Reading time: 10 minutes.
As a lover of “perfection before progression”, I’m super excited about the new Junior 3 and Senior 4 divisions. Our athletes get a chance to work at a pace that is safe, yet challenging for them, and there’s one single line of progressions through all the age categories.
For coaches, a new division also means learning a whole new set of rules – but don’t worry, we’re all in the same boat. Here’s an explanation on level 3 and what it includes.
This post doesn’t replace the rulebook, but I hope it makes it easier to understand. Once you’ve assembled your routine, always check the rulebook for potential problems. Especially in the lower levels, stunts are sometimes legal with one grip, but illegal with a different grip. When in doubt, contact the SCA for clarification on a rule. The proper procedure for that is in the rulebook on page 10.
I’m not going to mention everything that’s forbidden in level 3 – because that’s what the rulebook is for. I’m going to try to give you a big picture of all the really cool things that you can do, and once you figured out what suits your team, you will need to check the rulebook to make sure it’s all legal. Level 3 isn’t very restrictive in what you can do, but extremely particular in how you have to do certain things, so pay attention to the details.
This is pretty straightforward.
This is allowed:
- Back/front handspring(s) (as many as you want connected)
- Jump + back/front handspring(s)
- Round off + back tuck
- Round off + back handspring + back tuck
- Aerials (Cartwheel without hands)
- Running front tuck (with no other skills connected)
- Front handspring + Round off + back handspring(s) + back tuck
This is not allowed:
- Back- or front tucks
- Jump + back tuck
- Cartwheel + back handspring
- Cartwheel + back tuck
- Front handspring + front tuck
- X-outs, layouts, layout step outs, whips, pikes, or Arabians
- Once you did any flip (including Aerial), you cannot connect any more tumbling
Just don’t forget that from a rules standpoint, a jump always breaks up a tumbling pass. So if you do “Round off + Back Handspring + Toe-Touch”, everything that comes after the Toe-Touch is considered standing tumbling.
Generally in level 3, flips are only allowed in a tucked position and you must do a Round off or a Round off + Back handspring before the tuck.
Now, this will be a bit more tricky to explain. Let me give you a list of things you can do first, and then I’ll explain the details. Keep in mind, the fact that you’re allowed to do something doesn’t necessarily make it a good choice for your team.
Liberty = single-leg stunt above the head (extended)
Low-Liberty = single-leg stunt at shoulder level
Elevator = 2-leg stunt at shoulder level
Extension = 2-leg stunt above the head (extended)
Sponge = Feet of the flyer are no higher than bases waist
Twisting Stunts you can do:
- Half-up to Extension
- Half-up to Liberty (with a Heel Stretch if you want to)
- Full up to Elevator
- Full around from Elevator to Elevator
- Full around from a V-sit to Elevator
- Full up to Low-Liberty (into a Bow & Arrow if you want to)
- Full around from Low-Liberty to Low-Liberty (while holding a Scorpion if you want to)
- Show & Go with a full around (if you start & land in Sponge)
- 360 Sponge from Elevator
- You can do all of these skills as a partner-stunt as long as you have a spotter
Again, the exact rules are in the rulebook, but here’s the rule of thumb: As long as one person stays connected to the flyer the whole time, you can do ½ twist in any stunt that starts or lands extended. You can do one full twist in any stunt that starts and lands in a Sponge, Elevator, Low-Liberty or anything equally low (like a V-Sit). It doesn’t matter who does the twisting (it also counts if bases walk in a circle).
Fun fact: If you never go extended, you can do all this “two-based” (with no backspot or other spotter, though maybe that’s not very smart for your athlete’s safety). You can also do all of them with a single base (partner-stunt style). If you have a spotter (could be the assist of the partner stunt or an actual free person standing there), you can even do the extended stunts with a single base. For more details on spotter rules, check this post.
True Released Stunts you can do:
- Tic-Tock from floor to Low-Liberty (with any body position)
- Toss to Elevator
- Toss to Low-Liberty (with any body position)
- Ball-up to Elevator
- Ball-up to Low-Liberty (with any body position)
- Ball-up Show & Go
As you can see, this list is pretty short. Of course you can make it more fun; try tossing from the ground into a V-Sit, for example. Here’s the hard rule: True Release Moves for level 3 must start in a Sponge or lower and must land at shoulder-height of the bases or lower. You can do 1 trick (like ball-up), but you’re not allowed to twist or flip at all.
