WAG Dedicating Whole Life to Gymnastics? (Long)

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crazygymkidsmom

Proud Parent
Apr 24, 2018
4
Hi - I'm a long-time lurker, first time poster. I'm hoping to get some insight/clarity from the parents and coaches of successful, high level gymnasts.

Some background info - My daughter is a very talented 8 year old gymnast who is currently training level 7. She couldn't do a cartwheel a year and a half ago when she started a gymnastics class sponsored by her school and very quickly (to me at least) was asked to join the team and moved up several levels by the coach. She has been a top of the podium kid ever since she started and consistently scored in the top 5% of all state-wide competitions across all age groups and in the top 15% (ish) in the few bigger competitions that she's had the chance to compete in. Her goal, like most young gymnasts, is to go to the Olympics. (I understand this is a difficult goal to achieve, but I also encourage all of my children to aim big - and I do my best to support them.)

The catch is, there is a definite ceiling at her gym - and it is WAY below any type of elite/college dreams my daughter might have. The gym is very small, with only 3 main coaches and one level 10 gymnast. Our gymnasts usually do pretty well at competitions, but our gym doesn't have the resources to send coaches with them to bigger meets so we do not attend Regionals even if a gymnast qualifies. There is no TOPS or HOPES training available, and even the top levels are only given about 18 hours of practice a week - and I think the parents had to really REALLY fight for those hours.

There is no other option nearby, the next closest gym with any type of upper level optionals program is more than 100 miles away. My daughter loves her gym, she loves her coaches, and I think that her coaches actually have the ability to take her as far as she wants to go - but the gym program definitely does not. We don't have a real foam pit or any other upper level training gear and, really, if the girls aren't allowed to compete at Regionals then it seems like their ceiling is pretty low.

So we've been considering relocating to get her into a program that could offer her the opportunities she needs to pursue her goals. And my main question is - does anybody here have any insight or experience in similar situations they can share? It seems unlikely that all of the amazing gymnasts I hear about on this board were just lucky enough to live next to a good gym. Has anybody actually uprooted their whole life to move their daughter to a better program? How did it work for you? And to the coaches on this forum - I'm sure you've all seen your share of crazy in your jobs so I'd love to hear your opinion about this as well. Is my daughter too old to start in a new program with a realistic goal of becoming an elite competitor?
 

gymisforeveryone

Coach
Judge
Nov 16, 2012
902
This is a hard question. She's 8, which is still VERY young. There has been elite level gymnasts who only started at 8. And being able to go from no cartwheel to level 7 so quickly is super impressive for any age! So you definitely have a talented little gymnast in your hands.

Do you have other kids? If you do, how would the move affect them? Do you work and would it be easy for you to find a new employment? How about school? Family and friends connections? Personally, I would wait until she is 10-11 before moving to make sure that this sport is what she loves and what she wants to pursue. 1,5 years in the sport is still very little. Anything can happen, there might be injuries, she might face mental blocks or fears, she might find out she doesn't love it anymore or that she wants more free time. Would you regret moving if something like that happened?

I don't really know gymnasts who have moved because of the sport. I know one 13 year old who started gym at 11 in a very small club that didn't even practice in a gymnastics gym, they had to set up all the equipment every time they had a practice and they only practiced 3 times a week for 3 hours (an that time included the setting up and taking down of the equipment). She was and is super talented, she went through 5 levels in a year and a half and is now competing the first elite path level (skill level between USAG levels 8-9). Her family couldn't relocate and the next closest club was so far away that the only option for her was to travel there by train every day after school by herself. I couldn't believe it when I heard about it. The gymnast travels for almost 1,5 hours to the new gym by train and bus almost every day and then back home after practice, and she does this alone. She's very dedicated for sure!
 

bogwoppit

Gold Membership
Feb 26, 2007
16,879
People move all the time for their kids sports. Some people lie and say they are moving for work to cover their gym hops. But honestly do what you want to do if you can make it work. Just do not lose your mind if dd quits in three years because it is all too much for her, or she is inured. You have to make moves like this with all possibilities in mind.

Also, you do not need TOPs nor hopes to be elite.
 

MILgymFAM

Proud Parent
Fan
Feb 6, 2014
4,717
42
Twin Cities
We’ve known a family to move for gymnastics, but would it really matter if no one else had done it? You have to look singularly at your family- and it’s bigger than your gymnast- and decide what’s possible, what’s feasible, and what’s for the best. It does seem that in her current situation she should be fine long enough for you all to explore the possibilities at length and not have to rush into anything. I will echo the above, that taking jobs and other kids into consideration should be the first step. Everything else flows from there. Probably (in my opinion) the most important question is this: if your DD quits (sooner or later) before reaching her goals, will you still be happy you moved.. could you still be happy elsewhere?

Your DD sounds amazingly talented!
 

tpMom

Proud Parent
Dec 8, 2016
203
39
It's funny, I just had a conversation kind of like this the other day.

