For Parents 5 year old boy not taken seriously

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Mar 1, 2023
My 5 year old son is in his first year of gymnastics. Our gym has a competitive girls team and is very popular in town, but for boys, they offer ‘beginner’ and ‘intermediate/advanced’ classes. I am not a gymnast so forgive me if I don’t say things right but would consider my son advanced for his age. He can land backflips on the trampoline and aerials on the floor. He is bored in the beginner class because most of the boys can’t even do a cartwheel and tend to just run around and act crazy in class. His coach has been great at helping him with more advanced stunts on the side and recommended him to the intermediate class, but the owner, who teaches the class, has denied this progression, seemingly because of my sons age. I got the owner to allow him to “try out” for the class but the owner wouldn’t even let him backflip without assistance and said he was athletic but “gymnastically immature” because he had to spend more time explaining the new exercises to him (that he never been taught in the beginner class) then the other boys in the class (all age 9+). My son was extremely upset because he didn’t feel he was given a fair chance. He is an outspoken little guy and owner didn’t believe him when he told him what he was capable of and wasn't given the opportunity to show it.

Has anyone experienced this type of situation? Should I start looking for another gym or try to ride this out and let his beginner coach keep working with him individually? I don’t necessarily know that my son wants to go competitive because he’s only 5 and is also into baseball/football, etc, but he was just so hurt by the way he was treated and now doesn’t even want to advance to the intermediate class.
I coached boys for quite some time and I have a son doing competitive gymnastics. He will still have plenty of time to progress if he doesn't move up for a bit. At many gyms... 6 years old is the moving point... many try to keep the 5 year olds either grouped together or in beginner classes.

Do they have a boys team program? If so... then I would ask how it works and the requirements to join. If not... then I would definitely go check out a program that has a boys team.

Honestly... there is a pretty good chance I would not let him up to the next level until he was at least 6 years old as well.

he was just so hurt by the way he was treated and now doesn’t even want to advance to the intermediate class.

This may be the exact reason that he is not getting advanced. If the owner asked him to do certain things and he only wanted to do what he wanted to do... then there you go.

Overall... it doesn't hurt to talk to the owner some more about the beginner class not working out well and at the same time going to check out some other local clubs to see what they have. I would specifically be looking at clubs with competitive boys teams.
Thanks.. I get he is young, but there is just such a huge difference in ability between him and all the other kids in the beginner class. This gym does not have a competitive track for boys, unfortunately the only gyms that do are a few towns over. If he decides gymnastics is his thing, I’ll do what I can to make it work, but it would be incredibly difficult to get him there because of my work hours.

He wasn’t doing anything the older boys weren’t doing. The oldest boy backflipped so he followed suit, and he was stopped and told he couldn’t do that without assistance (when his beginner class coach lets him and encourages him to practice his backflips). He felt singled out.
Our gym is similar to your gym - we only have a competitive girls team. Because of this, there's family, who has a girl on team at our gym, and has their son at a different gym, a few cities over (about 30 min drive w/o traffic), because they have a competitive boys team. Even for rec classes, they noticed a big difference in how they train the boys, because they have staff that has more knowledge into mens gymnastics and just a different vibe towards their boys in rec classes.

You said there's a gym a few towns over with a boys team. Maybe you can give them a call and pick their brain about how they run their rec classes and ask other questions. It would probably give you peace of mind knowing what's similar and what's different (for example, if the other gym also doesn't really move kids up when they're 5). Maybe even see if you can try a class. I would also inquire about the process of being on the boys team.
@CKone Anyways... welcome to the site!

By the way... I am now a Head Coach (girls)... my wife heads up the team with me. Our son goes to a different gym as we only have a girls team... his gym is about 25 minutes from our house.
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I would at least go once and see what they say... just so you know. He will most likely decide that he doesn't want to do it at a gym with no boys team.
This is so true.. I’m my mind I would switch him if he showed an interest, but how can he show an interest if he can’t visualize what competition would look like for him as a boy .. thanks!
Many gyms have girls teams and not Boys teams, or have a very large girls team and a very small Boys team. This is often a financial decision.

A lot more girls are interested in gymnastics, and it’s much harder to fill boys teams. MAG requires 6 apparatus, WAG only requires 4, putting in more WAG apparatus, when girls are breaking down the door to do gymnastics, is often a lot more financially lucrative than putting in MAG apparatus with less demand.

It is also much easier to find coaches who understand and want to coach WAG than it is to find coaches who understand and want to coach MAG.

If you go to a gym with a strong MAG team, they will consider your son to be a valuable commodity. A talented boy to help fill their team. In gym that has a WAG focus and not a MAG focus, then they might don’t care too much if they lose him.
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@CKone Anyways... welcome to the site!

By the way... I am now a Head Coach (girls)... my wife heads up the team with me. Our son goes to a different gym as we only have a girls team... his gym is about 25 minutes from our house.
This will be us..I have a daughter (9) at this gym as well. She isn’t competitive, but would love to go that route, though understands though that she started the sport late and would have to work hard to catch up to her peers skill level. She is also training at a Jr. black Belt level in Karate, which is also a huge commitment, so she knows she would have to chose if competitive gymnastics was ever an option for her. It took her some time to accept her little brother excelled at gymnastics much faster than her, but now she is very supportive of him.

Thanks for the advice! We will definitely be looking into the other gyms in the area. I just want him to feel challenged and respected.
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It is totally normal to insist on spotting an unfamiliar gymnast when flipping, especially a 5-year-old! To not do so would be very irresponsible. There are many kids who are natural tumblers but who lack control and maturity. These kids do cool tricks with poor form and tend to land on their heads! Keeping kids from breaking their necks is the coach’s foremost responsibility, not teaching cool tricks as quickly as possible. Your kid is probably a little scary! There are a ton of really important gymnastics skills that don’t look like much but are necessary to *safely* move up to higher level skills. You really can’t skip skills and it really matters how well they are done. I bet your kid has some significant gaps in his skill set, which is why they don’t want to advance him.

It doesn’t sound like either class is a great fit for his needs, so maybe check out other options. A team program would be good but But know that there is very little flipping in the early levels of boys competitive gymnastics and lots of working on *perfect* cartwheels, bridges, handstands, and somersaults. My level 3 son has a great round-off back handspring back tuck on the tumble track at the trampoline park but he only gets to do a plain boring round-off at gymnastics. It was a little disappointing at first but he is learning so much that it doesn’t matter that he has to put his cool tumbling on the back burner for a while. I used to perform in a circus where kids could throw any cool tricks they were crazy enough try without any attention to form or technique. We had little kids doing cool tricks but they developed really bad habits that limited their ability to improve beyond a certain point and they sometimes fell on their heads. I think the safety-conscious gymnastics approach is better. It’s slower but better.