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Finding the right gym for form/technique

Discussion in 'Parent Forum' started by hbsgirl, Feb 16, 2017.

  1. hbsgirl

    hbsgirl New Member Proud Parent

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    Hi everyone! This is my first post and I'm looking forward to learning from you.

    My DD just turned 8 and loves gymnastics. I put her in once a week rec classes when she was 5 because after she begged me to (and because she started doing cartwheels and roundoffs in ballet instead of tendus). She joined the AAU competitive silver team the following year with 4 hours of practice a week and is now competing USAG Excel Gold (with 12-15 hours of practice per week).

    Here's my dilemma. One of the assistant coaches pulled me aside last year to tell me that she could see my DD going really go far because of her early skills, body type/muscles, and power. I didn't think much of it because she was only 6. Now that she is 8, I'm seeing the talent, but she has TERRIBLE form - bent legs, toes unpointed, arms bent on bars, hops on landings, etc. She scores in the 7s or low 8s on bars and low to mid 8's in everything else. Even though our gym has a USAG program, it's not hardcore and the focus is more on recreation/fun. I've been watching the practices lately and noticed that they hardly ever correct form. I'm now looking to move my DD to a better gym. I had her evaluated at a gym that does well in our city but they told me that it's too late for her to go the USAG track with them because she lacks the form/conditioning and would have to relearn some of her skills. They also said most of their USAG girls started at 3 or 4 years old. They offered to have her try out for their AAU team (not as hardcore, and just 6 hours of practice a week). I feel that "now" is the right time to get her the right form/technique but I can't figure out how to do that if her current gym doesn't focus on it.

    Has anyone else had to trade off the opportunity to do USAG for better coaching on an AAU team at a better gym? Should I just keep looking for other gyms or give up the chance for her to do USAG (and possible college scholarships if this ends up really being her passion)? I didn't realize gyms were so selective at this age! Any advice you can share would be appreciated.
     

  2. GymnsticsLife

    GymnsticsLife Member Proud Relative Former Gymnast

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    Are you saying that your gyms JO program isnt hardcore and is more recreational? Because USAG is xcel, too. Assuming this, I have never EVER heard of a gym where xcel is more serious and more strict on form than JO. Ever.
    They start competing "USAG" (JO) at age 3? What level? Im assuming, because most gyms start here, at level three or four. In which case, isnt possible. To compete level 3 you MUST have reached your 6th birthday and to compete level 4 you MUST have reached your 7th birthday. So competing at age 3/4 isnt possible. Even level one requires 4 years old, so 3 is not possible. Or starting gymnastics at age 3/4. Because that is not in any way crazy.

    I dont understand this thread. Also, what the heck is AAU gymnastics. I looked it up.o_O Also, most gyms are not
    selective at age 3/4.
     
  3. GymDad9.9

    GymDad9.9 Active Member CBBC Board Member Proud Parent

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    Don't think the OP said they started competing USAG at 3/4 but they started gymnastics at age 3/4. That's my reading of it.
     
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  4. GymnsticsLife

    GymnsticsLife Member Proud Relative Former Gymnast

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    Okay. Wasn't sure. In which case I still find it crazy she is questioning that. Most gymnasts start then, right? Cause starting competing at age 3/4 boggled my mind.
     

  5. GymDad9.9

    GymDad9.9 Active Member CBBC Board Member Proud Parent

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    Not sure OP is questioning it either. Sounds more like the gym they went to for evaluation is using it against the OP in not considering the OP's child for their USAG program.
     
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  6. thefellowsmom

    thefellowsmom Active Member CBBC Board Member Proud Parent

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    To original poster. I may be wrong but it sounds to me that your gym does AAU (this is an alternate lower intensity path to usag that is active in some parts of the country and not in others) and usag excel. Although excel is usag, it is different than usag JO. In most places this is also a lower intensity program with lower form expectations, although in some gyms and some parts of the country it is not like this.

