The unsung heroes of cheerleading

Back Spot

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“Hey, what’s the one in the back doing? She’s just kind of standing there and holding the flyer’s ankles. Why is she there?” I’ve heard this line of conversation a lot when I showed videos of a pyramid to someone. “Why’s there so many people down there? You only need a base to hold up the flyer.”

If you don’t yet know what a stunt is: Read this article!

Some love for our back spots

Yes, there certainly are teams who can stunt without a back spot. No, that doesn’t make the back spot unnecessary. Saying you don’t need a back spot because some teams don’t need one is like saying airlines don’t need pilots because drones can also fly by themselves. It doesn’t make any sense.

Taking away the back spot in a stunt group is like switching off traction control when driving on an icy surface, or taking the tires off your bicycle. Sure, you can still use the vehicle or ride on the rims. But it’s going to be a lot harder on those wheels (=bases) and needs a lot of strength and control by the driver (=flyer).

A good back spot makes a stunt that seems almost impossible feel like a breeze. Especially on the lower levels and in younger teams, back spots can save almost every stunt that went wrong. If they’re good, that is.

What they do

The main weight of the flyer is borne by the bases. Still, the back spot can do a lot to make a stunt feel considerably lighter. She helps accelerating mounts (going up into a stunt) and produces momentum that gives the bases time to hit their grips properly. She can also help the flyer spin if necessary. Additionally, she’s the one to reach out and slow down the impact of spins and release moves so that bases aren’t hit by the full force of the flyer.

This sounds easy in theory. But there’s a lot that can go wrong in a stunt, and it’s usually the back spot who has to get everyone back on track. The stunt is low? Lift some weight off your bases. Your flyer is wobbling? Squeeze her as tight as you can so she feels safe. Her legs are coming apart? Push them back together. There’s a hundred different scenarios, and the back spot needs to react to all of them in a fraction of a second.

Here’s a back spot in a level 2 stunt:

And here in a level 5 stunt:

 

When the stunt works out well, the back spot can focus on stabilising it by squeezing the flyer’s legs together and holding them in place. When it doesn’t, he might need to get a hand underneath the stunt where a base has missed her grip. The speed of that reaction can be game changing.

Back spots are usually pretty good at spotting what’s wrong in a stunt. They see more of what’s going on as they’re not directly underneath the flyer. They’re also the flyer’s best life insurance. Of course, it’s everyone’s duty to get the flyer back to the ground safely when something goes wrong. In some stunts however, it can be very hard for bases to get out from underneath a stunt, so they might only be able to catch the hip and leg area of the flyer. The back spots’ main responsibility is keeping the flyer’s upper body and head safe. As flyers tend to drop backwards out of stunts, they need great trust in their back spot’s ability to catch.

Requirements

Like everyone else in the stunt, back spots need exceptional physical fitness. They also need to be tall enough to reach up to the ankles of their flyer. A back spot who’s smaller than her bases isn’t a lot of use. It can be done, but it puts unnecessary strain on the bases’ body as they need to constantly stunt with bent knees.

As mentioned above, reaction time is key, but this can be trained. You also have to become fiercely protective of your flyer, so she can hit her stunts without being scared of falling to the ground. A confident flyer is key in a beautiful stunt, and you can give her that confidence.

Speaking of Flyers

Next week, we’ll be looking at the girls everyone else is looking at as well: Flyers! Stay tuned to find out what they do and what they need in order to be great.

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