So, through a turn of events while searching for a gymnasium for unicycle hockey, I have been asked to be the trainer for a kids unicycle sport class once a week. It’s for kids 6-and-up, and is kind of the continuation of another now disbanded group, which was a mixture of acrobatics, gymnastics and unicycling, so I think maybe half of the kids aged 8-10 can at least ride a little and I expect about half will be completely new to unicycling (but actually I have no idea and will have to just see).
Anyone have any good resources for teaching a unicycling class for kids? I think on an individual level, I should be fine both with beginners learning to ride, near-beginners learning to free-mount and basics and intermediate skills like idiling, one-footed, backwards riding, etc. But any tips in particular pertaining to groups of varying skill levels. I guess it depends on how many kids show up, but I’m thinking it’ll be 10-15. I was thinking it probably makes sense to work in groups of 2 or 3 of similar skill level, trading off riding and helping each other.
And another question: as I come more from a mountain bike and muni background I am accustomed to wearing a helmet pretty much all the time, but from what I see almost none of the indoor unicyclists wear helmets: in particular, in almost all of the competitions and videos I see there a no helmets. I guess for experienced indoor unicyclists this makes sense as the chances of crashing your head are not so high (actually I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a freestyle unicyclist with a helmet). But what about when first learning? It seems like to me that the chance of falling backward and smashing the back of you head on the wooden floor would be high enough to warrant wearing a helmet. Should I try and require helmets for learners and then make it optional after mastering free-mounting?
The first class is next Tuesday, so excited to see how many kids show up and what skills range they have.
I don’t know about the helmet, but it’s a never ending discussion that probably don’t have its place here. I do ride one out there, but indoor might be overkill. Having said that, I grew up in the seventies and according to nowadays approach, we should all be dead.
I participated in group unicycling at the beginning and the one tutor had a lot to do. But he quickly got a glimpse of who could do what and divided the groups into sub-groups - also, there was less unicycles than participants. So complete beginners could be together, and helped by a less-beginner. They would practice assisted riding (one person on both sides of the rider) and things like that. He would spend a bit more time with the more advanced ones, giving each a personal goal depending on the skill needed. The guy was into freestyle so a lot of the skills were related to that. But it helped for some kind of discipline as there was a corner with the learners, a corner with people practicing circles and 8s, and a corner for one foot riding.
At that time, I got this book: Unicycling - beginner to expert and whilst it’s not specifically geared towards group riding, the author put a lot of photos of indoor riding (assisted riding, group skills, etc). Which might inspire you. And for that price, there’s no financial risk in buying it. Also, it’s pretty hilarious from a fashion point of view as it was first published in the early 90’s.
Err on the side of safety, for the sake of the kids. I would get them into the habit of the shin and elbow pads etc. Get a lawyer to draw up waivers and get the parents to sign them to cover your ass for any potential liability, unless the facility already covers that.
You don’t want to get into hot water for wanting to do something good.
I have this book originally written in german in 2006 and translate to english in 2007 which is interresting as it details each steps. There are a few pages (4!) on «teaching unicycling» but in general I believe that the theoretical explanation of each step: training , assistants, ground … could be helpful.
In the last ten years, unicycles and tricks have evolved a lot, but for beginners the progression is quite similar.
A very good book for the price @ $16.95
Hope this helps
I’ve taught probably over 100 people to ride in gyms, all without helmets, not one has ever been injured. In a gym, it’s not an issue, a helmet for unicycling on flat ground, without traffic is really not necessary, I see it as about as risky as hitting your head while playing soccer. I wouldn’t talk someone who feels like they need it out of wearing one however. Don’t forget you are talking about kids, not 50 year olds, guys.
No need for lawyers either, I’m pretty sure he is in germany, where the sports club will sort out medical insurance.
Groups with varying skill levels are always very exhausting to work with, I pretty much always end up dancing around giving tipps and assistance to multiple groups. Exercises where multiple kids ride together are always good, like pairing up two people that are practicing to ride backwards, so that one can ride forwards, while assisting the other one. Or watch some group freestyle routines, and have them practice some of those figures, sometimes one element can keep 5 kids busy practicing together for an hour.
For people that are trying to learn, I usually build a “one way street”, consisting of one of these benches you usually find in a school gym and two boxes, similar to this: , but next to a wall. Never underestimate how important your attention is to kids though, the extra attention you give them when you ride around with them while they use your hand as support is often a big motivation booster.
