Handwalla Bwana’s goal was good last week, but his celebration was even better. Let me, a former competitive gymnast, take you through the mechanics of what made it great.
The Round Off
Often overlooked as the least exciting part of a tumbling pass, the round off with its entrance is very important to setting up a nice back tuck. It should essentially look like a powerful cartwheel in italics. It starts with the hurdle, which should involve arms straight up, shoulders touching ears and head tucked in between them. The front leg should be bent near a 90-degree angle and and the back leg planted strongly to generate power when pushed off of. These two components should create a straight line with the body, but around a 60-degree angle to the ground. Handwalla truncates the movement of his arms and knee in the hurdle a bit, but he gets the angle right, allowing him to snap down his legs to turn the forward motion caused by the hurdle into upwards lift and power, setting himself up well for the back tuck.
The Back Tuck
The key to a good back tuck is the set, which soccer players always refuse to do. The set is where your arms lift straight above your head to lift you up and initiate the flip when they are quickly brought back down to your legs. Handwalla doesn’t quite get to a full set, but the effort is commendable and minimized injury for himself by giving him more air time to complete his rotation. Soccer players avoid setting, as it feels very unnatural if not trained, and their thighs can usually pick up the slack (remember Oba’s thighs?).
Setting isn’t all about arms though, and again Handwalla impresses with his technique with the positioning of his head. The head should stay in a straight line with the body through the entire tumbling pass, but it is commonly thrown back during the set to speed up the flip, as a period of vertical lift is uncomfortable and mildly scary if not done regularly. Using your head to flip minimizes height and speeds rotation, which can negatively affect the landing and increase the chance of injury by allowing less control and time to open before making contact with the ground. Handwalla keeps his head relatively motionless, allowing his arms and legs to do the work.
The main event, the flip itself, is called a “back tuck,” denoting the rotation is backwards and the legs are in a tucked position, which should look like you’re sitting in a chair with your arms straight, loosely grabbing behind your knees. This is where Oba’s form was most lacking, he didn’t engage his abs (and we all know he has them) to have his hips bend at a 90-degree angle, making his back tuck look more like a bad back layout. Handwalla doesn’t quite get his arms to the right location, but keeps them close enough to his body to avoid accidentally twisting, which would be Bad and Scary and Potentially Dangerous. But he doesn’t do that, so good job, Handwalla! The proper set, head position, and tuck shape set Handwalla up for an easy landing, opening up when he sees the ground approaching (which his proper head placement allowed for). A landing easy on the ankles and the eyes.
Overall, I’m very impressed with Handwalla’s technique- he says he’s been tumbling since he was 7, and it shows. Fingers crossed that he continues to score so we get to see more of this celebration. No need to worry, Schmetzer — if Handwalla keeps this technique up, there’s very little chance of injury.
Side note: The worst back tuck in the league is easily Dom Dwyer’s, very glad we didn’t have to see that when he subbed in. If he was smart, he’d hop over to Orlando Metro and get some pointers before he breaks something.