MAG Boys Home Training Programme - Feedback - Covid Addition

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Men's Artistic Gymnastics
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Proud Parent
Jun 15, 2019
Hi All, (realised I posted this in the wrong forum, sorry!)

(TLDR: The Plan I created with the help of several coaches is attached and I'd appreciate any feedback on any imbalances! :) )

First post here but I've been lurking for 2 years or so now. My DS (6) has never been considered a gifted gymnast by any of the clubs (several) we've attended. However, he is very strong and has super flexibility (one thing every club has praised). We didn't have high aims at the beginning, as his coordination, behaviour and balance were pretty average. One thing that has always stood out for me when watching him is how much he LOVES the sport. We've tried him with loads of things over the years but Gym is the thing that is him throughout.

Against all advice, I've been training with him at home for about 21 months now. His last club "punished" him for his behaviour (he was being silly, he would be 100% focused when actually training but being the clown if not kept active all the time). He was kept in a rec group for 1 hour a week and it was clear to me and frustrating too that he was not being challenged in that group. I signed him up to a few other local clubs including putting him on the waiting list for a few larger clubs to compare as I have never been involved with gym before.

He became the "demonstrator" in his rec group and won any competition hands down, it was clear that his enthusiasm was leading to improvement. I queried the coach (who was high level but incredibly unapproachable) and he said he "had a plan" for my son. The other rec groups at other clubs were very low level by comparison so we stuck with his main club. Eventually he was moved into a 2 hour group.

By this time I'd taken it on myself to give him the extra time and support I felt he needed. I know this is heavily frowned upon and I debated this for a long time. I even volunteered at local club and signed up to a MAG course! This made me realise just how little I knew but I relentlessly went through gymnasts youtube channels/forums/social media looking for coaching tips.

I worked on basics with my son, so flexibility while watching tv/playing games, games on trampoline, fun circuits together that incorporated jumping, funny conditioning that I'd fail at making him feel special and praising his efforts at every stage regardless of success. I began to get a little stricter on form as I picked these things up myself. He got stronger, the first time he ever went in the bucket for mushroom circles he did 100 as we'd been working them at home. Much to his coaches amazement he started considering him for a 8 hour group at this point.

His coach was trying to tame DS I think. He used to make him sit at the side/in the changing rooms (especially when he moved him into the developemnt squad) he constantly told him to be more like his star gymnasts who could do x, y ,z. I could see it chipping away at my son's morale and it really irritated me. The number of times I've read "don't compare your gymnasts to others" yet he was blatantly doing this. I understand why but it was making my son feel inferior and like his efforts at home were not been praised. (I certainly felt this way).

We spent 12 months at that club, being told my son wasn't anything special (gymnastics wise), needed to improve his behaviour, was too silly, wasn't training hard enough, was "ok" or told nothing at all and blanked (towards the end).

We got a message from one of the other clubs we were on a waiting list for that a space was open finally. I jumped on this. By the end of the first session the coach came out beaming and said "your son is incredibly talented". I knew this wasn't the case necessarily, he'd just worked damn hard at home. They invited him to a trial and he was placed in a 6 hour development squad.

This was a step back in hours but the club was a fresh start, had better equipment and he idolises the coaches there. They also have a much bigger MAG section there. The sessions highlighted a big issue with bouncing. The club clearly place a huge emphasis on the ability to bounce high and that was the biggest eye opener for us. The group consists of 4-8 year olds and my son is at the top end of that group. We've been pushing to get moved into the competition squad (12-15 hours) who are a long way ahead of him so we've been working the things they don't have time to do in his 6 hour group.

The club offered a private lesson for him to "bridge the gap" between competition squad and development and we ran with that for 9 weeks or so. He learned some wicked tumbling and has managed to ring the bell in his squad sessions ten or so times (none of the other boys have rung it yet). We saw this as a sign that he is at the top end of the development group.

Then covid hit.

