For Parents Coaches are moving my daughter from JO to Xcel

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Proud Parent
Jan 29, 2014
Hi all,

Would just appreciate your thoughts and feedback. My dd is 14 (just turned this year) and will be starting high school in the fall. She had several injuries last year (fractured ankle, fractured knee, sprained ankle, sprained toe, and constant back pain- doctor says a ring around her spine is partially open and could be spondolyosis) between May and December. She was pretty much in and out of the gym for half of last year- completely out from mid-August to December with casts, etc. Yet, she came 4 days a week for 1-2 hours a day to condition. She competed level 5 one time before all the injuries, and all her teammates continued competing level 5 through the fall, and then on to level 6 meets in the spring of this year.

My daughter came back in January and now has regained all her level 5 skills, but she still has trouble with the cast to handstand on bars, doesn't have back handspring on high beam (only occasionally on floor beam), and only has giants on straps. The gym won't be having a level 6 team this year, only level 5 and level 7 (among the higher and lower levels). They say dd is too advanced and would be horribly bored in level 5 with all 8, 9, 10 year-olds (whom my dd really enjoys, though), and level 7 coach says no way to my daughter joining them without the skills for level 7 ready already like the other girls who are moving up next week have. Sooo, my daughter's old coaches and the would-be-level 7 coach all want my daughter to join the gym's Xcel team and leave the JO track starting now.

My dd is devastated. Crying and crying. Thinks she is the world's biggest failture. Breaks my heart. She knows she's not going for Olympics or a college team, but she is just so dedicated and serious. She always has been. She would live at the gym if she could. She was counting down the days to begin their 25 hour training week beginning next week for summer with the 7's.

I offered to take my dd to look at other gyms who may have level 6 teams for her to join, but she adores our current gym and isn't interested in joining a new gym. She loves her friends- it's such a family. Her old coaches keep telling us they promise dd will love the Xcel program but she needs to give it time. They think she'll enjoy the 12-hour training weeks instead of the 20 hours of training she'd have in JO. They tell us she should let herself keep her passion in gymnastics going but take the pressure out of it all. They say she's had too many injuries and it's not safe for her body to keep going like she's been. They tell me they think she'd burn out and quit the whole sport if they threw her in with the 7's, and she wouldn't be able to keep up with their skills. They say it wouldn't be fair to her and that she could really hurt herself again that way.

Do you think it is best to stay at this gym that's like family, let my dd cry a while in this more laid-back Xcel team (the girls are very laid-back, most only practicing 8 hours a week, yet 12 is allowed), hope that the Xcel coaches can support my dd in continuing to progress in her skills (no one on their team has their giants yet...?), and just try to remind my dd that she's in this sport to enjoy the journey, grow in her confidence, and know that her identity is not in a level number or a JO vs. Xcel track. The only other option would be to beg her old coach to let her stay with the 5's, until they go up to 6 in the spring, or maybe she could acquire her level 7 skills on the side somehow while training with the 5's and move up with the 7's sometime in the future? I'm not even sure if they'd let dd go that route, but I was wondering if it would be a good option to try if she's miserable with Xcel.



Proud Parent
Oct 9, 2015
Xcel is a fantastic program, and given the number of injuries she's had in the last year (esp. with a back injury) I think I'd let her grieve leaving the JO path while strongly encouraging her to move toward Xcel. It sounds like she has had a thoughtful and compassionate group of coaches who aren't pushing her toward Xcel for any reason other than feeling like it's the best thing for her.


Proud Parent
Aug 22, 2016
She had several injuries last year (fractured ankle, fractured knee, sprained ankle, sprained toe, and constant back pain- doctor says a ring around her spine is partially open and could be spondolyosis)

Could be spondolyosis? You haven't had it confirmed either way? NO WAY I'd let my kid back in the gym with an issue like that not resolved.

Aside from the back injury mystery, I would encourage the Xcel route if I were in your shoes. She has had a significant amount of injuries and I imagine the high hours and high skill level of JO may just be too much for her. I know she's probably feeling like Xcel is a "failure or lesser than" option, but I think once she's in it for a while, she may end up loving it. She can also take out all of the back bending skills (level 5 beam) and save her back. She's also getting to high school age and may find less hours in the gym opens up many opportunities she hadn't been able to try before. Maybe Xcel will be a blessing in disguise.


Gold Membership
Proud Parent
Jan 24, 2013
[QUOTE="ElizaBrooke, post: 585697, member: 16296 "constant back pain- doctor says a ring around her spine is partially open and could be spondolyosis) [/QUOTE]

It really sounds like the coaches have her best interest in mind. Xcel is a great program! And it tends to attract older girls so your DD might be training and competing with her peers.

Your DD’s constant back pain is concerning to me. Has she been to an orthopedist who has experience in treating gymnasts? She should not be in constant pain. My DD came back from 3 stress fractures but it took lots and lots of PT. She missed a few months of training too. I would not be comfortable with my DD continuing in gymnastics with uncertainty on what is causing the constant pain. The number of hours and skill difficulty really picks up in L7+ and puts even more strain on an already strained back (and maybe this is part of the coaches reasoning for her to move to Xcel).


Proud Parent
May 6, 2013
I am going to agree with everyone. Xcel will probably be great for your kid. I bet she will love it once she gives it a chance.