Pre-existing groups are often tricky, because you will have to find the right compromise between the habits they already built, and the things you find important to introduce. Every trainer has their own methods and things they find imporant, and every student/group their own needs, finding the best way is usually done with a lot of experimenting.
On average, as the child gets younger it takes longer to learn, which is part of why you see so few riders under age 5 or so. As a once-per-week thing, it will be very hard for new riders to learn, as the total number of minutes they will get to spend on a unicycle is pretty small. How many weeks? If it’s a short term, it may be better not to do it, because it can be worse to provide a partial learning experience, where the rider is left feeling it’s utterly impossible.
Sounds depressing, but it’s accurate if you have limited time. It’s important to use what time you have for maximum learning and fun.
How many unicycles do you have? For beginners, you really only need 1 for every three students. Teach them a process of spotting and riding, where each new rider has a spotter on each side (have to show them the right way to do it) and they take turns. They will encourage each other, and keep getting feedback, as well as reminders of form and how to do it.
Helmets? If you’re in Germany I wouldn’t worry about it. If the question comes up, tell parents it couldn’t hurt to wear one, but it’s not a know issue for indoor riding. (this paragraph would be completely different for teaching in the USA)
Make sure the kids realize it does take a bunch of time to learn the unicycle, and the class may not allow them enough of that time. It always seems impossible until you start to get it; you just have to not quit. The best part about learning to ride a unicycle is when it starts to not be impossible, and you are doing the impossible!
Do not worry about teaching freemount or anything other than riding forward. Add those things for the kids that can already ride but just riding for distance will be plenty for the new riders.
I taught unicycling for 10 to 12 year-olds in an American after-school program. No helmets or other safety gear were even thought of, at least not by me, and certainly not by the kids!
They had fun, and no one got hurt or sued. I was with them three times a week, but only for a couple of weeks as a substitute. One of them could already ride when I started teaching, but I don’t think any new ones learned to ride as a result of my being there.
They had already been taught to just line up along the wall, sitting on their school unis, and use their hands to work their way around the outer edge of the basketball gym. Their tires looked like they had been varnished over the years by the smooth gym floor and were quite slippery, so freemounting would have been difficult to teach, had it been necessary. The kids usually seemed to want to be left alone, but then they would ask to hold my hand. When that happened, I would escort them out to the middle of the floor and try to convince them to let go of me and ride! I don’t think it ever worked, but it might have if I had had more time there.
Where was it, if I may ask? The National Circus Project has done lots of school-based programs all over that part of the country.
The varnished look on the tires was probably from age, and also possibly from UV rays (sun) if they got exposure to it. Just age, if they’re indoor unicycles. Yup as tires get old, they get “tire Alzheimer’s” – in other words, they may lose their grip…
It was at a public school in Manhattan that is in the process of being privatized so as to better meet the needs of the business community and bust the teachers union. The program was not part of the National Circus Project. It was unfunded and has been discontinued, and the unicycles given away.
No, those unicycles definitely never saw the light of day! They were indeed losing their grip, but were otherwise in quite good condition- mostly Miyatas and a Schwinn or two. Hopefully they have now gone on to a better place.
The National Circus Project is an arts-in-education organization that does different types of programs in schools, paid for by PTAs or other sources, but is not a school of its own. Back when I lived out there, we rarely did schools in Manhattan because transportation was cost-prohibitive, especially on the first and last days of the program.
If they had Miyatas, they probably bought them in the 80s (if they had chrome frames especially), which gives an idea of their age, and also that the program had bucks!
No, the school never spent a dime on its unicycle “program.” The unicycles were there on loan from an old guy who had accumulated them over the decades, but I guess one day the instructor decided she had more important things to do in the evenings than teach for free, and/or the school decided it had more important uses for its storage space.
The club I go to requires helmet gloves and knee protection when we ride outdoors. Indoors it’s not required.
The teachers usually have us split into groups of similar skill levels. One group may be learning to ride and another could be working on 1footed riding.
You can also do relay races across the gym, ie teams of 4 where one just rides, one rides with hands on seat post, one does Sif etc etc
The team will quickly sort the tricks to people who are able to do them with or without a buddy walking holding their hands.
Also make sure to utilize the people who can ride as a sort of assistant coach they could be the ones showing the trick you’re trying to teach.