Coaches Coach needs advice about Grips!

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Proud Parent
I’m coaching a small team at a new gym, just a part-time job… The gym had a team that I helped with in past years, then the owner/coach closed and moved away. It re-opened a year later under new ownership, and yours-truly has somehow found herself as the head coach of the “new” team! :eek: It’s a small group now, just L4-5/Bronze (one L7/Silver, whose mom is the other coach). I just want to have a solid first year representing the “new” gym, you know?

I’m starting to get questions from kids and moms now about grips. Some girls just “want” them, some seem to think it will cure them of rips, etc. I have read the helpful advice and debate in past threads here… But people are often encouraged to turn to the coach for advice. Well, I AM the coach, and I need advice! I want to take a consistent and appropriate approach, and there are so many options. I haven’t competed since college over 10 years ago (but, I still have my blue Velcro 10.0’s!), and bars is my weakest event as both an athlete and coach (I was a 3-event girl in college!). So, I really need coaching advice here! I realize opinions will vary, but I want to hear them.

It seems that most people suggest not bothering with palm-grips and going straight to dowel if you are going to bother with grips at all. Would you all agree? What about the youngest girl (we have one who is age 6, almost 7), and this business about the growth plates? Is there any benefit to starting with palm grips?

People seem to agree that going to grips is all or nothing, because of how the hands may soften. But, surely there has to be some transition time where they are just using them for some skills to break them in and get used to them??

And, of course, there are so many brands out there, buckle vs Velcro, etc. I only know what I used in the past! I feel overwhelmed and I don’t have time to really sort this all out! Whatever we do, I want to present it to the entire group, not just the individuals who have approached me. I doubt I would “require” grips at this low level, but I would probably like to have one chosen type/brand and place one order.

MY instinct is that they don’t need to fool with grips just yet. Developing grip strength and “feel” is important. But, then again, maybe they should start getting used to them now? And regardless of the decision, how do I present the pros and cons to the parents with consistency and confidence?

It’s funny how my strained relationship with this event has followed me into adulthood and coaching!! :rolleyes:
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In my experience I do not recommend girls use grips until they start swinging giants. Especially the young girls who have small hands. It creates a larger circumference for their little hands to get around. For my kids who have sensitive hands or parents that insist their kids need them I make tape grips. They are made of athletic tape and last quite a long time. This seems to help and the girls enjoy having "grips." If you want me to describe how I make them I will, just let me know.
I do not recommend palm grips at any level. Personally, I don't think anyone needs (dowel) grips before L5, and I don't agree with coaches who require all of their kids to get grips at a given time. My gym does not allow kids to wear grips before they can kip, and most of our kids seem to get grips between L5 and L6. I also do not suggest switching back and forth between no grips and wearing grips, although I suppose as long as you swing without grips first, there wouldn't be problems. (Definite peeling factor with taking grips off and immediately doing tap swings.)

I've noticed a lot of questions here about grips for kids with small hands. At my gym, the kids whose hands don't fit into 0s don't wear grips. We've had L8s who still were gripless because they were so small. Some of them had tried grips, but they thought it was easier to swing without (I think that is usually the case with kids with very small hands).

I've always used Reisports, but the only brand that I actively avoid is 10.0 (they have quality control problems; my teammates at my old gym had a lot of trouble with grips that stretched out too quickly, or that had leather than bunched up instead of stretching). Some gyms swear by buckle grips, but I hated my double buckles because my wrists were always in-between two holes, so I was either cutting off the circulation in my wrists or was sliding around constantly.

At this point, I probably wouldn't try to switch anyone over to grips for next season, except for if you have an older kid (gymnasts with larger hands seem to make the transition easier. I got grips and was swinging full L6 bar sets the next practice). My gym always tells kids to order grips right before state, and then they can start right away with full-time grip use with no time crunch.
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:)Congrats on your new venture. The fact that you are willing to ask questions is a good sign that you have what it takes to be a great coach.

This isn't the "right way", it's just what works for us:

We put our kids in grips right after they have competed Level 5. There is a lot of strength that needs to develop in their wrists and fingers, so waiting a year into compulsories usually gives them some time to develop that strength (besides, they can barely get themselves to the bar area, much less bring their grips). We assume second year Level 5's are working Level 6 skills (bigger tap swings, clear hips) and these skills can be somewhat safer in grips, especially for bigger kids.

After about a month, we check back with the kids and they make a decision whether to wear grips or not for the upcoming season. That decision sticks until the end of the season. Now and then we have a kids who doesn't want to wear them, and we are okay with that. Eventually, they all wear them.

We put all of our kids in Bailie's single buckle dowel grips. They usually hold up best (Reisport and 10.0 seem to fall apart quicker) and they break in pretty fast. Their "beginner dowel grip" is a scaled down version which is a good lead in to the bigger grips. Their system of measuring is accurate and simple. We order them from Grips Etc. The only tricky thing is choosing between a Large Beginner Grip and a 00 Women's single buckle. I would probably always go with the Large Beginner. We still have Level 9's who use the Beginner grips because their hands are small and thin.

