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Teamwork and Responsibility in Acro

flier in bird with spotter
Photo @EarlMcGehee

What differentiates Acro and makes it so awesome are the partnerships we build. While other disciplines are driven by competition, Acro is driven by connection. There are three main roles in Acro: base, flyer, and spotter. They constitute a team and work together as a unit. Any success is a success of the team. Any failure is a failure of the team. When learning and playing, Acro comes with risks to everyone. These risks are significantly reduced with proper training, accurate self-assessment, and clear communication between all involved. When an incident does happen, it is important to understand where the failure came from. It’s easy to point blame at others in the team. In reality, everyone is at fault and should take responsibility for the incident. Incidents happen when all three fail as a unit.

Outlined in this document are the responsibilities and expectations of the three main roles of Acro.

Base

  1. You are the foundation of the team. The flyer’s safety is 100% your responsibility. Using a spotter does not mean the flyer’s safety is not your responsibility. You are the flyer’s primary spotter.

  2. Know when you need a spotter. Having a spotter does not make you uncool. There’s no shame in needing a spotter, on the contrary, it shows responsibility and humility. When it comes to safety, there’s no place for egos.

  3. Communicate with your flyer and discuss transitions. An informed flyer is less likely to fall.

  4. Pick your spotter(s) and know their skills. Don’t pick a random person. Discuss their experience. Ideally, spotter should be familiar with the move as much as you are.

  5. Enable your spotter to be efficient. Let them know the move you are attempting to do and any potential failure mechanisms.

  6. Evaluate your spotter as they spot. If you feel they are in the wrong spot, or not as close as you’d like. Communicate that with them. If you feel the spotting is marginal and still go ahead with a move you are not familiar with, you will be taking a huge risk and any failures are your responsibility.

  7. Accurate self-assessment for yourself and the flyer. If you feel you’re not sure what to do or feel the flyer is not ready for a move yet, don’t go along with it and hope for the best. There might be failure mechanisms you didn’t account for.

  8. If the flyer asks for a spotter, use one no matter how confident you are in the move. At least for the first time or until the flyer feels confident they don’t need a spotter anymore.

  9. If you pick an unqualified spotter just to have the illusion of spotting in order to assure a hesitant flyer or have a scapegoat in case something goes wrong, you probably shouldn’t be doing Acro.

Flyer

  1. You are the person who is most at risk. You should be responsible for your own safety. Your safety is 100% your responsibility. Never trust a base or a spotter blindly. Communicate with them; ask about potential failures and how that’s dealt with.

  2. Before doing a risky move, question the base, or spotter if using a spotter, to see how they will catch you if the move goes somewhere unintended.

  3. Communicate with your spotter, plan failures. For example, if it goes that way, let me land on my own feet, if it goes that way, catch me. A misinformed spotter is a risk to the flyer and themselves.

  4. Don’t go through a move you are uncertain of if you feel the spotter is not fully competent to spot the move.

  5. Be aware where you are in space, no “hail Mary” close your eyes attitude and hope the base or spotter catches you.

  6. Learn how to fall. You haven’t learned a move until you’ve learned how to safely fall out of the move. Tucking your head could mean the difference between a head impact and a gentle roll. Falling safely is possibly the greatest skill of successful flyers.

  7. If you feel your base is being pushy, putting you in unfamiliar transitions without communicating, or is not responsive to your concerns, communicate with them and find a new base if needed. Acro is a partnership; a flyer being tossed around like a rag doll unaware of what’s going on is not a partnership.

Spotter

  1. You’ve been entrusted with the safety of the flyer and base. Ideally, you should be more knowledgeable regarding the moves or transitions you are spotting than they are. The flyer’s safety is 100% your responsibility.

  2. Take pride in your spotting. Don’t act like you’re being punished. You make play fun and safe. Spotting is a skill like any other role in Acro and requires training. Get training if you don’t know how to spot a move yet.

  3. If you feel the base or flyer are doing things you are not familiar with or feel you can’t spot safely, speak up, and express your concerns.

  4. If you feel the base or the flyer is not communicating with you where transitions are going, speak up. You can’t spot if you don’t know what’s going on.

  5. Some moves are better spotted using multiple spotters. Call for multiple spotters if you feel one spotter is not enough.

  6. You are there to spot, not to do the move for the base and flyer unless asked to be an active spotter. There’s a difference between being a spotter and an assistant. Be clear with the base and flyer as to what they are expecting from you.

  7. A general rule of thumb when spotting is to follow the hips of the flyer from the side or behind the flyer, or to follow the head. For some higher risk transitions or pops where the flyer loses contact with the base, Icarian spotting techniques with two spotters holding the flyer’s arms is more effective.

Teamwork and camaraderie

  • When doing higher risks transitions, for example in pops where the base loses contact with the flyer, it’s recommended to work with a larger group of 4 or 5 people. Some benefits of doing so:

  • You can get more spotters. 2 spotters using Icarian spotting techniques are very effective and can tremendously reduce the risk of high risk transitions.

  • You get feedback from a person not involved in spotting.

  • You get to switch out when you tire, then jump back in.

  • You get to play with different partners.

  • A great culture of camaraderie and support when you succeed.

– Fadi Hamdan (@acromegaman) with input from members of the AcroYoga Austin community