Spotting is the term we give to the practice of helping your flyer learn a new move. Never learn a new trick on your own – always have a spotter or your teacher there to help. Good spotting means your flyer will feel safe, and the safer they feel the more prepared they will be to try new moves and difficult tricks. And guess what the better you spot someone – the more prepared they will be to spot you well as well. It’s a win win cycle. So please be generous with your spotting – it helps to create a great, safe, positive atmosphere for all concerned. Remember it’s team work in circus… what’s the saying – ‘there is no I in team’… so get stuck in, get involved and get spotting!

Here are ten tips to think about when spotting:

1.) Eyes and attention on the game. The spotter must give the flyer their full attention, no watching what other people are doing in the room or thinking about what they are going to have for dinner.

2.) Communicate the amount of spotting given. Make sure your flyer knows how much weight you are holding. This is super important as they might possibly think they are doing most of the work themselves when really it is you as the spotter doing most of it for them. Ideally as a spotter you should support 20% and the flyer 80% and work up to giving them no support whatsoever. But talk to your flyer and let them know what’s going on.

3.) Spotting also includes being there as psychological support. A flyer may be very close to doing a trick on their own but just still need someone there standing by to make them feel safe, and this is equally as important as giving your support by taking weight.

4.) There are three barriers to learning a move that need to be overcome. The technical aspect (how to do a move), the strength/flexibility aspect (is my body capable) and the fear aspect (working at height can be scary because of the danger of falling). It is the job of a good spotter to help with all three.

5.) Help with the teaching aspect. Remind them of the teaching tips and correct them if you see that they are doing something wrong.

6.) Help with the strength / flexibility aspect. Support the flyer when needed i.e. if they struggle to get up give them a gentle boost in the right direction, or support them if they are trying a new trick and holding their weight in a new way.

7.) Help with the fear aspect. Doing a trick with a spotter means we can overcome the fear of falling as the body learns that it is actually safe doing that trick, and we are not going to fall out of it or do it wrong.

8.) If they do fall guide their weight to the mat. This doesn’t mean that you should catch them, rather break their fall so that they find a safe way to land. Beginners who don’t yet have core control can lose control in a move, the spotter can absorb some of this momentum and slow the flyer down giving them more time to make safe choices.

9.) Primarily protect the head and neck of the flyer. Head, neck and spinal injuries are the greatest risks in the aerial studio.

10.) The spotter should never put themselves in danger. Stay well out of the way if the flyer is attempting a dynamic move eg. swinging their legs up into a straddle invert. An injured spotter is no use to anyone!

Some basic guidelines in how and where to spot…

At the end of the day spotting is definitely an art as every move and every flyer is different and will require different actions. But here are some of the more common spotting positions used in any beginners aerial class.

1.) Helping get the foot to the bar or feet to silks in a tuck mount.

2.) Holding the legs in hocks.

3.) Steady them while they balance in needle.

4.) Hold hips in straddle.

5.) Support shoulders or foot in one leg hang.

6.) Boost/push bum to help get an up and over.

7.) Support hips for meat hooks.

8.) Self spot in toe hang by using slings to hold on with.

9.) Support back or hips in catchers if holding with one arm is scary.

10.) Be there as psychological support when trying drops or spins for first time.

Did I miss any out? Please let me know by dropping a line in the comments below and if you found this blog useful please like and share with others!