We don't do velco for a number of reasons. The varying fit and the habit of wrapping and unwrapping and wrapping and unwrapping the velcro as a nervous habit are big drawbacks. They also eventually require rubberbands around the velcro to keep it from peeling away.

I don't see much of a reason to use those old-school palm grips.

Good luck to you!:D
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It really is a very individual thing and the best coach will make the desicion for each individual separetly, don't worry about the pressure of some kids wanting grips becasuse their friends have them, make the desicion based on the individual.

Around here we have most kids in grips from level 4, that is because by level 4 the kids are training on average 4 days a week for 3-3 1/2 hours a day and it does take its toll on the kids hands. One big thing to consider when getting grips is "how much are the kids doing bars?" If you expect your kids to be on bars for long periods of time, several days a week then grips may be nessesary.

Older kids will need grips earlier than younger kids, the heavier the girl, the more pressure is being placed on her hands when she swings on bars. On the other hand very small kids can be disadvatntaged by grips and they can even damage the growth plate on the wrist. So the girls age and size should come into consideration.

How easily does each girl rip? Some kids can swing on bars for hours and never rip, while others get a rip just by touching the bars. Everyone has different skin types so take this into consideration too. It helps not to have a hard anf fast rule like 'all level 5's get grips no sooner no later". because it just doesnt suit everyone, you might get a level 4 who cant get through a bar routine without ripping and she is going to need grips.

A lot will depend on the kind of skills you are doing aswell. Our level 4's do a lot of tap swings as it is a part of their routine and a lot of kips. Our level 5's do a lot of continuous kips and clear hips and these skills just put a lot of pressure on the hands.
"On the other hand very small kids can be disadvatntaged by grips and they can even damage the growth plate on the wrist. "

Where is this information published? :confused:

I'm interested to see how this is possible.
I think I was the one who brought up palm grips in one of the recent threads. I do use them, but only with kids who are very unlikely to advance beyond doing kips. Working on kips can be tough on the hands, though, so sometimes it's nice for a kid to have some protection. And it saves me a ton of time during practice making tape grips. I would not use palm grips with a USAG gymnast. I'd go dowel or nothing.

Grip usage is so individual. They don't become useful in terms of helping with grip until giants (and maybe just a little bit for long hang kips). I would introduce grips at the point of giants. If you wait much longer, then it will be really tough to re-learn giants and other skills with grips.

There are situations when I'd introduce them earlier, though, with most of those reasons already mentioned here. Kids who rip easily might want them earlier. They won't prevent rips, but they do help reduce the number of rips on the palm area - the hardest area to tape and still do bars with a rip. The rips tend to move to the wrist or fingers, in general these are easier places to tape. Older kids with bigger hands can handle them better (I started using dowels while I was still working on getting my glide kips, but I was 14 years old with giant size 3 grip hands :)) The amount of bar work also matters - I got mine when I increased bar work from ~20 minutes a week to 1-2 hours a week.

If any of the things I mentioned in the previous paragraph are true, by all means introduce grips earlier for that kid. I would never make a blanket statement "all kids use grips at this level" though because it's so individual. One of my high school girls still didn't use grips because her hands were too small, and she probably never will.

As for parents, I'd simply explain that they aren't necessary with the level their daughter is at, that the kids hands are still too small, that the kid isn't ripping much so it's unlikely that she'd rip less with grips, that grips are expensive and unnecessary at this point, etc. I'm sure you'll get parents who want to get them as a "status symbol" for their daughter, but stand your ground. You are the coach and the expert here.

Just out of curiosity, what level do other coaches at your gym introduce grips? You may want to line up with the gym's philosophy on grips.

As for buckle or velcro, I love my velcro. I've never had a problem with velcro starting to lose its stick, and I liked that I could tighten them to exactly the right place. With buckles you're kindof stuck with where the buckle holes are. I also wouldn't recommend 10.0 grips - the velco on those does come unstuck eventually. I would recommend taping or rubberbanding grips in competition just in case.
Thanks so much everyone! Mostly you have confirmed my gut feelings anyway. The one parent asking the most does have an older, taller, bigger (and stronger) daughter - age 12, L4-5 (kinda hinges on her kip!), and not quite doing kips yet. I'll talk to her mom about her reasons and my rationale and we'll see what decision seems best. A couple of the girls have mentioned it, and I wanted to be prepared to address the "grip issue" with everyone if one girl did get some.

Just out of curiosity, what level do other coaches at your gym introduce grips? You may want to line up with the gym's philosophy on grips...
See, that's my point. *I* am the one that other coaches will be lining up behind. I am the most advanced coach there, the one taking the lead with the competitive girls. I was a college gymnast and I have been coaching in some capacity off and on for 15+ years. But this is the first time I'm in a lead role, simply because I have never pursued it beyond what I had been doing. I don't live in a heavily populated area. When new owners (non-coaches) renovated the local gym after the program had been idle for a year, I knew I would be an integral part of getting it up and running again. Probably more integral than I really wanted to be, LOL! So, while I find that I'm confident in most aspects of what I'm doing, I've simply never been the one calling the shots about the little things like this. And, bars was never my personal forte.

And now, I'm off to refresh my memory on some good kip drills for that girl I described above...
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