MAG Brand new gym mom - questions about how to pick a team

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KatieB

Hi everyone,
I'm a *brand new* "gym mom." Background: My 6 1/2 year old son decided he wanted to be a trapeze artist after seeing something on TV, and convinced me to search for trapeze lessons for him. I decided to humor him, assuming there would be no such thing, but found a circus school here in Orlando. With no prior experience in anything, he had to begin with their tumbling and trampoline class. He went to their summer program one day a week for 3 hours and has been taking tumbling and trampoline since *correection* Sept. (5+ months). His coaches were high level gymnasts at the Olympic training school in Russia and then were recruited to Cirque Du' Soleil and performed or still perform in the show down here by Disney. Anyway, so he's been taking that class for 5 months, and moved past the other kids quickly. His main coach suggested he add in gymnastics. I have no idea what talent would look like in a little young gymnast, but in tumbling, he can do a really good (? the coaches tell me) cart wheel, round off, back handspring, back tuck combo, can stay in a handstand for as long as he wants, can do maybe 20 pull ups on a bar, can hold himself up in a pull up for a minute, can do a split etc.. He has no other experience with ANY gymnastics apparatus. He's fallen in love with the sport, in part because he's very strong and athletic but not very successful at other sports because he's TINY - at 6 1/2 he's the size of a 3 1/2 year old - not even on the growth charts.

So anyway, not knowing anything about gymnastics, I signed him up at TWO gyms (mistake, I guess?) because each only had one day I could make it to recreational classes. Each wanted to evaluate him on his first day of Beginner classes. At gym 1, they immediately invited him to join their pre-team to prepare to compete as a level 4 next year. At gym 2, they moved him from beginners to intermediate on the first class, then today, told me he should be on the pre-team. Not sure how this happened, or what level 4 kids actually do, but from what I saw, he did great in tumbling, was able to swing and turn himself upside down and hold it on the rings after a few tries, swung himself back and forth on the parallel bars, did this swinging side to side thing while lifting his legs up and then sticking one leg over, and then the other to get off on the pommel horse (but clearly struggled to hold and basically had to do a split to reach his leg over since he's so small), he couldn't figure out how to pull himself over on the high bar, and did a little spinning around on this mushroom thing, but not as well as the other boys. I don't understand how he got invited to the pre-teams (really, nothing he did seemed nearly as hard as what the girls were doing!)

Here in Orlando, if a girl wants to compete, there's one gym that is known as the best. I only know this because some of the women at his circus school were gymnasts and talk about it, and then in doing an internet search, they pretty much win everything around here. I have no idea how to figure out which men's team is better. I also have no idea if I need to pick the "better" team at this age. He loves the idea of competing, so I'm going to let him do this. How do I pick which pre-team, then team he should join? What do I look for? Neither coach told me much other than that they think he's talented, and since he has coordination and the muscles he will need to use for the apparatus are strong, they think he'll learn fast. I honestly know NOTHING about gymnastics - seriously didn't even know what a pommel horse was called until after his class. I didn't expect him to get invited to any pre-team, so didn't know not to sign him up at both gyms - I was just thinking about what times were best for our family for recreational gymnastics. Both pre-teams practice at the same time, which works for me and my other kids, both cost the same. I have to decide quickly (like by Monday) since I'm going to have to sign a 30 day withdrawl form at one gym or the other. Sorry this is so long... I'm SO clueless here!!
Katie
 

wallinbl

Proud Parent
Jan 30, 2012
1,708
His main coach suggested he add in gymnastics.
Ask him for a recommendation. He probably knows.

Here in Orlando, if a girl wants to compete, there's one gym that is known as the best.
Yep. DD competes against them. Their coaches are impressive to watch on meet day and their girls do well.
 

skschlag

Staff member
Gold Membership
Proud Parent
Jul 19, 2011
11,238
Region 9
I would say, for now, ask your son what he thought of the 2 gyms. For my son, one of hte biggest parts of gymnastics is the team, the kids, and the coaches. He loves that part. And, since they do spend a large part of their lives with these people, it is important that he like them.

Beyond that, what feeling did you get from the gyms? And remember...no decision you make here is permanent. GO with yout gut, what your son thinks, and just let things play out. Fun is the name of the game at this age!
 