    I'm sorry that the other gym you tried dint think she would be a good fit, but unfortunately many gyms would say the same thing. A lot of jo kids and in some gyms the vast majority of them start out in jo developmental or preteam classes at age 3 or 4. In some parts of the country gyms may also compete levels 1 and 2 which can be competed at age 4 and 5 respectively. This ensures proper conditioning, proper form and good habits are established from the beginning.

    Getting into a jo program at 8 when bad habits and poor form and conditioning are already set in may be difficult but there are definitely options. Some programs have less restrictions and are more open to different ages and types of gymnasts and some programs have stronger xcel programs where better form is emphasized.

    If you have other options in your area, go check them out. All programs have different philosophies. One of the programs we were at wouldn't have taken her and one one would have been much more likely to.

    Good luck to you and your dd. Hope you find the right fit.

    Good luck!
     
  7. hbsmama

    hbsmama New Member Proud Parent

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    @GymnsticsLife...I'm sorry my thread confused you. I can't figure out how to edit the original post, so let me clarify things here.

    You are right...JO is more rigorous than USAG Exel, which is why I would like to get my daughter on the JO track at the other gym. Our gym is a YMCA program and does things a little differently. They compete USAG Excel up until you can master the skills necessary to move to level 7 of the JO track. At that point you switch over to JO. There's a small group of of girls in our gym competing levels 7-9 and there are no level 10 gymnasts. No one is on track for college scholarships. Given that it's the YMCA, the focus is not hardcore in general. I love the coaches, but their mission is to provide a fun opportunity for girls to compete but without the demands you might find at a private gym. With that said, I still think form/technique/conditioning is critical even in a program that is more laid back. They do some conditioning/focus on form of course, but not nearly as much as the gym I visited to have my daughter evaluated. For example, instead of using the rope as a conditioning tool, my gym uses it more as punishment for not finishing all of your drills.

    And GymDad9.9 is right...the other gym was basically saying that since my daughter didn't start classes with them at 3/4 with the right conditioning/technique, she is now behind. They are using that against her and said she is not conditioned/technical enough to join their program. She has a lot of skills (full turn on beam, kip and horizontal cast on bars, round off/back handspring/back tuck, front tuck, and aerial on floor)...but things could be cleaner. Part of it might be maturity though.

    The new gym basically said no to her joining their JO program...but offered AAU. You can read more about AAU here: http://www.aaugymnastics.org. It's basically club level gymnastics and an alternative for those who don't want the demands of the JO program.

    I want to get my daughter at a better gym, but it looks like I'm left with the option of either keeping her at the YMCA since she is at least on track for JO level 7 in a couple of years, or putting her in an AAU program where she can at least develop better technique. I just didn't think it would be so difficult to get her on a JO team at 8 years old, but it sounds like I should have started somewhere else instead of the YMCA. She will be visiting a couple of other gyms, but I'm worried the answer will be the same, because those gyms are even more competitive than the gym I already visited. But if anyone has any advice on how to get my DD on track, that would be great! Perhaps clinics, private lessons, rec classes in addition to her team practices? I hate I might have missed the window for her to have a good foundation for gymnastics.
     
  8. hbsmama

    hbsmama New Member Proud Parent

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    @thefellowsmom...thanks so much for your advice. It's good to know that this might just be the reality. I will take your advice and visit other gyms to see if they will take her. It won't hurt to try!
     
  9. GymDad9.9

    GymDad9.9 Active Member CBBC Board Member Proud Parent

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    In my own experience, my daughter started gym at 6 1/2 in a rec class, competed in a top compulsory program for two years and is now just turned 9 training for Level 7, so I know you don't have to start at age 3/4 to be JO worthy. That mindset is like cutting off your nose to spite your face.

    Our compulsory program has no problem taking older girls with limited experience with potential and making them quality gymnasts. I'm astonished at how many gyms out there don't.

    Hopefully you can find a gym that will give your daughter an opportunity, one that she will have to work really hard at to make up for some time lost and poor coaching attention to detail.
     
