We like to start harness work very early in an athlete’s development. Like on the first day even. Harness work teaches beginners lots of things from the very first day. The beginner learns to: 1) trust the coach, 2) trust that the harness mechanism can keep them safe, 3) learn that they can experiment until they get the skill right without fear, 4) learn the correct way to count on trampoline, and 5) learn that jumping with the harness feels a little bit different, so they will learn to ignore the minor perturbations that it causes by tightening up and jumping stronger.
For the more intermediate athletes, we use the harness to introduce more advanced skills early on. The gymnasts are not meant to master these skills in a single session, but rather, these training sessions are meant in get numerous reps in over a series of months or years, to slowly build their aerial proprioception/awareness for that skill. This is a slow process and cannot be rushed. To learn a skill safely and carefully, it can take between 3 months – 24 months, depending on the complexity of the skill. Knowing this, coaches should always be having their students begin training skills way before they will actually need to use them in competition. For example, Level 9’s need to perform double somersaults in competitions. However, lots of gyms will only start to work on doubles when the athlete reaches Level 9, or in the best case scenario maybe they will start that summer. That is too late. The athlete should’ve been training doubles for 1-2 years prior when she was at Levels 5, 6, or 7. But instead, they may try to cram for the that skill by putting it abruptly into their athlete’s curriculum to play “catch up”. Instead, coaches should introduce the skills very early, and have them do repetitions every practice…and by the time they reach Level 9, it will be like a walk in the park, for they will have performed a thousand of those necessary repetitions over the course of a year or more. And THAT, is why we love harness training. Simply put, it is crucial.