We've gained so much ground, especially in bouncing/tumbling that I really didn't want him to regress. I wanted to keep up the momentum. I asked the coaches if there was a "home programme" for his group. They said not but I heard from other parents that the 12-15 hour group had a whole plan given to them. I suppose us not getting this plan means that DS is not on the radar for promotion (perhaps I'm reading into it too much but I've been bitten in the other club and I am sceptical due to this).

DS doesn't need my input in his training now really (occasional poke to do things properly, keep tight and point stuff!) but I wanted to keep is motivation high while he isn't at gym. I produced a training programme for him (doctored from one I got from the club after creating some waves...) that he could "teach" to his instagram audience. We started a series called "How to be fit like a 6 year old" and I've been pretending to publish it, instead publishing little clips. He's very proud.

Before Covid, he'd done very little Mushroom work, maybe 10 mins a week. He could manage lots in the bucket but only just 1 circle. Thanks to the home training and his persistence he is now up to 3 3/4 circles on our pommel at home! A massive achievement which I again praised his efforts on. It seems the club weren't too concerned with him not training for this period, this concerns me greatly in their plans for my son. Perhaps they would rather no training than filling him with bad habits. I entirely agree yet I've been studying gymnastics enough to run a pretty decent conditioning session at least.

His motivation is high and he's training 6 days a week. I've put the plan on the wall and at some point during the day he'll look at it and get started with my wife and I or us individually. It's working well and wow he's shredded now! :haha:

So we're going ahead with the plan at the moment, wow this post is long...sorry!

My questions are:

What do you all thing of the home plan I've put together?
Is it balanced, safe and fun?
Are there any components missing?
Could you suggest any skills that might be a nice goal to work towards over the next few weeks before getting back to gym?

Thanks for reading my waffling and I appreciate any comments (even if they are telling me off! I'll take it.)


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Probably not the answer you are looking for but... Step back. Let him be a 6 year old and don't train him.
Even if he does not have the gymnastics carreer you feel he could have, does it really matter ? I'm sure he will be happy no matter what.

Besides, your training plan is too much for a 6 year old. He shouldn't condition that much at that age. Gymnastics should only be fun at that point and taking a break isn't that bad (actually I'm pretty sure some elite MAG gymnasts started gymnastics after 6...). Your conditionning program is a gymnastics burnout waiting to happen (and I fear it will also damage your relationship with your son, which is what I'm most concerned about, because at the end of the day, being done with gymnastics isn't necessarily a bad thing).
Doing too much work on the hands (handstands, pommel work) can damage his wrists and create overuse injuries.
Probably not the answer you are looking for but... Step back. Let him be a 6 year old and don't train him.
Even if he does not have the gymnastics carreer you feel he could have, does it really matter ? I'm sure he will be happy no matter what.

Besides, your training plan is too much for a 6 year old. He shouldn't condition that much at that age. Gymnastics should only be fun at that point and taking a break isn't that bad (actually I'm pretty sure some elite MAG gymnasts started gymnastics after 6...). Your conditionning program is a gymnastics burnout waiting to happen (and I fear it will also damage your relationship with your son, which is what I'm most concerned about, because at the end of the day, being done with gymnastics isn't necessarily a bad thing).
Doing too much work on the hands (handstands, pommel work) can damage his wrists and create overuse injuries.

I expected this to be the response to be honest and I am taking it on board, I do feel I'd be letting him down if I did it at this point though. There are boys in the squads above 3 months older training every piece of apparatus 6 times a week. They all have massive smiles on their faces at the club, not one of them looks in pain/overworked/stressed. Neither does my son.

My aim has always been to give him the extra support, get him into a competition squad then step back. This would give him all the opportunity to go as far as he can. I honestly NEVER push him, his training is his choice, the plan is just on the wall.

At the slightest hint of pain I'd reduce him right down anyway. Tough but with the progress he's made I'd hope he'd have a shot at moving up within the next 6 months. I'd be disappointed for him if he didn't, he's not bored in his current group but he's desperate to move onto apparatus and skills.
I understand that you are only trying to do what you feel is best for your son, even if, in my opinion, you are not helping him in the long run.
I also understand that I won't change you over an internet board, which is normal and to be expected.

