Head Anchoring And Head Position in Jumps (Robert Tebby)

World and Olympic coach Robert Tebby discusses the position and movement of the head in jumps and jump development. Robert says, “Everyone has come to the conclusion that keeping your head straight (on take-offs) is a good thing, and something that all of the high level skaters do.” He explains that your sense of balance is controlled by the eyes and inner ear, and any head movement tends to cause a loss in the “sense of balance.” Turning the head in the direction of rotation during the take-off also tends to pull the head off axis, and this is a problem because the head weighs a significant amount.

As examples, Robert shows how to anchor the head properly on axel and salchow. He notes that, “Once you’re in the air, your head will always turn in the direction of rotation.” So head anchoring to the axis side in the air is not appropriate for an efficient rotational air position and can cause loss of balance. Everyone’s head will turn over the non-axis shoulder in the air, which is desired as long as it just turns and doesn’t tilt. However, Robert explains that skaters cannot leave the head over the non-axis shoulder at landing and should turn the head back to the axis side to help slow and check the rotation of the jump. He says, “When we do our landings, we’re going to check out using the axis arm and the head, and they both go to the axis side. It should feel like your axis shoulder and your free hip are trying to stretch towards each other across your back.”

Robert acknowledges that if the head does not remain straight (anchored) but instead turns with the body in a neutral position during jump take-offs, “It’s OK. It’s not great. It’s not bad.” In other words, generally this kind of head discipline works for many skaters on doubles, but is not ideal and often doesn’t work with triples and quads.

Another benefit to anchoring the head or keeping it straight on take-offs is it tends to help with the jump power angle, or axis tilt that ultimately allows skaters to land comfortably on their toes. He says, “Our axis in the air should be our feet go through the air first, head last.”

At landing, the head turning toward the axis side helps stop the rotation of the upper spine. [Editor’s note: Robert mentions a rotation rate of 4 revolutions in less than half a second, but observation shows few skaters rotate at even 6 rotations per second in the air. A quad toe minimum air time is roughly 0.63 seconds and rotates roughly 3.25 rotations in the air, resulting in an average rotation rate of 5.2 rotations per second. But video analysis shows many elite skaters can hit peak rotation rates of roughly 6 rpm.]

Robert strongly urges coaches and skaters to ensure proper head movements in jumps very early in the development process to help build the necessary muscle memory to make it a good habit. He uses the analogy or brushing teeth with the dominant and non-dominant hand. He says, “If you’re trying to teach this stuff at a triple level or quad level it’s much more difficult. If we’ve learned at a single level to keep our head straight and let our shoulders rotate through the take-off… that becomes muscle memory. And when we get to that higher level, we don’t even have to talk about it.”


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