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ccmom11

Proud Parent
Jul 16, 2015
3
42
Longtime reader--first time posting (sorry so long but sometimes the details help):

Recently my DS9 has expressed an interest in doing gymnastics. He was an all star cheerleader with his sister for 4 years previously and really wanted to move to a sport where he could still tumble and there was more boy involvement (and less girl drama and bullying).

He did a few months of recreational gymnastics at a local gym this spring. Learned some basic elements of the bar and rings and was still able to do some more advanced tumbling (he had a ROBHS and standing BHS from his cheer experience but needed work on his form). The rec class was small (3-4 younger kids all aged 5-7 years old) and an hour long a week. DS9 expressed that he wanted more time at gymnastics and more advanced training since he was used to 6 hours of all star cheerleading training a week and the rec class consisted of a lot of repetitive obstacle courses.

We decided to take him to be evaluated at the middle of the summer at the larger gym (30 minute drive) that has a boys team. DS9 was evaluated and placed on the level 4 boys competitive team with the caveat that he may or may not compete this season depending on how well he could learn the elements needed for the non-floor events. He attended a few weeks of classes at the end of the summer and seemed to fit in well. The team was made up of 7 kids all around 7-9 years old where DS9 was one of the oldest.. Unfortunately due to a family scheduling issue (where his older sibling had already committed to sports the same nights and we couldn't secure him a ride 1 day a week) he was not able to accept the spot on the team (2 sessions of 3 hours each week) and he was put in the level 3 pre-team class that only met once a week for a 2.5 hour session. This class had 2 other kids in it that were 6 and 7 years old but was taught by the head coach who assured me that DS9 would still be able to work on the skills needed for level 4 and both the other boys in the class were veterans with the gym and had just barely missed the cutoff to move to level 4.

Recently the level 3 class has been changed to a brand new coach with a young teen assistant coach and 3 more kids were added this past week. They are all aged 5 and 6. The class has now gone back to bare basics in all the events. My DS9 is the oldest in the class by at least 2 years and although he is still learning skills he has been increasing frustrated with being in a class of "babies". The focus and behavior level of the younger kids has resulted in a lot of time just waiting around while the coach disciplines. This is the only preteam class offered at this gym. It doesn't appear that there are any older kids that are not on level 4+.

At this point I am leaning towards letting him finish out this month (since I already paid for it) and then moving onto something new (or back to all star cheerleading). As much as he likes to tumble I feel that he is just too old to start competitive gymnastics, at least at this gym. It also doesn't help that my older children are already involved in travel sports and scheduling has become a nightmare since the kids outnumber the amount of licensed drivers in the family and we do not have family in the immediate area that can support us.
 

skschlag

Staff member
Gold Membership
Proud Parent
Jul 19, 2011
11,226
Region 9
Sounds like your son has some drive and talent :) He isn't too old to start...I think you would be surprised to see how quickly he can learn given appropriate coaching.

Questions:
1. Can he go to 1 session of level 4 per week instead of 2?
2. Is there another gym with a boys' team close to you?

We had a boy that started at 9 on our team that went to the Naval Academy for gymnastics. It is possible if he loves it. The class he is in does not sound appropriate.
 

gymboymom

Proud Parent
Oct 12, 2011
1,402
What about looking for a gym that has a tramp and tumbling team? He would probably be able to move onto their team much easier. I don't think 9 is too old to do L4, but the logistics in your case may make it difficult.
 

Sasha

Proud Parent
May 15, 2013
1,583
9-10 is definitely not too old for a boy to do level 4, especially as he has some fitness and tumbling skills coming in. He could still go on to be very competitive at high levels if he stuck with it and is at a quality gym. I agree the class you describe is not a fit if he is serious and wants to be competitive, though.

I'm hearing from you that the real issue is your family situation with multiple kids already in competitive sports, though, and not your son's potential?

If you can only commit to giving your son 1-2 days of an activity per week due to driving resources, then competitive gymnastics is perhaps not a fit. After level 4, it's likely he would need to start going a minimum of 3 days per week, and soon 4-5 days within the following year or two. And parents typically have zero flexibility with practice and meet schedules that can often change unexpectedly. You probably already have this sense, but just making sure. It would not be feasible for a boy to stick with gymnastics competitively on 2 days a week down the line.

If your driving situating is more temporary, though, and your son loves gym, he is certainly not too old.
 
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ZJsMom

Proud Parent
May 11, 2007
998
Pacific NW
Have you looked into whether there are carpooling options that could get him to the gym more frequently so he could be in the level 4 group? It seems like he has the skill and desire to do competitive gym, but the logistics are tough. Maybe there's another family or two in your area that you could share the driving.

If that doesn't work, the T and T suggestion sound good. The swing and support events are tough, but with his tumbling background, he'd have an easy transition to T and T. Around here, T and T teams seem to practice a lot less that artistic gymnastics, so that might help with the logistics too.
 
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ccmom11

Proud Parent
Jul 16, 2015
3
42
Thanks for the advice and suggestions.

