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A stretch of the imagination


Age group: 12-16 Single pack free from Royal Navy, PO Box 934, Poole, Dorset BH17 7BR. Additional copies Pounds 25.

Acrogymnastics is a branch of gymnastics which involves creating and linking balance positions with dynamic movements to produce routines to music. Apart from the excellent balance, suppleness and strength that the gymnastic element brings, acrogymnastics is all about working in groups . . . ideal for schools.

This pack from the Royal Navy comprises video, wall charts, teacher's notes and a series of practice cards. Together these take secondary schoolchildren of both sexes through a variety of skills and routines which build to a comprehensive range. The wall charts provide points of reference while the cards are to be used in the gym, one placed by each piece of apparatus or work station. The video is best used for group viewing as a dynamic introduction to the basic movements and the teacher's notes bring all the strands together.

The best place for this work is in the gym club, where time can be spent developing skills and honing techniques. However, within the timetable there's also a lot of fun to be had by those pupils who will never achieve a competitive standard. Most of the movements and balances are relatively basic; it's the way they are refined and put together in sequences that elevates the sport. For example, simple forward and backward rolls and headhand stands are described and illustrated. Students are invited to think about perfecting these movements and then introducing them into a sequence. Plenty of examples are given, but students will be inspired to try out their own combinations.

All this adds up to something for the PE department to demonstrate on open day, and the sense of performance is never far from the world of acrogymnastics. Maybe this is where the greatest strengths lie, in encouraging a confidence to experiment and perform.

It might have been better to have had some less-than-perfect models on the video and in the photographs, but the armed forces tend to go for perfection. The involvement of the British Amateur Gymnastics Association ensures that some feeling of "sport for all" is engendered and that safety is taken very seriously.

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