For Parents D8 has been bitten by the gym bug. That’s a problem!

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Proud Parent
Jun 13, 2019
Hello everyone - what an interesting and knowledgeable forum!

This is just a vent and it’s long - we live in Europe, and our problem is very very specific to our national federation‘s rules - so not much point in asking for practical advice, but I could really do with some sympathy, given that I don’t tolerate wine well, so I’ll hope you stick with my novel.

I was an atrocious gymnast myself - started much too late, at 12, did rec level competitions only, but loved the sport until I had to drop out to fear issues. However, I figured that my short (25th percentile), stocky, super strong, physically fearless, bouncy D8 might actually make something of the sport if I got her in early enough. Seems I have already failed.

At just turned 6 I brought her to fall tryouts at the local gym 5 min away. They basically dragged her away from me to the floor and told me to remove myself to the balcony even though I told them she‘d need me close for a few minutes to get comfortable.
They fetched me down after 10 min or so because they couldn’t get D to stop crying and participate. I couldn’t either so I told them we’d come back next year. Fine, they want kids to start by 6 or 7, so there was time, or so I thought.

Next year, just turned 7, there were no fall tryouts - classes are full, it was said. I managed to enrol her in a 5 - 8yo rec level class one hour a week. It was way below her energy level, and the girls weren’t nice, but she liked it and won the inhouse meet at the end of the year, competing rec level 4, the maximum allowed for her age group (roughly US level 1/2). Still was asked to come back to rec level only.

Just turned 8, she refused to go a few weeks into the year even though a friend had started to come, too, because she had completely outgrown the class. I asked the head coach if she could tryout once more for competitive level and he told us when and where to come in October. We showed up, and the women’s coach threw us out without even looking at her - she hadn’t been told, would have had to approve, and anyway the classes were full, and so were rec classes for 8 and up. Bye. On the way home, D said I’m not sure I want to go there. I said I’m pretty sure I don’t want you to go there!

I have heard stories since of fat shaming and mean girling in her classes, and parents not being allowed to watch, which make me think we probably dodged a bullet there, but still, it felt like the last chance saloon for me - because when I inquired at the only other competitive gym in town (specifically, the other end of town) in November, I was told that 8 was too late, period. Because competitive gym in our country has age groups only, not skill levels! And by January, she would have to compete with the 9 yo age group, and their compulsories are roughly comparable to US levels 4/5. FHS on vault, both kips on bars, BHS and BWO on beam, with BT dismount, BT and FT on floor - you get the picture.

So, I started looking at competitive aerobics, trampolining, rock climbing, when the head coach from other-side-of-town emailed me back to say they were setting up a class for the 7 to 8 age group, 90 min twice a week, and would she like to try it? I had to bribe her to go, first with rock climbing classes (which she loves, too, then leotards.

Fast forward to today, 6 months later, and she LOVES it. The coaches, two high school girls, occasionally helped out by the head coach, are lovely, the other girls are nice, the gym is public and they could care less if whole armies of parents were milling about on the balconies and I am super impressed with their philosophy of doing loads of strength and conditioning, lots of handstands on walls and trampolining onto mat stacks, and only letting them attempt a skill once they feel they can do it safely.

The frustrating thing about it I can’t really assess her level because they let them do so few skills as of now. No RO BHS yet, but otherwise she could be do very well in level 5, roughly comparable to US level 3, when this class ends in July.

The most frustrating thing? They won’t commit to continuing with the class in fall, mumbling about starting a new one for 5 yo, and the only other class on offer is just age group 9 doing their flips, and age group 10 next year would be all layouts. There appear to be so few of them I’m not sure they can even field a team for the age group. I LIKE that they take what they do so seriously, and D likes it too, but at 8 she’s over the hill, unless they get over themselves to keep on offering a competitive rec class. I don’t think I’d even want her at the age group level, I think it’s insane, basically elite track by kindergarten, but why oh why is there nothing in between?!

Everything else in town appears to be what I’d call rec rec level. Basically structured running around, with a few forward rolls and cartwheels thrown in, no good apparatuses or safety equipment. I found ONE class that tries to compete at rec levels, and she is on the wait list and will try it out soon, but they meet ONCE a week.

D now considers herself a gymnast. She presented it as her main hobby for show and tell in school, complete with the trophy from the rec class and pictures of her airborne, doing the front tuck from the trampoline onto the mat stack that she is very proud of and will get her exactly nowhere. She WANTS to be corrected so she can learn. She wants to compete. She’d go every day if she could. If she had to, she has said she‘d give up all her other hobbies first.

What have I done?
It is unfortunate there is nothing in between rec and elite. You have every right to gripe about it. There is nothing wrong with exposing our kids to activities we enjoyed growing up. Let’s just hope they will continue the rec class in her age group.
That’s so disappointing! Is there any chance of doing privates to catch her up to the level of the other kids her age (in the competitive stream)?
Thank you fo your thoughts.
I do not think catching up is even an option, even if private classes wer offered which they’re not. It would mean skipping something like 3 or 4 levels within almost as many months - because by January, the compulsory level for the age group goes up again.

