For Parents Dad of a young gymnast has a question

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Clueless Gym Dad

Thanks to all that share opinions, suggestions & their experience regarding my question.

My girl is seven, just was moved to Level 5 after excelling at Level 4 (excelled at states and regional meets) in the fall. I know nothing about Gymnastics and she loves it beyond belief (dedicated smart little girl). We might be moving and she won't be able to continue at her gym. I am curious what people look for in a new gym. Let me preface this with the following:

Her goal is to be the best she can be and she hopes that would be an elite gymnast, she is a good student and a good kid who is confident but not arrogant. She has never complained, she always practices hard. A few coaches who have seen her with good resumes say she has the tools, but obviously there are no gurantees, she is young and it takes hard work, a little luck and opportunity. So I figure all I can provide her with is the emotional support, the opportunity and open the door for her to walk through if that is what she wants.

1) How much importance would you place on the instructors resume? Would a coach who has had state champions, college level gymnast or olympic/world champion gymnast make you more likely to choose their gym?

2) How much time should a seven/eight year old level 5 practice? In my research I have seen anything from home schooled girls who spend many hours every day to coaches who limit their girls to three days a week 3 hours a day for level 5+

3) What do people think about girls advancing more than one level in a season? For example skipping level 7 to go straighht to 8 if the girl "test out" (I think that is what it is called) by going to a meet and scoring a good enough all around score.

4) If a girl's goal is to be an elite gymast what would you say are the most important three things a parent should do to enable their daughter to obtain their goals.

Thanks for everyone who takes the time to help.....I am sure I will have a lot more questions.

Clueless Gym Dad
 

Aussie_coach

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Jan 4, 2008
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Hi, its great to hear of a Dad who is so supportive of his daughters gymnastics.

1) I would place a lot of importance on a coaches "resume". A coach who has had many state champions knows how to make state champions, a coach who has had lots of college gymnasts knows how to produce college gymnasts and so on. However, this is not to say that a coach who hasn't done this before isn't capable. But taking a child all the way to elite takes a great deal of knowledge and experience.

I would look at a lot more than the coaches resume though, watch how they interact with the girls, do the girls seem happy? Do they seem motivated working hard all the time or do they seem bored or tired?

2) At level 5 I coach in Australia where the average level 5 training hours are 14-16 hours a week. However, I believe in the US average for level 5 is more like 12-14. Basically I would expect on average 4 training sessions a week that are 3-4 hours long.

Yes, eventually the girls may be doing heaps of hours and need to home school. But that is a long way from level 5. Its important that your daughter enjoy gymnastics at this age and not live it. She won't make it to elite or anywhere if she burns out.

3) I believe every child should move at their own pace. For most kids this is 1 level a year but it can be more or less. I do believe in doing more than one level a year if the child is well and truly ready. Holding back in the lower levels for a very advanced kid may cause them to get bored.

4) for a girls to get to elite I would say the most important things are.

1. Don't live through your child, your daughter will get enough gym at the gym and will look to you for a chance to do and talk about things that have nothing to do with gymnastics. Kids feel a lot of pressure to please their parents even when their parents aren't putting any pressure on. Don't sit and watch every training session, let her have a chance to train without having to feel she is on show all the time. For a child to make it to elite in this sport the drive must be theirs and theirs only.

2. Support her financially and with time. To have an elite child in the sport will mean a lot of money in training, competition and travel and it will mean a lot of time in driving to and from training and competitions. Eventually you will be taking her to training twice a day everyday, eventually you will probably have to homeschool her too. Many people have to move or have their daughters live away from home in order to train with a coach who is capable of producing elites.

3. Look after her health. If she is injured take her to a physio straight away. Most long term injuries in gymnastics are caused by tiny injuries that never got treatment early. Make sure she eats well, avoid junk food and make sure she eats a variety of healthy food. make sure she gets enough rest.
 

Geoffrey Taucer

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Jan 21, 2007
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One thing to keep in mind: the ability to produce state champions at the lower levels and the ability to produce elite gymnasts are completely unrelated.
 

