Spotting refers to a specific set of techniques that can be used to provide additional support to an athlete when they fall from an obstacle.

Spotting can help reduce risk when used in the right scenario but does not eliminate risk completely.

In this section we will discuss some spotting basics and considerations.

What is Spotting?

Spotting is typically executed by a coach and performed for an athlete. A coach who is actively spotting is attempting to reduce the risk associated with a particular skill or technique. The coach will stay close to the athlete and be ready to provide additional support in the event the athlete falls. If the athlete falls, the coach will then use a specific spotting technique in an effort to support the athlete as they fall.

It’s important to note select obstacles are difficult to spot and the athlete would not benefit from a spotter. There may even be some obstacles where a spotter could introduce more risk to the athlete and themselves. It is important coaches evaluate each scenario individual when determining if a spotter is appropriate. We will discuss this topic more further into this section.


Since coaches will typically need to physically contact athletes when spotting, it is important for coaches to explain what spotting is and confirm if the athlete is okay being spotted. When coaching minors, we recommend having a conversation with guardians regarding spotting.


The primary objective when spotting is to reduce risk of injury. This is typically done in one of two ways. The coach will either attempt to control the speed at which the athlete is falling or attempt to control the athletes rotation in an attempt to prevent the athlete from rotating toward their head or neck. It is common to see both techniques used together. We will take a look at each in a moment but first let’s take a look at the overlapping principals.

Wide Stance

The coach should follow the athlete with a powerful stance. The coach’s feet should be approximately shoulder width apart, knees slightly bend and focused on the athletes movements.

Close to Athlete

The coach should stay close to the athlete. If the athlete is moving the coach should follow them closely.

An athlete can fall in a split second. Being closer to the athlete helps minimize the distance the athlete needs to cover to assist the athlete.

Arms Slightly Bent

The coach should keep their arms relatively tight to their body. This is because individuals are typically stronger with their arms in tighter to their body.

Spotters aiming to control lower an athlete or prevent rotation will follow these three principals. They will maintain a powerful stance, follow the athlete closely and keep their arms bent and ready to react. All of these mechanics will be maintained while actively spotting. Next, we will discuss the techniques for attempting to lower an athlete or attempting to prevent their rotation when an athlete falls.

Controlled Lower

Coaches will attempt to control the speed an athlete falls by catching their hips as the athlete disengages from an obstacle. The coach will then attempt to support the weight of the athlete in an effort to minimize the athlete’s impact on the mats.

The controlled lower technique is most effective when the athlete is moving at a slow speed, stationary or has little to no swing.

Note it is important for a coach to gradually increase the amount support provided to the athletes as they fall. Abruptly providing support could be as jarring to the athlete as the fall. Gradually increasing the opposing force will help reduce the impact when the athlete lands.

Rotation Prevention

Coaches will position one hand on the athletes back and attempt to provide a gradual opposing force to the athletes rotation. The goal would be to provide enough opposing force to control the speed the athlete is falling while attempting to prevent the athlete from further rotating to their back or neck.

The rotation prevention technique is often used in scenarios where athletes are likely to peel out or rotate when coming off an obstacle. In these scenarios the athletes may have bigger swings. Rotation prevention is often one of the hardest spotting techniques due to the unpredictable nature of peel outs. This technique is not recommended for beginners but is important to be familiar with.

Note: Since the rotation prevention technique primarily uses one arm, it is important coaches consider which position will place the coaches dominant hand on the athletes back.


Spotting can help to reduce the risk of injury when an athlete falls. However, there are many variables to consider when evaluating the effectiveness of spotting. Not every scenario would benefit from a spotter and we recommend evaluating each scenario individually to determine if a spotter is appropriate.

Here are a few variables for coaches to consider before deciding to spot:

Distance from Athlete

Spotting becomes less effective as the distance between the coach and the athlete increases. If the setup restricts the coaches ability to stay close to the athlete it may not be appropriate to spot an athlete. This typically happens when an obstacle takes an athlete much higher the coach or the athlete is moving too quickly for their spotter.

Bail Zone

Coaches should consider the bail zone for an obstacle before spotting. Any space an athlete might fall when coming off an obstacle can be considered a Bail Zone or Fall Area. Bail Zones can vary a lot depending on the obstacle and the athlete. Coaches can sometimes predict the bail zone for an obstacle. However, it’s worth noting predicting bail zones is challenging and not always possible. This is especially true on new obstacles. Obstacles are often cleverly designed to provide additional challenge to athletes. These obstacles can move unexpectedly and may present a bail zone unforeseen by even the obstacle creator.

Accurately predicting a bail may be an inexact science but it is still important coaches consider the bail zone before committing to spotting an athlete. Coaches can evaluate a bail zone by first attempting to determine the size of the bail zone. A small bail zone means the athlete is likely to fall is in a consolidated area. A large bail zone would be the opposite. A large bail zone means the athlete could fall in a great range of places. Small bail zones are easier for coaches spot since there is less area for a coach to cover. As the size of a bail zone grows it becomes increasingly difficult to spot.

Coaches can should attempt to predict the size of a bail zone before spotting by considering the athletes direction of momentum. Athletes are likely to fall in the direction their momentum is taking them. For example, imagine an athlete is who is hanging on a bar with no momentum. When the athlete let’s go of the bar they will likely drop straight down. This athlete has a small bail zone. If the athlete decides to build a small swing and let go, the athlete will likely continue to fall in the direction they were moving when they let go. It’s important to note the athlete could travel forward or backwards. The bail zone would be the full range on both sides of the obstacle the athlete is swinging from!

As athletes build larger swings their bail zones will increase. Larger swings result in a larger bail zone and become increasingly difficulty for a single coach to effectively spot all the areas an athlete could potential fall. It may be best to avoid spotting obstacles with a large bail zone. However, some coaches may evaluate an obstacle with an expected large bail zone and decide to spot an athlete anyways. This sometimes occurs when a coach wants to provide additional support for a particular section. Like a challenging move or difficult catch.

Coaches should consider clear communication when spotting. We believe it is important that an athlete understand the areas a coach is not covering when spotting. We recommend notifying the athlete of any areas of the bail zone the coach would not be able to spot.


The size of an athlete and the strength of a spotter each play a role in effective spotting. Humans that weigh more require the spotter to gradually control more weight as the spotter falls. It’s important coaches consider the size of the athlete and their own personal strength before they commit to spotting an athlete.


Spotting is a physically demanding task. Spotters are supporting the weight of an entire human! It is important for spotters to consider their own fatigue before committing to spotting. If spotters are too worn out or tired they may be unable to provide the support needed to assist the athlete. We recommend coaches evaluate their current fatigue levels before committing to spotting an athlete.


This concludes our training on spotting. We covered a lot of materials in this section. At this point you should be familiar with all of the following topics:

  • You should feel comfortable defining spotting.
  • The three core principals to good spotting.
  • The two different methods for spotting.
  • The various considerations coaches should evaluate before spotting.

It’s important to note proper spotting requires good form and reading about spotting is not the same as learning to spot hands on. We recommend new coaches work with local more experienced coaches to gradually increase their spotting abilities.