BUT. What if you want to teach your level 3s a low-to-high Tic-Tock (from Low-Liberty to Liberty) to prepare them for level 4? You can do that – with a small trick. The “Release move” rules ONLY have to be followed if EVERYONE let’s go of the flyer and they’re completely free flying. If you have your backspot or a base hold on to the flyer’s foot or ankle, the “Release move” rules don’t apply anymore.
So here’s what you can do with “Fake” release moves, as long as at least one person keeps holding on to the flyer:
- Tic-Tocks from anywhere to anywhere (yes, even high-to-high, if you find a creative grip where someone can keep hold of the flyer the whole time)
- ½ turn Tic-Tock to Liberty
- Full around Tic-Tock from Low-Liberty to Low-Liberty
- Any other twisting Tic-Tock, as long as it follows the previous rules about twisting stunts, including all body positions!
You can really get creative here. Knock the idea of the “right” or the “wrong” grip out of your head for a second, think about what switch or twist you want your flyer to do, and find a way to hold on to it. And again, everything you do that’s on Elevator-height or below doesn’t need a spotter (so you can two-base or partnerstunt it), and if you have a spotter you can even go extended with a single base.
What about flips?
The rulebook usually talks about “inversions”, not flips. Being in an inverted position means that your shoulders are lower than your waist and at least one of your feet is above your head, like a handstand for example. Simply put, it means being upside-down. When you do a flip, you pass through an inverted position.
Careful: a “Downward inversion” means “traveling downwards while being upside down”. These moves usually follow different rules, so read them carefully.
Inversions & Flips you can do in stunts:
- Front “Flip” with full twist from Sponge to Cradle while holding 2 hands
- Handstand on the shoulders of the bases (with restrictions, see below)
- Handstand on the bases’ hands (at Elevator-height & with restrictions, see below)
- Full around in a handstand position at Elevator-height (with restrictions, see below. Don’t ask me how to teach that to level 3 Juniors, but technically, you’re allowed to do that)
Even though handstands are allowed, you are not allowed to combine a release move with an inversion. So if you want to do a handstand and push it to a Elevator, someone has to hold on to your flyer the whole time, because you’re not allowed to release a stunt that involves an inversion.
Remember, be careful with your inversions and make sure they don’t become downward inversions. Technically, as soon as your flyer moves towards the floor while inverted, it becomes a downward inversion – this also counts for dips! In level 3, downward inversions at Elevator-height are not allowed, so you’re also not allowed to have the bases do a dip while holding the flyer in a handstand.
When you read the rules on dismounts, keep in mind that it’s only a dismount if it is completely released and lands in a proper cradle or on the ground. So if you do a “cradle” but the flyer lands on their belly, the dismount rules don’t apply! In that case, you’d need to follow the release and/or twisting stunt rules, depending on what you’re doing.
Also keep in mind that every cradle needs at least one spotter who catches the shoulder-area of the flyer and is in a position where they can protect the flyer’s head/neck. Usually, this will be your backspot.
Dismounts you can do:
- Pop-off, Cradle or ¼ turn Cradle from Low-Liberty
- Pop-off, Cradle or ¼ turn Cradle from Liberty
- Full down from Extension
- Full down from Elevator
- Toe-Touch Cradle from Elevator
- Toe-Touch Cradle from Extension
You’re not yet allowed to do full downs from single-leg stunts. BUT again, these rules only apply if it’s really a dismount (free flying + lands in a cradle or on the ground). If you decide to have a front-spot for example, and that person holds on to the flyer’s foot the entire time, you can also do a full down from a Low-Liberty, because in that case you only need to follow the “Twisting Stunt” rules, and you’re allowed to do a full twist at that height.
These are pretty easy: you’re allowed one trick, no more. You can either do a trick OR a twist, not both, so no kick-fulls here. Tosses you’re allowed to do:
- “Superman” (up to 1 ¼ twist, bases are allowed to walk ¼ for this)
- Pretty lady
- Ball-out (Pulling in the knees, then going into an X-Shape. This one is an exception, as it’s technically two tricks, but it’s still legal in level 3)
The arch doesn’t count as a trick, so if you do a Basket Pike, you’re allowed to open up properly after the Pike. You wouldn’t be allowed to do a Pike-Split however, that would be 2 tricks.