Flippers Mom

Member
Jul 20, 2009
200
Region 3
You have already gotten some good advice. I would like to add that, as a parent, part of your responsibility is to make sure that the coaching is not only superb, but that it is also good for YOUR child. There are coaches that can train girls to the highest levels but they do it in a way that is detrimental to the athletes well-being. When we decided we needed to switch gyms, we asked around, went to several meets to watch the coaches of gyms we were evaluating interacting with the gymnasts. There was a gym in our area in which the girls excel at meets, but they have a reputation of intimidating/negative reinforcement of their gymnasts. Ask around - most parents are happy to share their experiences with gyms and can give you a pretty good idea of which gyms have good reputations.
 
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cathiann

I would look at the team composition--do they currently train the upper levels or elite? If they don't even have any level 9s, 10s or elite gymnasts, then the coaches probably aren't up to doing that (or girls are dropping out before then for some reason!).

Have her go there for a trial--most gyms will let you do that to get a feel of their team program (I know ours does). And definitely check out how their team does at meets.

Otherwise I agree with what others have said! When you talk to parents, try to talk to Team parents--not rec parents. They can have completely different experiences.
 
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socko

I agree with much of what has been said especially Geoffrey's comment about producing state champions at the lower levels not being related to producung an elite.. In fact what a parent needs to realize is that just because your daughter does well at the lower levels , it does not ensure success when she gets to the optional levels. We have seen many a "state champion" at Levels 4,5 & 6 and even 7 who just couldn't get their upper optional skills ...and they were great at the lower levels...so just keep that in mind while allowing your daughter yo have fun with her gymnastics. If it's not fun, she won't continue.

As far as hours for a Level 5, the 5s in our gym go 5 days a week for 3 hours. I think it all depends too in what they are getting out of the coaching while they are there. The coach's resume is important but remember in the gyms with the "olympic and world champion" coaches, your daughter is not likely to work with that particular coach until she hits the upper levels (9 or 10) so you want to see who his designees are that coach the lower levels.
 

ZJsMom

Proud Parent
May 11, 2007
998
Pacific NW
All of this above is really good advice. Definitly look at the results and the resumes, but also watch a practice and meets if you can and talk to parents. There are coaches out there who have great resumes, but who are burnt out. It is also true that different coaches are better for different kids. I agree 100% with the suggestion that compulsory results aren't the most important. If you believe your dd is in it for the long haul, you want to look more at how the upper level girls are doing. I also look at the composition of the team-- it's a good sign if they have as many or even more optionals than compulsories. It shows that they're doing pretty good with retention and can get kids to the upper levels. This my be my own prejudice, but when I was looking at new gyms when we moved, I liked to see an age range within the levels. If you have level 8s from 10-17, you know that they're not putting the kids into a one size fits all mold and are encouraging the to reach their own potential.

As for hours at level 5, I think less can be more as long as they're doing what they need. My dd's level 5 team trained 9 hours a week and were mainly first year level 5's, but they won states. If the practices are efficient and the coaches know what they're doing 9-12 hours should be enough for a kid to be sucessful at level 5 and be ready to move on to 6/7 the next year. If she's going to do TOPs, she'd probably need some additional hours on top of that.

As for skipping levels, I would look for it to be an individualized decision. I would also look at how successful the girls who did have been. It can be a lot of pressure, so make sure they aren't pushing girls so fast they get stressed out and quit.
 

Pogo

Member
Mar 20, 2008
84
Northern California
1) How much importance would you place on the instructors resume? Would a coach who has had state champions, college level gymnast or olympic/world champion gymnast make you more likely to choose their gym?
I agree with everyone who has said that success at lower levels does not directly translate to success at elite. (My dd is college/elite). That being said, there is nothing wrong with staying with a program that does do well at early USAG levels and then moving on to a gym that would be better for levels 9, 10 and Elite.

2) How much time should a seven/eight year old level 5 practice? In my research I have seen anything from home schooled girls who spend many hours every day to coaches who limit their girls to three days a week 3 hours a day for level 5+
The actual hours spent are less important than how those hours are spent. I would look for a gym that works efficiently, that is, where the girls are not standing around most of the time waiting for a turn. I have heard of gyms spending 20-25+ hours at Level 5, which either indicates a really INefficient gym, or is a recipe for overuse injuries. My dd was a Level 10 at 13 and only worked 17.5 hours a week at the beginning because we wanted her to do well in public high school. We allowed her hours to increase when she proved that she could handle the course load. Even then, she was learning elite moves with about 22 hours a week.

