Thirty years after the publication of his popular Biomechanics of Women's Gymnastics, Dr. Gerald George has done it again, only better. Championship Gymnastics, which was released earlier this month, is more than just a textbook for gymnastics technique, as the subtitle suggests. Its unique voice engages the reader through a seamless blend of instruction and inspiration.
Understandably, much of Dr. George's writing comes across as scientific (he is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Kinesiology at the U. of Louisiana), but the 12 chapters are also supplemented with philosophical messages to clarify important principles. For example, "Strive to land as a feather on rice paper…" is inserted in the passage on Landing Techniques. Or consider this gem to describe the Dynamic Tension of tumbling: "Your partner in this dance is gravity. Sometimes you must lead, sometimes you must follow. Champions 'feel' the difference!"
Dr. George has cleverly revealed the physics of gymnastics in terms the reader can understand, which is critical to effective coaching. Bringing Dr. George's principles to life are beautiful illustrations by James Stephenson, whose drawings have been used for USA Gymnastics compulsory routines and also in the FIG Women's Code of Points.
"Essentially, Championship Gymnastics is the taking of the best rendering from Biomechanics of Women's Gymnastics, which has stood the test of time, and I have added many, many things that I should have added to the first [book]," Dr. George told IG. "It's just a natural evolution."
The chapters are organized to lead a gymnast and coach through the necessary steps to achieve excellence. Specific topics include mastering the handstand; the mechanics of swing, impact, rotation and twisting; patterns of motion; and concepts of training. The last four chapters deal with the four women's apparatus.
Dr. George is a staunch advocate of basics and artistry, and says the sport should be more than attempting as many difficult skills as possible.
"We are bordering the fringe of maximum execution of maximum difficulties right now," he says.
As a former gymnast and coach himself, Dr. George realized that the sport, which continues to trend toward difficulty, could use a book such as his.
"There is a paucity of information out there specific to technique," he says.
Not anymore. Championship Gymnastics is a true masterpiece. And although it focuses on the four women's events, many of the book's principles can be applied to men's gymnastics, too. Judges also could benefit immensely from this book.
An interview with Dr. George and a review of his book will appear in the June issue of International Gymnast. For more information about Championship Gymnastics, visit http://www.winninggymnastics.com.