There shouldnt be "could be" spondy. It's diagnosed by CT, MRI, or bone scan and you really need to know. I am amazed an ortho would let a gymnast continue to train with that question mark hanging over them. It's really serious.


Proud Parent
Apr 11, 2016
I think to help ease the transition to your daughter, let her know Xcel is a great program and given her injuries and lack of level 6 team this Xcel year may be what she needs. It will hopefully let her body fully recovery, while she still does gymnastics. And maybe check to see if the coaches would have her back in JO level 6 next year if they field a level 6 team and if your daughter's health is back. Dropping to 12 hours is a big drop, but if she's motivated maybe she could add in some home conditioning too.


Staff member
Gold Membership
Sep 4, 2008
This would also be a great chance to try out other activities. She could try anything, Art, music, dance, work on academic subjects, that gets her engaged in something that will last longer than gymnastics.


Proud Parent
Jan 31, 2012
The car
A counterpoint to the "just put her in Xcel" opinions: My gymmie recently went through something similar at L5. Her gym decided not to field an L5 team next year. Three girls were given one month to test out of L5 and move up to L6, the rest were made to repeat L4, and my daughter was kicked out of JO and down to the gym's very recreational Xcel program because she wasn't ready to test out of L5 on their timeline and the coaches were concerned about her history of injuries. We moved her to a gym that doesn't set competitive levels until the end of summer training, where she is now happily training L5 and making great progress. It was difficult for her to leave her close-knit team, some of whom had been together for five years, but she understood that there was no way she'd get to stay with them even if she hadn't switched gyms. She now says that the new gym is even more fun than the old gym because the environment is less highly pressurized, even though they still work very hard. I am quite certain that if she'd stayed and taken the Xcel route, she'd have quit the sport entirely within a year out of frustration.

If your daughter really wants JO, I would take her to some other gyms to be evaluated for L6. It sounds as if she has not yet fully accepted that what she really wants, L6 at the current gym, is just not available. Once she lets go of the idea of staying on the JO track at the current gym she may be much more open to a switch. You may need to help open her mind to the possibilities by taking her to visit some other gyms. I would not have her repeat L5 with a bunch of 9- and 10-year-olds even if the current gym would allow it.

Before allowing her back in any gym, however, I'd get the spondy question sorted out.


Proud Parent
Nov 18, 2011
Region 7
My DD is graduating this June. After stalling out at L8 and going through three years of intermittent injuries, she switched to XCel. It was the best thing in the world for her and gave her gymnastics journey a new lease on life. She's off to college this fall, and on this week's to-do list is signing her up to be part of her university's club team.

Her body simply would not tolerate the high hours of work on skills required to progress in JO optionals. She went through a back injury, stress reaction in her tibia, wrist problems, and tendonitis in her elbows. She was fine with conditioning and indeed did a lot outside of the gym, but the landings and doing the needed numbers of backwards skills on beam did not work for her. The great thing about XCel too is that a kid who's been stuck in JO can get that feeling of finally starting to progress again, because they don't need to be working the narrower set of skills that are gateways to L9/L10 routines. No more BWO on beam was huge game-changer, as was giving up on the dang pirouette on bars and doing other things instead.

She had a L8 teammate who made the switch a year before her who has one more year to go. On every event but bars, that girl is now doing harder skills/routines than the ones she abandoned to move to XCel. And on bars she has a shoot half. My DD is currently working on a back tuck on beam, a skill that she never dreamed of trying or even trying to work towards during all those years in JO.

Do it. After she mourns, she won't look back.

[Edited to add, yes, get the spondy question answered and my advice applies only if your gym has a good XCel program. If not, you may want to look for a good XCel program in addition to looking at JO programs at other gyms.]


Staff member
Gold Membership
Sep 4, 2008
^^^ Yes Yes YES! More parents need to read and absorb this message.

Scholarships are a great goal but not at the expense of a child’s mind and/or body. Very few people are built to withstand the rigors of national and international ( which most of level 10 is) level sports. When it’s done correctly, XCel is a great way to compete and progress with more specialization and less pounding and mental stress.


Proud Parent
Feb 12, 2016
First of all, I am sorry to hear about your DD's injuries and ongoing issues. I hope you find resolution quick.
Second, it is really disappointing to move gymnastics tracks when it is not your DD's choice. I would also feel sad and frustrated. A few things I learned from my own DD switching from JO to Xcel. Like others, I do love the Xcel program. It is all the fun of JO without the mental and physical pounding on the body for those who don't have aspirations post-high school. BUT, not all Xcel programs are the same. My DD had to move gyms to find the right program for her, even though her original gym offered Xcel as well. Seeing her old teammates while training the "lesser than" program would have been miserable for my DD. Being the best on the team would not have been ideal either (you mention no one on the Xcel team has giants but that is what your DD is training). If she is leaving her core team anyway, could you nudge her to think about a different program?


Proud Parent
Sep 30, 2013
XCel is an amazing program. If the gym is selling it as a demotion or if it's being perceived that way, either check it out at other gyms or watch the practices at your current gym. You can find really wonderful Xcel routine videos online too.
My daughter competed JO and is a Platinum now. She loves it and it allows her time to do a lot of other activities including cross country. And she is still passionate about gymnastics.
Because it is customizable in many ways a gymnasts individual strengths are highlighted.
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