And like I said, it’s an really a fast track stream into elite, she’s not cut out for it and I wouldn’t want her to aspire to it. She’s not light and wiry with delayed puberty, so the model the national federation seems to be following (get all their skills in fast as possible until they’re 12, then do damage control during puberty) would not work for her at all, nor do I think it’s safe. I’ve done some reading since her enthusiasm began to show!

Slow and steady progress through sill levels is what I want for her, right through puberty which isn’t that far off,
She’s got breast buds already. I don’t expect her to have a real growth spurt or change her body type all that much (early puberty, and short statured women on both sides of the family).

XCel Bronze or silver, or even JO levels would work but the age groups? I find ours to be a very odd system, and completely at odds with what I think is safe for little girls, physically and mentally.

So, I will have to just enjoy the class for what it is doing for her now, keep hoping they decide to offer another after the summer after all, and hope the disappointment isn’t to big if they don’t keep her on. I am already preparing her for that, but she doesn’t really understand yet that we won’t find anything else as perfect as this...
You’ve all inspired me to cast a wider net in my search! Over the summer, we will be moving to the city center, so will have more suburban options within drivable distance.

There’s a new trampolining club, but H is adamantly opposed to that, for reasons I respect. But I found another club which would be a bit of a shlep but which offers competitive rec levels with training times twice a week, and when I emailed the coach, she answered right away, leading with “we do want our girls to start a bit younger” but that they offer everyone a chance, suggesting a 6 - 8 week trial period. I liked that attitude much better than what I’ve encountered so far.

So there are a couple options we can try out. At least I can throw a resources at the problem, that always makes me feel better, and the weather is fine and she’s turning cartwheels everywhere!
It’s a shame they have such stringent age restrictions. Some kids are late bloomers, some try a class later and realize they can do it and have a talent for it, etc. Little kids should not have to specialize in a sport when they are barely even in school. Just my opinion.
Hmm...I have a hunch that things are happening.

Yesterday, DDs rec group wasn’t coached by the high schooler, but by the woman who usually coaches the competitive team of the relevant age groups, with the high schooler just watching. DD said she worked them much harder to what they were used to. Of course, yesterday was the day of all days when I had to pick her up half an hour early because of a dentists appointment, grrr. Though it probably doesn’t make much difference, as I am assuming the older kids have already been written off, and if not, an hour should be enough for the coach to get an impression.

On Friday, class has been cancelled.

Maybe there will be news for us next week. Haven’t had a chance to try out the other gyms yet (why does the end of the school year have to be so insanely busy!!!), I probably better step up to the plate there.
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Your updates seem promising! I sure hope your daughter can find a gym where she can continue to blossom and feel supported in the sport. It's a shame it's not more accessible for everyone in your area.

I always wonder why a sport would put such limits on itself. When they continue to exclude so many ppl who love the sport how will ever stay popular or evolve or flourish in the future?
Tryout at new gym number one, competitive rec class. I had to make her go - she loves the other class so much, she couldn’t imagine anywhere else might live up to it.

I did like the coaches, and thought the girls were much nicer at least than our local gym where DD wa thrown out in such a nasty manner. (Mean coach, mean kids - they probably come by it honestly). Compared to fancy city gym, the equipment was just sad though, and too few coaches for too many kids. DD was so so, didn’t like the girls (she would say that of course), didn’t like the conditioning, did like the individual events training, but thought they weren’t strict enough in correcting them.

Yeah, and at some point during practice the head coach came up to me to say that come fall, she was going to lose the other coach and just couldn’t take on more kids doing it alone, it simply wasn’t safe, but offered DD a spot in, wait for it, the rec rec class that meets one hour a week for 5 to 8 year olds. Exactly what DD wanted to get away from. DD thinks she’d rather go back to rock climbing.

I jokingly mentioned having to dig out my gym coaching assistant qualification, the one I acquired 30 years and 70 lb ago. The head coach was sincerely interested, even though I told her how badly I was trained myself. That desperate. I’m seriously thinking about it now, but really feel I should update my knowledge and am afraid that unless I lose a lot of weight first, I’d be laughed out of the classroom.

No word from fancy gym either yet. I don’t dare inquire.

Off to the other gym, the one that trains competitive rec level a week but is such a schlep. I hope we can make it there by next week, before they all go on summer break.
UPDATE: The high school student coach from fancy city gym has whatsapped the old class will start up again in September. DD is over the moon. No word about hours until school starts up again and she’s got her own timetable. Keeping fingers crossed times will work out and there won’t be a shoe to drop re: older kids booted out of the class. But so far, tentatively, yay!
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