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KatieB

Thanks for the reply! And I'm sorry I'm so clueless here!! Nope, his coaches at Orlando Circus School all did gymnastics in Russia, and their tumbling and tramp class is not competitive - they are training acrobats, not gymnasts (in that class anyway:) At the gym that we were talking about in Orlando (the girls usually win one) - the boys coach that they were known for, and who coached the boys who made it really far left to go to some Olympic training thing or something (I'm clueless so missed exactly what the receptionist said). The receptionist also said that the boys team parents don't take it as seriously as the girls' parents do. They do post their meet results on the booster club website and had a lot of 1st place boys in lower levels this year. The second gym says they are better than the other and their main focus is boys. However, at the first pre-team/team practice this Thurs., my son spent half the time playing. There wasn't a lot of structure and really not much focus on the 3 boys not on team but on pre-team. They had a LOT of boys of all levels mixed together with 2 coaches (like 15+ boys, from 5-17) I haven't seen him do the other pre-team (will go on Tues), but I know it's a seperate practice time and in general, everything they do seems structured. They are also much closer and at a better time (which matters since I have 4 kids total, all with their own schedules). Also they are more expensive (not now for pre-team, but later, and because they do more hours). I really have no way of knowing which team is better, which coaches are better etc. I know NOTHING about gymnastics! Should I just go with the one that is more convenient for ME - (my guess is if this is going to be something he's going to be doing for a while, and doing more and more hours of, it would all work out better if the time they do practices and the distance I have to travel is easier on me).
 
K

KatieB

I would say, for now, ask your son what he thought of the 2 gyms. For my son, one of hte biggest parts of gymnastics is the team, the kids, and the coaches. He loves that part. And, since they do spend a large part of their lives with these people, it is important that he like them.

Beyond that, what feeling did you get from the gyms? And remember...no decision you make here is permanent. GO with yout gut, what your son thinks, and just let things play out. Fun is the name of the game at this age!

He liked both gyms. He just really likes anything related to gymnastics. At the one where he actually has done a day of pre-team, he like the only other young kid. All the other boys were on the team and at least 9 years old. He had a lot of fun, but honestly, most of the time he was on his own with the other pre-team kid, jumping on a big mat, doing handsprings, running in circles etc. The other pre-team boy was just moved up from pre-school rec. and can't even do a cart wheel yet. Not much focus was given to the pre-team two. At the gym where he changed classes and now was invited to the pre-team, he loves the gym because they have a lot more "stuff" (like a rock wall they can climb if they were good during the rec class) - he hasn't met the coach or the pre-team kids yet. This gym is known for being really serious, but for Noah, that IS fun. He's super hyper and will run wild if he's allowed to, but has amazing focus at his tumbling class, and thrives in that kind of situation. This gym has a reputation for having some "mean" coaches, but I haven't heard anything bad about the boy's coaches, not that I've heard a lot about any boy's coaches. It's also easier for ME to get to, and has more stuff around for me to do with his twin, since I don't want to sit there for hours! I have no idea what to look for in a good coach. I guess if he likes the pre-team at the second place, I'll go with that one, for my own convenience.

This all caught me off guard since I didn't expect him to be invited to the pre-teams. For example, I didn't know it was a big no no to sign a kid up at two different gyms for rec classes. (I hope I don't get in trouble at one or the other for having him continue a month of rec classes while he's on the pre-team at the other, but I'm not going to just give them money for the 30 days required to withdrawl without having him take a class during that time!)

Also, is boys' level 4 similar to girls level 2, since it's the first level boys compete at? Why are most of the boys in our area about 8-9 in level 4? What they do seems so easy compared to girls level 4 (we know a little girl who competes at this level... don't know much about it other than the videos her mom posts, which are amazing compared to what the boys are doing at level 4!)
 

SignHere

Proud Parent
Jul 11, 2011
518
I only have girls in gymnastics, but I would choose the more structured program, where the boys are divided up by ability. You are going to be spending too much money for him to be fooling around and potentially be doing unsafe things, which strikes me as something that could happen in a group of boys mixed ages 5-17.
 
K

KatieB

Hickory, that's what I was thinking! I've never seen a boy's team, but it seemed odd to have a 5 and 6 year old running around while most of the focus was on the older kids. There was one of those 3 foot thick mats, and both boys were doing flips on it, the foam pit is above ground and taller than my son's head, and the little boys kept climbing it and jumping as far as they could, they were jumping on a spring board and dangling from a set of parallel bars that were way over their heads etc. I didn't know if kids are normally allowed to do what they want while they aren't busy in gymnastics, since the pre-team/team practices are longer. The older boys come about 30 minutes in to the pre-team/level 4 practice and stay longer, but I wasn't sure I liked him with boys that old! In his tumbling class at circus school, the coaches are super nurturing, but also very strict about safety and listening, and focusing the whole two hours - and they are always supposed to be doing something, even if the coach isn't focused on them for a few minutes. I never worry about safety there, but did worry at this gym. I haven't seen the second pre-team, but I already know it will be strict, because that's how the gym is. I guess the decision is made!!!
 

skschlag

Staff member
Gold Membership
Proud Parent
Jul 19, 2011
11,238
Region 9
I would choose the more structured one too, but making sure that there is time for fun.