Also, keep in mind that I'm not from the US and that, where I am from, it is widely believed that going to gymnastics 6 days a week at age 6 is too much, regardless of the potential of the child, and that it is damaging his or her overall development.
It is also widely believed that kids are eager to please and pick up expectations very easily, which is why they are often very enthousiastic at doing things that will please their parents.

While I do think that you should stop "training" him altogether (although maybe gradualy so that he does not feel "let down"), here are a few "damage control" ideas :

- stop doing so much work on the wrists. Whether or not he is in pain now is irrelevant, because overuse injuries will appear in the future. If you really want to have him do so much handstands and levers, always use paralettes.

- introduce more "fun" activities, i.e. challenges (against you or your spouse maybe ? consider letting him win occasionaly if you are athletic), "teach your dad a cartweel" activity, "how many sit bounce can you do on a trampoline" challenge, any challenge or game you can find on the internet at the moment (stupid games like this ? Keep it safe and age appropriate obviously). Form does not necessarily have to be perfect.

- maybe have a program that is a bit less structured ? Consider letting him have a say in the program, maybe one day a week at least ? Only thing he should have no say in is : no gym without a proper warmup, no dangerous skill thrown, light stretching at the end.

- above all, make sure you also cultivate other sources of interest (drawing, cooking, playing games that are not related to atheticism) and that you praise him for those things as much (if not more) as you prase him for gymnastics
First... as a head coach I am planning on all of my athletes regressing at this time... as is the world... our program will build them up once again.

Second... I have trained my kids for many years... but not at home... I am a head coach.

Third... I think it's great that you are helping him out... just be careful... I can tell you from experience that it doesn't always go as planned.

- stop doing so much work on the wrists.

Yes... this is the point that I see. Pommels is way off. Up to 300 circles in one day is not what I would do. Focus on quality and the actual ability to do something... not quantity.

Here is some good information for you...

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I'm just a parent (not a coach like the posters above), so you can take that for what it's worth. But I would say that your program is way too intense. And I totally understand that you want your son to succeed (what loving parent doesn't want their child to do well? It's a natural thing), but success in this sport won't be dictated by what your son does during the lockdown. Even if it lasts many more months.

I'll tell you about our family's journey so far - we're pretty new to the competitive side of the sport (I did recreational and adult gymnastics when I was younger, so am kind of familiar with it). I have two sons in the sport (7 yo and 9 yo). Before the lockdown, my 7 yo was doing a 9 h/week development program, and my older son was in his first year of team at 16 h/week (he did 9 h/week the year before, at the age of 8).

At 6 yo, my eldest wasn't even on the pre-team track (he did 2 h of rec classes a week until he was 7.5, then moved up to 5 h/week of pre-pre development from 7.5 to 8 yo, then went to 9 h/week when he turned 8).

At age 6, my youngest was doing an "advanced" recreational class (he loved it so much, he wanted to do the two available classes a week, so ended up in the gym for 4 h/week). The only reason my youngest is doing more more quickly is because he wants to be exactly like his brother, and in our area the governing body changed the age cutoffs, and so now the clubs will be pushing the boys up in levels more quickly (I think this is a mistake, personally, but what can you do).

So... at 6 yo, my kids were either doing 2 h/week of recreational, or 4 h/week of "advanced" recreational. Even in the "advanced" rec class, the focus was on fun, learning shapes, and stretching. They did some conditioning (let them climb the rope etc.), but it was truly all in the name of fun.

My oldest spent this year (at age 9) doing his first true season of competitive gymnastics on a squad with kids who had extra years of pre-team experience, and some with the same amount of experience as him. By the end of the season, he had caught up (for the most part) to the kids who had that extra "experience" on pre-team. And at his last competition, he medalled on two events and came in top 5 AA in a group of 21 boys.