3) What do people think about girls advancing more than one level in a season? For example skipping level 7 to go straighht to 8 if the girl "test out" (I think that is what it is called) by going to a meet and scoring a good enough all around score.
Since your daughter is young, I see no advantage in skipping any level. This would rob her not only of a full season to refine and learn at each level, but also the opportunity to succeed at each level. Our dd not only did not skip levels, she repeated levels 5 and 6 and still made it to Level 10 at a pretty early age.

4) If a girl's goal is to be an elite gymast what would you say are the most important three things a parent should do to enable their daughter to obtain their goals.
(1) Focus on making and keeping gymnastics fun by de-emphasizing the competitive aspect; (2) Learn and practice good health habits like healthy eating and snacking; and (3) Make sure your daughter has a life outside of gymnastics.
 

gymjourneymom

Proud Parent
Mar 9, 2008
1,330
You have already gotten some good advice. I would like to add that, as a parent, part of your responsibility is to make sure that the coaching is not only superb, but that it is also good for YOUR child. There are coaches that can train girls to the highest levels but they do it in a way that is detrimental to the athletes well-being. When we decided we needed to switch gyms, we asked around, went to several meets to watch the coaches of gyms we were evaluating interacting with the gymnasts. There was a gym in our area in which the girls excel at meets, but they have a reputation of intimidating/negative reinforcement of their gymnasts. Ask around - most parents are happy to share their experiences with gyms and can give you a pretty good idea of which gyms have good reputations.
Lots of great advice here! And I totally agree with your post Flippers Mom. I can now say that staying at a so called "good gym" too long, has cost my DD her future in high level gymnastics. It was not the right gym(or I should say the HC was not the right HC coach) for her. But we stayed because she didn't want to leave her friends. HC berated her because of her fear issues every step of the way. Played mental games with her to the point of mental abuse IMHO:(. Now the friends she didn't want to leave, have all moved beyond her in levels & left her in their dust. And DD's fear isues are more ingrained in her than ever:(. My advice, keep a close eye & know when to make a switch if needed. It can be easy to get caught up in the cult like aspects of this sport. But your DD's life long health(including mental health) & happiness should be the main priority at ALL times. Good luck!
 

MeetDirector

Proud Parent
Oct 13, 2008
946
Clueless -

Another Dad's input for you to consider.

As you, when my daughter first started this sport we were very confused with what was in the future. One very important thing that one of her first coaches told us was this "gymnastics should be fun; always keep it fun". Yes, there has been stress along the way and boy has/is there drama. My advice to you is avoid the drama like the plague.

Like others have said, look for coaches that work well with the girls and try and get the best from each individual. They shouldn't treat everyone the same as they each have different abilities and learning styles. I really wouldn't worry too much about their track record since that is so very subject to change.

When our dd was a level 5 (she's a level 7 now) she trained 9 hours a week; level 6 went to about 12 and now as a 7 she is doing about 15 hours a week. It really depends how a gym structures their workout schedule and I don't think there is any standard number.

As for advancing more than one level in a season, it is mostdefinitely up to the gymnast. We did not choose that for our dd; in fact she did 2 years as a 5 and 1 1/2 as a 6 (she is doing a 6/7 combo season this year). You have to remember that rushing thru the levels could result in a weak foundation for the tough skills that follow in the higher levels. As our coach tells us now, gymnastics is a marathon and not a sprint; once you hit level 10 what then? why rush to level 10 and then stay there for 2, 3 or 4 years?

If her goal is elite, in my opinion it means a lot of sacrifice (for her and the rest of the family). I have just seen a girl a few days older than my dd burn out after reaching the high levels but sacrificing her childhood. Not a pretty sight. The other thing I would say about wanting to be elite is: location, location, location. Its tough to make it to the elite levels and it takes the right mix of a lot of factors.