In general, for boys, they have a LOT longer "lifespan" in gymnastics than girls. So, it seems that girls are pushed a lot harder and faster. Boys peak a lot later, and since their "muscles" come with puberty, that is when things really kick in. At the lower levels, boys are having fun, learning skills and discipline, and learning to love the sport. They do get all the basics, just a lot slower in general than the girls.

In our gym, most 4s are 6-7. Our level 5s are 8-10 and so on from there. Now, boys do progress at their own rate, sometimes spending multiple years at 1 level, and 1 year at another. They all develop differently.

Good luck with your decision!
 

Kiwi

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Proud Parent
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Jul 14, 2010
1,381
New Zealand
I would go with the more structured gym. Apart from the safety aspect, I wouldn't want to pay good money for my kid to muck around with little supervision.
 

emorymom

Proud Parent
Oct 10, 2008
1,154
Also, is boys' level 4 similar to girls level 2, since it's the first level boys compete at? Why are most of the boys in our area about 8-9 in level 4? What they do seems so easy compared to girls level 4 (we know a little girl who competes at this level... don't know much about it other than the videos her mom posts, which are amazing compared to what the boys are doing at level 4!)

Ummm. Depends on the gym but at our gym it is comparable to girls L3. Which ? is about to be releveled to L2 with the demise of L1.
 

Azgymmiemom

Proud Parent
Mar 12, 2010
2,251
Arizona
Also, is boys' level 4 similar to girls level 2, since it's the first level boys compete at? Why are most of the boys in our area about 8-9 in level 4? What they do seems so easy compared to girls level 4 (we know a little girl who competes at this level... don't know much about it other than the videos her mom posts, which are amazing compared to what the boys are doing at level 4!)

I am a gym mom with one boy and one girl in competitive gymnastics, so I get to see and learn about both of them. My dd is a level 6, and my ds is in his second season as a Level 4. He would tell you that L4 for boys is just as challenging as L4 for girls...not comparable to a girls L2.( actually, he was pretty offended when he read that, lol) Boys must do loads of strength moves. He hits handstand two times in his pbars routine. I don't know any l4 girls who cast to handstand. And those circles on the mushroom are tricky and very difficult to master. In his first season, he could only do one circle and took a lot of fall deductions. This year, he can easily do the 5 1/2 for bonus. My dd has tried the circles at home, goofing around. She really had to work at it, but she can do a few. Also, the boys don't really have to do a bhs on floor, but it is a bonus move, and most meets we've been at, they all do it. They also can do a press to handstand on the floor instead of a headstand. And he wants me to mention the lever hold on the rings...also a very difficult strentgh move. Many, many more strength moves in boys gymnastics. Plus, they have 6 events to train. Yes, the vault is very basic as a level 4, but at level 5 they move right into front tucks.

so, it's kind of like comparing apples to oranges. Similar, yet very different. Just as challenging.

Take your son to the more disciplined gym. It will only help him in the long run. If he goofs off too much, he will only end up getting in trouble with his coaches or worse...end up hurt. Good luck to him!!!
 
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J&A's mom

Proud Parent
Aug 24, 2011
513
Midwest
I definitely agree with the above post. Vault may be easy, but it is really important for later vaults. And you should see the muscles on my little man. Girls level 4 may look harder, but Boys level 4 is right where they need to be in order to do other levels WELL. Plus they have till they are 18 to get to Level 10!
 

profmom

Proud Parent
Nov 18, 2011
9,461
Region 7
Also parent of a L6 girl and a L4 boy. If you look at the floor routines, here is what you see for final tumbling passes:

Boys' L4: RO rebound, BHS for bonus.
Girls' L4: RO BHS

Boys' L5: RO BHS, second BHS for bonus
Girls' L5: RO BHS BHS

At L5, the boys also have a front handspring, and at L6, just like the girls, they add the tucks. There are differences (the girls don't do the press head/handstands and the boys don't do the splits), but the routines look pretty analogous to me.
 
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