My youngest joined the pre-team group as the only kid who hadn't done pre-pre team the year before. He struggles on some of the skills (bent legs in his floor work, not as good at rebounding, etc.), but was the first to get more than 5 circles in a row and first to get a muscle up. BUT, he also was so "good" at mushroom that he was doing waaaaay too many circles during his practices, if you ask me. Coach would give them 5 attempts each turn, and they got 5 turns total (so 25 attempts). My son would do 10+ circles on some of his attempts, and would routinely exceed 150 circles total, plus probably another 100 with the bucket, and it was taking a toll on his wrists. I was going to ask the coach to limit him to, say, 75 circles per practice, with the goal to reach that in as few tries as possible, but then COVID hit and... I'm glad his wrists are getting a break. When I saw your plan had days where you want your 6 yo to do 300 circles, I admit I cringed!

My point? The boys have time. Men's gymnastics is a long haul - and there are a lot of strength moves that are out of reach until they are teenagers and fully developed. If they do have innate skill, they catch up even if they didn't have as much "pre-team" exposure as other boys. Or sometimes they don't catch up until later... or at all... But conditioning at the age of 6 won't have much of a bearing on that. What it can do is hurt wrists and shoulders, the two most important joints in MAG.

So what is my family doing during the lockdown? We have a mushroom at home, and my boys will go to it and do circles whenever the mood strikes them. Some days, they're on it constantly, then they'll ignore it for a week. We just let them do what they want (as long as it's safe). My oldest son is making great progress with his flexibility during the lockdown, so he and I are stretching together regularly, but it's driven by him (my youngest son is naturally flexible and doesn't see the point of stretching... so he doesn't stretch with us). Luckily, our gym has online Zoom classes now (they didn't for the first 3 or 4 weeks), and I sign them up for all of them. They do stretching, basic body positions / holds, and light conditioning to keep them from getting completely out of shape while not in the gym. We have the option of signing them up for this 1 h/d Mon-Fri. Some kids do all of them, some only do a few. I stay out of it and just set up the computer at the beginning of the class. It's up to them to work hard or not.

So... try to relax. (I know, easier said than done, right??) If you really want to have your son work on stuff, let him lead it. Maybe ask what types of exercises he did in the gym that he could (and wants to!) do at home, and have him set up his own schedule. And if he doesn't want to follow it... just let it slide (again, I know it's easier said than done). Take him outside to play catch or kick a soccer ball or ride his bike. Or to do cartwheels and handstands on the grass. The strength and skills will come back once he's back in the gym.
I agree with the above posts. My ds is a 17 yo L10. At 6, he was doing 3-4 hours a week with an occasional open gym thrown in. He also wrestled, played soccer, basketball, and tball, and took swimming lessons.

During this time (he has been out of the gym now for 7 weeks, with at least one more to go) he does about 30 minutes of stretching in the morning. Then in the afternoon he will do 60-90 minutes of conditioning, strength, stretching, cardio. HE does this 5 days a week. On the weekends he does less. He does not have a formal program he is following. He does zoom classes with his teammates, and they do some challenges.

Right now, at 6, gym is what your son wants to do. I remember those days. BUt it is important for his growing body, to not do too much. Things like gymnast wrist are real, and can take kids out of the sport for months, or permanently. And the effects aren't seen for years. So while he is not hurting now, by the time something is hurting, it could be a significant injury.

Have fun with him. Play games, etc. Do things other than gymnastics. HE will come back from this. He is very young, and will get everything back quickly when he gets back in the gym :)
6 is very young for an intense training program. The fact that you have been to several gyms and the coach felt the need to “tame” him, seems to indicate he’s a normal 6 year old boy with regard to attention and dedication and pushing too much will just lead to decreased interest, desire and burnout.
My son didn’t start gymnastics lessons until he was 7 and didn’t start team until 8.5 because I chose to vacation rather than do preterm. When he started competing his Level 4 cohort was 11 boys. Today he’s the only one in his group left. Two of the last boys in his group to quit were at gyms that practiced 27 and 30 hours a week, my son does 20 with a 3 hour optional on Sat and placed the same as those boys.
The biggest attrition for boys seems to be burn out and injury. Little you can do for injuries except not overuse, but even the most talented boy will eventually get sick of gymnastics when it means no birthday parties, a never ending scramble to do homework, or your body always hurts because of overwork on a child’s growing body.
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