chapter  5
Learning to cross a balance beam: implications for teachers, coaches and therapists
Pages 17

Maintaining postural stability while performing a gymnastics routine, like walking across a balance beam, requires dynamic balance. Visual, tactile, kinesthetic, vestibular and auditory receptors provide the performer with specific information about the position and motion of the body and various body parts relative to the beam and gravity. Both anticipatory and reactive sensorimotor processes, which depend on these sources of information, allow a skilled gymnast to perform these extremely complex series of movements with tremendous fluency. In this chapter, we examine the role of vision and tactile contact with the beam in the maintenance of postural equilibrium during goal-directed balance beam walking. This task may be studied as an interceptive action because it involves relative approach between a performer and a target location in space. We also review our research concerned with how sensorimotor processes that contribute to dynamic balance, change with practice. Our treatment of beam walking is not exhaustive. However, by examining the learning process, as well as differences in balance beam locomotion between expert and novice gymnasts, we are able to provide a general set of principles that may be useful to teachers, coaches, and therapists.1