Good Luck

RK
 

ZJsMom

Proud Parent
May 11, 2007
998
Pacific NW
The other thing I forgot that I would look at is injuries. Ask the coaches what their philosophy is re injuries. When you visit the gym, look around if half the girls are in walking casts it should give you pause.
 
B

Bobby

...If her goal is elite, in my opinion it means a lot of sacrifice (for her and the rest of the family). I have just seen a girl a few days older than my dd burn out after reaching the high levels but sacrificing her childhood. Not a pretty sight....

My observation is that gymnastics is a sport that requires a lot of sacrifice (time, money, energy, etc) even at the middle levels.
And sorry I do tend to speak up when people imply that leaving the sport without achieving the heights is a childhood wasted (and presumably invested if you succeed). As one who was highly ranked (in levels and competition) but never reached international competition I don't think my childhood was wasted at all - even though I retired "too early" by some people's standards. I remember gymnastics as the happiest part of my childhood. I travelled more than most my age - with my gym family (FUN!!), I was amazingly fit, I was always first picked for any sports team at school (even for basketball even though I was really short), the other kids at school used to take photos of me doing stuff (always fun to have the odd show off moment), I was probably a lot more mature about goal-setting generally, ... I won't keep waffling on but really children never miss out on childhood - it's simply good, bad, or in between according to the opportunities you're given and the supports you receive to choose between and manage them.
... I don't personally think there's a lot of risk on the gymmie missing out in childhood ... but when the families' sacrifices escalate I have observed negative impacts on the siblings ...
 
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gymnut1

I agree I think the sacrifice is mainly for the parents and for siblings.
 
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Sammyd UK

Hi,

Being a "clueless gym mum" we also had a load of questions like yours, our daughter now trains about 12 hours a week (which is a lot less than they wanted her to do, but it is the quality of the coahing not the quantity that she is benefitting from.

A parent at my gym recently emailed me this link from a gym down south from us near London which although it is directed more at us "pushy mums" you may find useful (I certainly did even though I am not pushy!!)

http://www.heathrowgymnastics.org.uk/psychology - mother daughter.pdf

SammyD
 
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socko

I agree totally with you Happyfacetwin...just because they don't go elite , doesn't mean "it's a wasted childhood or effort"....I'm current;y having this (ongoing ) discussion with my daughter's coaches who feel that she should go elite or "her talent will be wasted"...my feeling is if that's NOT WHAT SHE WANTS, then she can stay Level 10 and continue to be successful there. To which they reply that she'll "just be a Level 10" and my thing is she'll at least be a HAPPY level 10 as opposed to a miserable potential elite...we have discussed it with her and her feeling is that she doesn't want it and I don't feel that her efforts or her childhood is being "wasted" because she isn't at the highest level possible.
 

Shelovesthebars

Active Member
Dec 22, 2009
542
Socko, It seems like the coaches don't have your child's best interests at heart. I think I speak for the majority in saying that level 10 is an amazing accomplishment in itself. We have girls at our gym who do the same thing and our coaches are supportive. Sounds like you have a well adjusted daughter to me!
 

Gymdad2

Proud Parent
Jul 11, 2008
438
Ohio
Clueless,

I too would like to add something to this discussion. First let me say that I think you are wise to recognize that your knowledge of this sport is limited and to ask for input from some of the more experienced members. My daughter is a 17 year old L10 and has been in the sport since she was 6 so I do have some experience. My advice to you is to offer you a reality check. If you have not done so, please read the statistic on womens gymnastics in the Post by Shawn. Her information is at
WOGA Team Gymnastics</span> > Balancing Training & Life > Ages of Gymnasts at Levels

(Thanks Shawn for posting these)

According to the numbers on the womens chart there are 40,000+ girls in compulsory levels and 16,000+ in optionals and 153 at the elite level. I commend you for supporting your daughter and I wish her nothing in the best in her career, but you can be her best supporter and cheerleader by supporting her as a L5. Keep it fun, keep it real and celebrate with her now for what she is now, and let the future take care of itself.

Best of luck to her.
 

emorymom

Proud Parent
Oct 10, 2008
1,154
I am interested in the link right above but can't find it ... can someone help? It's not working for me.
 
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