your gymnasts will be much less likely to be injured.