Now this will get a bit complicated, as there are SO many things you can do in a pyramid. I’ll just list some of the most popular pyramid moves to get us started:
Pyramid parts you can do:
- Extensions connected to each other
- Elevator-Liberty connected to each other
- Full ups and full arounds to extended if braced correctly
- Braced flips (if connected on one side to a base standing on the floor and to another flyer in an Elevator on the other side)
I realise I can’t really continue this list, because I’d have to add “if braced correctly” to almost everything. For level 3 pyramids, it’s best for you to think about what you want to do, then read the rulebook and figure out how you need to brace it to make it legal.
There are clear definitions when it comes to bracers: If it says “Hand/arm to Hand/arm”, it means that holding someone by the shoulder is not legal. It needs to be my hand holding your arm, and your hand holding my arm, so we can both use our grip strength to hold on. If you need to be braced on two sides, it needs to be either back&left, back&right, left&right and so on. You cannot just have two people holding the flyer from the back, that doesn’t count, because even if it’s two different people, it’s still only held from one side (the back).
Here are some things you’re definitely not allowed to do:
- Flips that are not braced by someone standing on the floor
- Flips braced by only 1 person
- More than 1 full twist in anything
- Liberty-Liberty or Liberty-Extension connections
Should you do level 3?
You can do whatever you want. But if you don’t know what that is, this part might help you decide. It’s my very personal opinion, that you’re of course free to ignore if you don’t like it.
As you can see, especially when it comes to stunts, you can make an extremely difficult level 3 routine. I’ve seen many that are far more difficult than what our level 5 teams here do. The level is not about difficulty, it’s about safety.
I think about it like this: if you have a stunt group who has never done any stunt with a full twist, is it safer to practice it at Elevator-height or at Extension-height? Probably Elevator. So, level 3 would be a very good level to learn this type of stunt. Level 4 would in this case only make sense if the group has experience with full twists at Elevator-height and can practice them safely to an Extension.
Of course it’s not that easy; maybe your team is so awesome at twisting, they can already do a Full-up to Liberty, but they’re so bad at Tic-Tocks that they can’t even hit it to a Low-Liberty. There’s no definite right or wrong. If you need to decide between levels 3 and 4, ask yourself these questions:
- Did we master full twists (full up, full around) to Elevator and Low-Liberty?
- Did we master Full downs from Elevator and Extension?
- Did we master left and right leg (extended) Liberty with body positions?
- Did we master any type of assisted partner-stunt?
- Did we master a Superman (full-twist) basket?
- Can a majority of the team do a back handspring series?
- Can a majority of the team do running tucks?
Try to answer these questions honestly for your whole team at the beginning of the season. If you meet many of these requirements (not all, but a comfortable amount), then moving up to level 4 might be a good option for you. If you realise you still have a lot of work to do here, level 3 is probably a better fit to give your athletes time to learn these difficult stunts and tumbling elements.
The competition argument
I 100% understand the sentiment when people say “But I want to compete against the best”. I’ve said it myself. But I also know the importance of planning for the long run. If we want to raise the level of athleticism across the country, a good and secure level system is the only way to go. If you want a steady stream of amazing athletes in your clubs, you need to start them at a low level (no matter the age) and build them at a reasonable pace.
Lower levels are the ideal way to grow our sport, and it’s important for athletes to compete at the level they’re actually at. It’s extremely frustrating to go to championships knowing that you’ll walk away with one of the last spots, and not because you’re not good at what you’re doing or because you didn’t try hard enough, but because the competition wasn’t on your level at all.
It’s also frustrating for athletes to constantly fail at practice because they’re expected to hit stunts that are way above their current capacity. Yes, there might be some initial grumbling if you drop a team down a level, but as coaches, our main priority has to be the safety and well-being of our athletes, including their athletic and personal growth.
If you’ve been around for a while, you’ve probably realised: Where we used to have a handful of back handsprings on a senior team 10 years ago, we now have peewee teams with a majority of the team performing that skill. It didn’t happen overnight. A lot of passionate and dedicated coaches spent a lot of time carefully developing those skills, and the results are amazing. Once those athletes hit senior age and stunt at level 4 or 5, you will not be able to keep up with them if you haven’t had the same thorough build-up. The earlier your team starts with this, the better you will be when the next generation arrives. If we keep skipping progressions, we will never keep up with the rest of the world.
Next: Level 4
In the next and probably last post of this rulebook series, we’re going to look at level 4. Stay tuned!