We introduced different common mats in an early training section. In this section we will discuss some important considerations when evaluating which mats fit best at different obstacle stations.
It’s important to understand injuries can still occur even with proper mat setup. Mats are there to reduce risk but do not remove risk entirely.
Athletes can also play a role in minimizing their own risk by using proper technique when falling on a mat. We will cover a few best practices for falling that coaches can teach athletes in this section.
One of the first considerations for mats may be the type of matting used. Panel mats are typically used if the athlete is low to the ground and likely to land on their feet. Throw mats typically offer thicker higher density foam. These mats are ideal when the athlete is falling from higher or there is an increased chance of the athlete not landing on their feet after missing an obstacle.
Obstacles that bring athletes higher off the floor inherently produce a greater risk for athletes. We recommend minimizing the distance between the bottom of an athletes feet and the top of the matting where possible. The optimal distance between an athletes feet and the top of the mats can vary by obstacle. But, between 1ft ( .30 m) and 3ft ( .9m) is a comfortable range for most obstacles.
Some obstacles will naturally bring the athlete’s feet higher off the ground by design. When this occurs a coach can attempt to managed this risk by selecting a thicker and/or higher density mat to place under the obstacle.
Generally speaking, a thicker or higher density mat will help absorb more of the athletes impact when falling then thinner or lower density mat.
Peel Out Potential
The term peel out means to leave quickly. Athletes and coaches commonly use the phrase “peel out” to describe when an athlete intentionally flies off an obstacle they were hanging from.
It is important to consider the athlete’s potential for peel outs when selecting the matting for a given setup. Typically this means the mating needs to be extended to cover the athletes peel out zone. The peel out zone refers to the area an athlete is likely to fall if they peel out off an obstacle. This area starts directly under an athlete then extends in front of the athletes path and behind an athlete.
Peel out zones can vary widely depending on the obstacle or athlete. Each matting setup will vary widely depending on the specific obstacle. We will discuss some common considerations that coaches can evaluate to aid in making an informed decision on matting.
Size of Swing
Generally speaking, bigger swings will lead to a higher potential for peel out. In theory, an the larger the swing an obstacle or technique requires the greater peel out zone.
It’s important to note sometimes athletes will decide to take a larger swing then needed for an obstacle. Athletes can minimize their own risk by taking an appropriate size swing for the obstacle.
Height off Ground
We mentioned obstacle height earlier in the context of matting thickness but it is also important for athletes to understand how height can play a role in the athletes fall from an obstacle.
Typically a greater distance between an athletes feet and the mat will increase the possibility an athlete’s feet will rotate out from under them when the athlete falls. This is an important concept for coaches to be aware of when selecting the right mat.
Additionally, the higher an athlete is off the matting the more time the athlete will have to carry their momentum before landing on the mat. This means a higher obstacle can result in a bigger peel out zone.
There are some conditions where athlete peel outs are unavoidable but coaches can attempt to manage this risk by increasing the thickness of the matting or extending the matting to cover more area in front or behind the athlete.
We’ve discussed how obstacle height and size of swing should be considered when selecting which mats to position where in any given setup. Now we will discuss direction.
It is often easiest to visualize mat placement in a linear sense. This is because most of the time obstacles will take athletes on a linear path. Most matting setups will place mats in front of and behind the athletes as they progress forward through an obstacle.
However, it is important to be aware it is possible for an athletes path to be linear but the obstacle takes them in different directions. For example an athlete is traversing from point A to point B. Point B is in a direct line to point A but the obstacles the athlete will use zig and zag along the way.
When this happens coaches should evaluate each direction change to try to predict potential peel out zones.
Setups that zig and zag across a rig may present additional peel out zones that could be covered by additional matting outside of a rig.
Up to this point we have discussed how coaches can attempt to manage risk by evaluating different scenarios and selectively placing ideal mats. Now, we will discuss the athletes ability to minimize their risk and risk to others.
Athletes play a key role in their own risk management. They can reduce risk by being mindful and following a few best practices.
|Wear Proper Attire||Athletes can reduce risk by wearing closed toed shoes. Emptying pockets and avoiding excessively loose clothing.|
|Being Mindful||Obstacle equipment varies in height, texture, elevation, stability. It is recommended athletes check surfaces and evaluate obstacles and landings before jumping onto equipment. Most obstacle equipment reacts unexpectedly.|
|Being Present||Be aware of other athletes, coaches or bystanders present. Evaluate if your path takes you towards any other individuals. Wait for a clear path or politely ask individuals to clear the area.|
|Learn Proper Fall Techniques||Described below.|
Every athlete that has been in ninja long enough has fallen off an obstacle at some point. This is unavoidable as athletes progress to more challenging obstacles. It is important athletes know a few basic techniques that can help reduce their risk when falling. Here are a few steps they can follow to practice good habits.
- Mentally Prepare for landing- Athletes should be prepared to fall at any time. Obstacles often react unexpectedly by design. Obstacles are designed to be challenging and difficult for athletes.
- Be ready to absorb landing- Assuming the athlete has their feet under them when falling the athletes can bend their knees as they impact the ground. This can help to absorb some their landing.
- Keep Arms and Hands In- Athletes should avoid extending their arms or trying to brace themselves in most scenarios when falling. Mats were designed to cushion their fall. However, the instability of a mat is not ideal for an extended arm or hand.
- Carry Momentum- Finally, athletes should try to carry momentum. The sudden stop in momentum is often what causes an injury. Letting their body continue to move in the direction it was going by rolling, falling or generally moving in one direction can help reduce some risk.
Communicating Risk and Responsibility
Athletes can play a role in reducing their risk. However, it is recommended this is communicated to athletes wherever possible. Being open and up front about associated risk and the expectations of anyone entering the obstacle floor will allow participants to make an informed decision.
This concludes our training on matting. It’s important to understand these considerations are designed to help each individual make their own informed decision. Ninja offers such a wide variety of different equipment and scenarios it would be impossible to regulate with the current resources available in the obstacle community. The considerations listed here are not a set standard but merely intended to present considerations for others based on our experience and observations running ninja competitions.
At this point you should be familiar with how various factors could impact where an how an athlete falls. You should feel comfortable having an informed discussion on risk possibilities and evaluating mat positioning with higher level coaches.