I don't think you're alone with these questions - like you said, all of the top level gymnasts out there couldn't have just been lucky enough to be born next to a top level gym right? I think my advice to you would be to 1. Decide how important gymnastics really is, and check in with your daughter to see if she would be willing to change her whole life for a (slim) chance at her goals.
Once you've figured that out - set gymnastics aside completely. Really, even with gymnastics taking up a huge chunk of time, it's still just a small piece of any athlete's life. Moving should make sense for reasons outside of gymnastics. The sport might be the catalyst but it can't be the only reason, especially because the goal is outstandingly hard to reach, and the chances are much better that it won't happen then that it will. My worry would be if I moved just for gymnastics, it would make me put too much pressure on my poor kid - who is definitely not old enough to bear any responsibility for a life change like that. If you move for your daughter, you should be 100% positive that you could continue to let gymnastics be her sport, and you that you could be okay with her quitting if she decides later that gymnastics is not for her.
 

Flyaway

Proud Parent
Jun 1, 2014
1,380
Personally I would not move my family for my 8 year old's gymnastics. But I know people do it. I think in this situation a good old fashioned "pros and cons" list would serve you well. There is so much to consider, from work, housing, financial aspects to more abstract things like whether or not a move for her gymnastics would put pressure on your dd. The main question I would ask myself is: Will she feel free to decide someday to be done with gym if you move? Are you able to give her that freedom? I say this because I honestly do not know if I would be able to say yes. You don't have to answer here, but you do need to ask yourself this.
 
Jul 21, 2017
179
28
I have a couple of thoughts.

1. if your gym does not have adequate equipment I would be worried of injury training upper levels.

2. I agree with above posters that you have a few years before really needing to consider a move.

3. I know girls in grades 7/8 and up who have stayed with a host family for training sports. This could always be an option too if relocating the whole family would be too difficult. And I know SO SO many parents would critique this or shudder at the idea, especially from what I have read on this board, but I can personally speak as someone who has hosted a student & as someone who lived with a family for some time that this option is very doable. AND 12/13/14 year olds are much more capable than sometimes given credit for.
 

bookworm

Gold Membership
Proud Parent
Our last gym was a 200 mile round trip that we did 5 days a week so a commute can be done....we never really considered relocation as this is our hometown and our families are here so we worked around it. Their schools were on board with the schedule so that was a huge help as well.

I would encourage you to do such a commute for anything below level 10, because just because she's good and likes it at 8, doesn't mean that at 13, and you've relocated for level 8, that she'll still be all in. You'd be surprised at how many people do a long commute for a sport.
 

stillhoping

Proud Parent
Nov 18, 2016
124
I would think that there would be a lot of pressure placed on a child whose family moved for gymnastics. If you decide to move, I would be sure that gymnastics was one of many reasons for the move, and that you'd have no regrets if your dd decided to quit the very next day.
I would also be very cautious of moving a happy child that loves her coaches. Sometimes gyms that make champions are not happy places.
 

suebee

Proud Parent
Dec 6, 2012
378
I personally know one family and have heard of multiple families of child athletes who have one parent (usually mom) and kid athlete live close to training for part of the week (up to 5 days) and then go back “home” to the other parent and the rest of the family for the rest of the week. Usually one parent can’t relocate for job reasons.

I think that might be a way to potentially to try a new training situation without uprooting the entire family immediately. But the family I know that does this finds so much of it difficult. Mom and dad get almost no quality time together. They’re separated for most of the week, and then when they are together, mom tries to spend more time with the other kids who aren’t the athletes and dad tries to spend more time with the athlete. They spend a lot more money because they need an apartment to live in near the training site. And their expenses at home don’t really go down because mom and kid aren’t there. And both parents feel like single parents for much of the week.
 
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mllea2

Proud Parent
Apr 6, 2014
35
I have a family member who did this. Shewas a very talented level 8 gymnast. She was already in a decent gym, was home schooled and was receiving recognition nationally. They moved within in their home state to a bigger/better gym. A year later, the gymnast developed a huge fear and after a year of therapy, never returned to gymnastics. it was shocking to say the least. I think the move should only be done if you will still be happy with the move if your daughter ever decides to leave gymnastics.
 

ldw4mlo

Proud Parent
Feb 13, 2015
6,529
62
My daughter does not have high aspirations. She is happy as a good/local, maybe regional soon to be L8 gymmie.

If she did have high aspirations. I would pack up the uhaul and move.
 

crazygymkidsmom

Proud Parent
Apr 24, 2018
4
Wow, thank you all for the responses. It's good to hear other perspectives on this - and I have to admit that I'm relieved no one has just out-right called me crazy (yet!).

As for Regionals - this was kind of the reason we started thinking of moving. There was no travel budget at the gym past States this year, so the athlete who qualified was not able to attend Regionals. I don't know all of the details, and I imagine that if the family had offered to pay the ENTIRE cost of the meet - including compensation for the coach's time, and all travel and meet fees, they might have been able to swing something for their daughter. But to me it felt like a really unfair decision for a girl who worked her butt off all year and then wasn't allowed the reward of a meet she earned. There was also some pushback from other gym parents who felt like it was unfair to their children to have the coach out of town during regular practice days... it was just kind of crummy all the way around and I really feel for the girl who was caught in the middle of gym finances and politics. I also don't know what the policy has been in the past, the gym may have sent girls to Regionals before and this year was an outlier, but it was a big red flag to me.

