An unfair challenge?

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The national grades age thing is a difficult one. In essence I think you are both right. On the one hand as Learning Parent has said it gives the late starters or slower developers a chance to compete doing exactly the same skills as everybody else irrespective of age but on the other hand I think as Annikins is suggesting the system can be open to legal manipulation by some clubs holding back their gymnasts for that extra year in order to increase the chances of national finals qualification. In our region I have often had more than a little suspicion that a “little game playing” in a few small areas might be going in to increase success.

The girls of all ages may be doing the same grades skills but nobody can deny that the girls that are maybe 1 to 3 years older than the youngest gymnasts will be physically far stronger due to age which can be an advantage on many of the disciplines. That being said ,maybe the older ones may not be quite as flexible or some of them have become quite tall which generally does not help.

I remember thinking at national 4 that due to the open age that the playing field was not exactly level particularly as my daughter had a near year end birthday. However on the plus side I think the older girls competing drove her to work harder. She went on to miss out on a national 3 place by around 0.5 but finally qualified at national 2 this year winning a number of golds in her region.

My daughter has now experienced a national final which had been her dream for the last few years. She is hoping to achieve the same next year but is a lot more relaxed about things now, going to the final at least once was the main thing.

There have been between 2 and 3 older girls who made a top 5 place in each of her national grade years and I suspect this is probably the case in other regions. Whatever the rights and wrongs I do sympathise with other gymnasts and their parents who may miss out on the opportunity of a national grade final which may we’ll have been attained in an in age event.

Just one final thought. How many other national children's sports completions can anyone think of that are open on child age to compete subject to a minimum age. Just out of curiosity this one as I cannot think of one right now !
Congratulations to your daughter! That would be a dream for my daughter too, who also has a year end birthday, so fingers crossed for some point in the future I guess. I wish they did give out medals in age groups at least!

As for your other question, no I can't think of any other sports with a minimum age. Maybe it's because of the potential risks? Which then makes me think of something like go karting?!
Hi Annikins,

Many thanks.

With regard to my question , it was not so much the minimum age I was referring to, indeed this is certainly very sensible depending on risk factors at the various sports. It was more directed at any other sport that given this sensible age start point is then open to any age competing at what is considered non adult level.

For example in most sports leagues and competitions are set to be “under” a certain age and I believe on an individual basis if you saw a 10 year old competing against a 12 or 13 year old in any given sport then generally speaking the reason you would see this is because you were in the presence of an extremely talented 10 year old who had moved up age groups rather than the other way around.

The emphasis in British Gymnastics is clearly on the compulsories and at that level they very much see the case for keeping things in age and also trying to make it has near impossible as they can for re-admittance to their exclusive club. They really don’t want to upset the apple cart as the old saying goes. However at the compulsories “poor neighbour” the nationals we see a different set of rules and a different set of values as to what is fair and is not fair. What is good for the goose is evidently not good for the gander as far as BG is concerned..whoops there I go again !

Now I know I will not make a bundle of friends on this forum by being outspoken about what I consider to be fair regarding the nationals and the challenge cup but unless you have a daughter on this path and realise with time what they are up against on their journey then others not in this situation will probably always be biased towards what they consider to be the ultimate elite path in gymnastics that is known as the compulsories.

The fact is that as things stand there are currently girls at the challenge cup who on their final scores would undoubtably produce better results at the British than a fair proportion of the compulsory qualifiers. Sure most or maybe none at all in a given year would make the top 10 ( although let us not forget some big names that have come through this route in the recent past ) but we should remember that for now at least in Great Britain gymnastics is an amateur sport and after years of dedication on a path that is also encouraged by BG (well I think?) their should be a sense of moral duty to allow these girls based on their comparative scores to see truly where they are placed in the whole of Great Britain.Whatever people want to say about this from the “challenge is marked more leniently” to you have “other choices” something seems very amiss about the whole affair .It’s time for an open minded and fair review I think.

As always, just my opinion of course:), wishing the very best of luck to your daughter going forward, I think you will find as she is showing promise against the older girls now then as she gains strength and experience with age you will find any gap narrowing considerably and probably reversing in the next year and beyond. Happy gymnastics!
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