I agree that the bigger issue is commitment logistics. If I already can't make 2 nights week work (with 2 other children in different travel activities) it's probably a good idea to get out now. The commitment hours for all star cheer were much easier to manage because I had 2 kids going to the same place and a bunch of carpool families willing to help. Right now for gymnastics I haven't met many families who could help carpool.

We could just continue the rec class but it doesn't seem like it's a good fit for DS9 especially with the recent changes to coach and kids in the class. It also worries me that if he moves up to level 4 next season (and we can get him to both required nights) he will be grouped with these same kids who are much younger. Going to only 1 night of the current level 4 team was not an option back when we were talking with the head coach at the beginning of the year.

I will have to look up T&T as I am not familiar with any programs that offer this in my area.
 

Madden3

Proud Parent
Aug 24, 2013
826
50
If you want to continue to consider MAG, here is the experiences I can tell you about. Several years ago we had a 12 yo boy who started in the spring with my oldest DS's level 4 team. Most of the other levels 4's were younger. No previous experience on anything except tumbling, but he was strong, a fast learner, and already a great tumbler. He was very rapidly moved up to level 6 by the next competition season (Of course this meant a lot more time in the gym than level 4!) He is now one of our "big boys" competing level 10.

We also had a 17 year old boy return to gymnastics after a long break, and he trained and competed level 5 with boys who were of course mostly much younger. He was a great kid with a great attitude about it. Also, no matter what is happening at your gym as far as age ranges, when your son competes with other gyms, I bet there will be some other boys at his level his age or older.

In my opinion, when it comes to boys gymnastics, and of course speaking generally, better a boy be on the older side for his level than be on the younger side. What I have noticed is that the really young boys who move up quickly and consequently have to train a lot have issues with behavior and focus, and his whole training group suffers as a result.

When a child is way older than the teammates at his level, our HC deals with it by having older lower level boys do some training or at least conditioning with upper level boys of the same age. Maybe that is unique to our gym, where every level has a pretty wide age range.
 

Smiley007

Proud Parent
Jul 28, 2015
14
55
Gymnastics, boys or girls, is quite time consuming. Our gym almost doubles the practice time between boys levels 4 and 5. On the other hand, there may be less gymnasts in his age group that he has to compete against. If he is talented and doesn't need as much practice time, he could still do very well since it is less competitive.

Also of note, USA Gymnastics is considering an Open Optional Division for boys in order to draw more boys to the sport who may want to play other sports and not be able to practice as much. It may have similarities to the Excel program for girls, but not sure yet. This change may happen starting in the 2016-2017 competition season. If it gets approved, more information will be hopefully available by May 2016 (...they were shooting for Sept 2016, but needed more time).

https://usagym.org/PDFs/Men/Committee Minutes/mjopc_2015_0609.pdf (under Age Group Competition 2C)
"Creating 3rd path (open optional), easier rule system to help recreational kids remain competitive."

I think the biggest challenge for older kids to start competing later is building up the strength and keeping their flexibility. Have enough strength and flexibility makes learning skills easier. I think it would be very difficult to learn skills on all 6 events with only a few hours of practice a week. Perhaps a better option is to focus his attention on his favorite 2-3 events and do them exceptionally well. Then, enter your son in the Open Optional Division once he is old enough and it rolls out (optionals for the boys starts at Level 8, age 11).

Our gym has optional boys traveling from an hour away to come to practice. They have made arrangements to practice at a closer gym part of the week, and then they come to our gym several times a week. Perhaps this could be an option for your son as well.

Sounds like a tough situation with the logistics, but it is wonderful to hear that your DS is motivated to do something. If you don't feel like you could be committed to taking him to most of the practices, have you/your son thought about other sports using his skills such as diving, martial arts or hip hop dance? One of my nephews is on an all-male dance team and he really enjoys it. They learn break dancing, can do tumbling and it is very cool. In fact, I just heard that they were invited to audition for America's Got Talent.

Good luck with your decision!
 
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Pigeon

Proud Parent
Mar 10, 2015
133
I think an Open Optional Division for boys is much needed. There are a number of boys at our gym that would probably really benefit from something like this, and it would make things easier on the coaches as well, I would think. We've also had a number of boys who started when they were older who quit that probably would have stayed if they had an option like this.

I hope it goes through. Maybe we could move a discussion of this to the MAG section?
 
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ccmom11

Proud Parent
Jul 16, 2015
3
42
We actually just got a recommendation from a family friend to has DS9 try a Ninja Training Gym in our area (based on the obstacle courses seen on American Ninja Warrior--which my son loves to watch). We have an appointment later this week for him to try a class there. My friend told me it incorporates some gymnastics moves and strength training and allows the kids to work on beating their own individual levels of each obstacle 9warped wall, rings, rope climb, etc). The classes are broken up by age and she says that her sons class is all boys aged 9-11 years old (but coed is also offered at the gym).

An optional open division in MAG for boys sounds like a great idea to get more boys involved in the sport especially those who start at a later age.
 
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