Also, the coaches are actually really great, The retention level at the gym is very good, especially considering how small we are. I have nothing against those amazing coaches. I think stillhoping expressed my biggest fear of relocating - that sometimes successful gyms do not produce happy gymnasts.

It's a huge, scary, multi-faceted decision. I think at the very least we'll take this year to think about it. I feel very reassured hearing from several people that there's still time to consider our options.
 
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MILgymFAM

Proud Parent
Fan
Feb 6, 2014
4,717
42
Twin Cities
As for Regionals - this was kind of the reason we started thinking of moving. There was no travel budget at the gym past States this year, so the athlete who qualified was not able to attend Regionals. I don't know all of the details, and I imagine that if the family had offered to pay the ENTIRE cost of the meet - including compensation for the coach's time, and all travel and meet fees, they might have been able to swing something for their daughter. But to me it felt like a really unfair decision for a girl who worked her butt off all year and then wasn't allowed the reward of a meet she earned. There was also some pushback from other gym parents who felt like it was unfair to their children to have the coach out of town during regular practice days... it was just kind of crummy all the way around and I really feel for the girl who was caught in the middle of gym finances and politics. I a
This is surprising to me. We are also at a teeny tiny gym. The cost of states and regionals is split between all JO girls evenly, from ththe L3s to the L9 (now L10). We had one L8 who made regionals (well 2, but one got injured on the last event at states) and she went with the HC- as she should. It seems like a weird way to run it for a small team, to have individual responsibility for the big meets.
 

tpMom

Proud Parent
Dec 8, 2016
203
39
This is surprising to me. We are also at a teeny tiny gym. The cost of states and regionals is split between all JO girls evenly, from ththe L3s to the L9 (now L10). We had one L8 who made regionals (well 2, but one got injured on the last event at states) and she went with the HC- as she should. It seems like a weird way to run it for a small team, to have individual responsibility for the big meets.
We had something similar happen at our gym recently actually - although not quite as major. One of our Level 9s qualified for Westerns but it was kind of unexpected (because it's the first time we've ever had a Western qualifier) and there wasn't much of a budget for it. The athlete's mom was able to work something out with the leadership at the gym and the coach (who was supportive of her going to Westerns) but I think it ended up being pretty expensive for the family.

Is it possible for you to head up or encourage some fundraising for future regional/Eastern/Western/National qualifiers? That way if your daughter qualifies as a level 7 there will be a fund in place for the trip? I would imagine that you'd have the support of a lot of gym families after a gymnast was denied an opportunity because of funds. Even a couple of bake sales and car washes could help offset some travel costs and coaches fees.
 

Natasha

Proud Parent
Jan 28, 2011
1,712
At our gym the cost of meets past state is the responsibility of those who qualify. Our HC/owner has been great about letting us do fundraisers to offset the cost though. It does sound like if your dd is happy and growing as a gymnast it would be good to stay through the next season and then evaluate again, especially since you do have upper levels. We've hosted 'fun gyms' to raise money and other gym parents have been great about donating money to help with costs.
 

Tuppy

Proud Parent
Feb 11, 2016
359
I believe the costs for regionals are split only by those attending at my gym. So the policy about shared costs may not apply to the gym you are moving to. You may want to check before you switch, because you may still be in a position of bearing those costs yourself or more than you expect. Just something to think about. Good luck!
 

wandrewsjr

Coach
Proud Parent
Sep 4, 2009
2,488
If the other gym parents were giving push-back not only at the thought of sharing the cost, but also about a coach being gone from a couple practices to take a kid who qualified to a post season meet? It is going be very hard to change that gyms culture without the full support of ownership. Though money questions can always be a tough sell, can't imagine a gym team and falilies that wouldn't support a coach being gone from the gym a few days to attend a regional or national meet with a team's qualifying gymnasts.
 

bookworm

Gold Membership
Proud Parent
It seems weird that the families were miffed the coach would go to Regionals , if the striving for excellence isn't in the lower levels you'd think theyd just see it as a day off....so we're just going to train and train and maybe compete meets here and there but when a meet means something, nah? That attitude alone might have me driving the 100 miles to the next gym because you're going to hit a brick wall without some kind of HC/owner support for the pursuit of post season meets & higher level training....or decide you are in a rec program.

The other thing that seems off in this is that the GYM didn't push back on taking the kid to regionals....it's great advertising for their gym and program and an opportunity to show off their gymnast but are met with, nope not going...the whole scenario seems amiss to me.

Are you in a USAG gym? One of our local gyms is in some little fun league with no post season so if that's your situation, then I can see the families making a fuss (not that I agree with it) because it's not done in those leagues.
 
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