Learning to Tumble at Twenty

For most all-star cheerleaders, tumbling is a skill that is picked up either before cheer altogether, or is learned along with cheer at a very young age.

I was introduced to power cheer at an age where most elite cheerleaders are already competing at world’s – and here I was, seventeen and learning double-base cradles. Tumbling wasn’t much of a question – on my high school team our most advance tumbling pass was a running cart-wheel. Our routines didn’t even have a tumbling section.

Then I somehow made it on my college team, where I realized I’d have to learn to tumble pretty quickly if I wanted to continue cheering. I remember watching a level 1 team at my first competition and admiring their back walkovers, which seemed like a difficult feat to me. Handsprings felt like something I could only dream of, and people who could handspring were my idols.

So after a gruelling three-month summer of once a week tumbling, I managed to achieve a bridge-walkover. Though I had once marvelled at this skill, I wasn’t satisfied in the least. I was by far one of the oldest girls in the class, and I watched with envy as 14 year-olds tucked, flipped, and twisted effortlessly. My semi-walkover seemed pathetic in comparison. I had level 1 tumbling (barely) on a level 5 team.

I knew that if I could just spend more time and practice a lot, I could achieve a handspring. And OH, how I wanted that handspring!

I was never quite satisfied with skills I achieved, even in stunting. I wanted to  get my scorp in the air so bad, and while I was happy the day I got it, by next practice I was already looking ahead to what skills I still hadn’t achieved. The same ethic applied to my tumbling. A back walkover meant nothing since the day I got it.

The following year I transitioned to all-star cheer. They didn’t have a tumbling requirement, but I knew that if I wanted to go far I’d have to tumble. I had an advantage, being a flyer, but I still didn’t feel like a well-rounded cheerleader. After all, what kind of cheerleader couldn’t tumble?

At the time, I couldn’t take any more tumble classes, because the gym was too far away from my school, and I couldn’t afford the costs either.

Finally, in my last year of university, and at 21 years old, I put my mind into achieving some basic tumbling, and I started taking private lessons at a gymnastics gym close to my school. After 3 lessons, I was doing unassisted back handsprings on the trampoline, and learning back tucks off the mini tramp. I’ve been taking lessons for a month and a half, and am starting to work on round-off back handsprings on the tumble track. I thoroughly enjoy the classes, and feel no pressure because I’m only competing with myself, and every small feat feels big to me. I hope to take my handsprings to the floor soon, and believe I can do it.

But I can’t help but wonder if my body will give out at some point, and limit my progress. After all, most tumblers start out much younger than me. The non-tumblers on my team all claim that they’re too old to learn to tumble, but is that just a restriction of the mind, or is it really possible to learn to tumble at twenty? Is there an age that’s too old for this sport? Or can willpower trump age? Does this age apply to stunting too?  I’m not sure, but I’m not about to let the answer stop me from trying.

Cheer on!


10 Comments on “Learning to Tumble at Twenty”

  1. Willpower can definitely trump age! I taught an adults only tumbling class – its amazing what you can do if you just work hard no matter your age:)

    • Mina Tzenova says:

      I agree! And I really hope I can advance quicker… it’s just frustrating sometimes when you can’t fix a correction and you keep doing it over and over and it’s not getting any better 😦 but I am also a strong believer in ‘the mind is your limit, not your body (and your mind is limitless)’ philosophy, thus age shouldn’t matter.

  2. Astrid says:

    Wow this is amazing!
    I am 25 and really want to learn how to tumble!
    i wish I would have picked more of it up when in my highschool cheer team…. but life happened and I twirled downwards quite fast..
    Lately Ive REALLY missed cheerleading and have thought about going to classes….or trying out for the college teams..but its been so long I dont know if its even worth my time…
    However This gives me a bit of hope. Thank you!

    Hope everything is still going strong. Thanks for posting this.

    • Mina Tzenova says:

      Hello! I’m glad to hear this! Don’t give up! I just had tumbling practice today actually and it’s going great, I really love it. I’m taking a break from cheer over the summer but I miss it so much already that I’ll definitely be going back in the fall – you should try out for an Open team at an All-Star gym. Don’t undersell yourself because you never know – some teams are more recreational so maybe you can start out on one like that to refresh your memory?
      Anyways, good luck and don’t give up!!

  3. Matt Underwood says:

    You can learn from scratch if you commit time and take proper steps to study technique and DON’T BE AFRAID. I have seen people between 25-35 years of age take up tricking and learn everything. From not being able to hold a handstand or do a straight roundoff to now doing gainer doubletwists, corkscrews, roundoff double-backs, half-in half-outs, and continuous backhandsprings in place. All in about 15 months.

    • Mina Tzenova says:

      That’s very impressive. I’ve definitely improved with body awareness hugely, but am still very very frustrated that I can’t handspring. I’ve been trying to learn it for more than 3 years now, and have been taking classes at many different places. The most I’ve got to, is a handspring on the tumble track/trampoline. 😦

  4. Reirreb says:

    So, I’m 26 now and am hating that I’m not more flexible than I am. I think I’d like to do something like tumbling or something other than just “working out” but I have no idea where to start. I stumbled upon your blog because I looked up “am I too old to learn to tumble” in Google. You’ve given me some hope!

    • Mina Tzenova says:

      That’s great to hear! You can also try yoga classes to aid with flexibility. I would maybe see if there’s any gyms around your area (either cheer or gymnastics) to get you started. Most usually have adult classes or teams – just make sure your coach is a stickler for technique and makes you do a lot of drills rather than just asking you to ‘go for it’ without any experience. Good luck! 🙂

  5. Jules says:

    I know this blog entry is now over 2 years old, but I found it googling “adult tumbling.” i wanted to ask if you ever got your back handspring (OR MORE!). I just got mine (after 2 years) on the floor (I’m 30!) i got it on the trampoline much earlier but it took guts and some strength before getting it on the floor. . There are other adults in my class in their 30’s as well that learned round off back handspring tucks without ever tumbling as children. We do have a bunch of adults in their 30’s doing things like double backs or double twists but they tumbled as children. I hope you are still learning skills (even if it is just for yourself!)

  6. Dot says:

    Great article! To add to this – I started cheer at 19 with no gymnastic background, I flew, based and backed. The best tumbling I could do was a cartwheel, forward roll and hold a hand stand for a second or so. We competed at level 2. I stretched lots and by my second year of uni got my right leg split. I was very close to box splits also. After uni I started mountain biking which made my muscles very tight. I was advised by my doctor to do a sport where I would stretch lots to sold knotted muscle problems so at 27 I went back to cheer (I found an adult team near me) I am now flying on the team and am trying hard to get my splits back. I got my right leg back for the first time last week, and am closer with my left leg than I have ever been. My box splits are coming along nicely. I REALLY want to up my tumbling. I can now hold my handstand and forward roll out, do a bridge and am determined to get my walk over. My aim is to be able to round off flick – The hardest bit is getting the time to train as I now run my own business so time is sparse! I think if you are training (hard) every other day with the best coaches you have access to you will be able to learn to tumble. The hardest bit is dedicating your time and money into training that regularly. Good luck everyone!

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