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  10. Pineapple_Lump

    Pineapple_Lump Coach Coach Proud Relative Judge

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    To help you see the view point of the other gym...
    It is easier to teach skills correctly the first time, than it is to re-teach a skill already achieved or fix form on a skill when it has never been corrected before.
    Then it will depend on personality, some kids just like to learn skills and don't really care about if it is done correctly or not. These kids struggle to make changes because they think they can do it and do not understand why a coach is asking them to change it. Other kids just struggle to change because they have the wrong muscle memory.

    Hopefully you can find a gym that sees the potential in your daughter and is willing to work through the long process of correcting skills to get her to the level she can achieve - but be warned, perhaps you daughter is one that is more interested in doing skills than perfecting them. In this situation she will be unhappy and not want to continue with gymnastics, you need to think carefully about want your daughter will enjoy. Is she better off being happy where she is learning skills or can she adjust to a structured training program with expectations of quality work.
     
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  11. hbsmama

    hbsmama New Member Proud Parent

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    @GymDad9.9 It's good to know things worked out well for your daughter! I appreciate your advice and I will continue looking for a gym over the next couple of months that is willing to train her.

    @Pineapple_Lump You raise a GREAT point. I think my daughter is the type that just enjoys learning skills and probably isn't mature enough to endure the retraining. She taught herself many of the skills she has before her coaches taught them to her. She recently taught herself a layout on the trampoline which feels right to her, but I can see that it's not technically sound. With the right tweaks, I think she could do so well and I just wanted to do the right thing and give her a chance at a young age. But perhaps I'm underestimating the amount of work it takes to relearn the skills. The other gym did say they are worried that it would burn her out really fast.
     
  12. cadybearsmommy

    cadybearsmommy Active Member Proud Parent

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    We learned the hard way that JO doesn't always mean better technique, it really depends on the gym.

    DD was in an JO L3 program at her previous gym. She was struggling with skills and form so we switched her to Xcel bronze last minute, where she still scored poorly due to bad form. Neither the JO program or the Xcel program at that gym focused on form. At all. They have up to L9 gymnasts still competing with bad form to this day. Part of it was inconsistent coaching, head coach left before the season, there was a lot of turnover, etc. I've heard they are starting to turn things around with their lower levels now but I'm sure it will take time.

    We moved dd after that season to another gym that did not do Levels 3-5, instead they did Xcel up to gold and then the girls could go to L6 (and starting this year they can also go to platinum if they want to stay Xcel.) My dd learned way more about proper form and conditioning with them then she did in the previous gym, even when she was on the JO track at the other gym. She started L6 this year, and I won't lie it's been a tough adjustment to JO, especially since our gym's optional program is still kind of in progress at this point but she's holding her own and still has scored better in L6 this year than she did in bronze her first year at the old gym.

    Your dd is 8. It makes me really sad that the other gym wouldn't even give her a chance at JO. An 8 year old Xcel gold is hardly a lost cause. If your dd is willing to listen and work hard even if that means going back and relearning some skills, it's not too late for her. Continue to explore her options. I wouldn't choose to move her to the other gym's AAU track as of right now, unless they will discuss the possibility of eventually moving her to JO if she does well at the AAU track. If that's out of the question, then I don't think they are the right gym for your dd.

    I don't necessarily think that your current gym is the right one for you dd either. If she continues to learn skills with poor form, this puts her at a higher risk for injury, not to mention that it puts her at a huge disadvantage in competition. And the longer she stays there and reinforces these bad habits the harder they will be to break.

    I would continue to explore your options. Call around. Tell them your dd really wants to enter the JO track and while she has some form issues, she is willing to put in the work to fix them and just wants to be given a chance. Just because a gym is competitive doesn't mean they will necessarily turn her down like the first one you tried did. Some coaches enjoy the challenge of taking a gymnast with some raw talent that is a little rough around the edges and get them up to competition level. Keep looking and try not to get discouraged!
     
  13. sce

    sce Well-Known Member Proud Parent Former Gymnast

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    It won't hurt to get her evaluated at some other gyms. While one gym turned her down, another might be willing to work with her. But it will be hard work. Mrs Puma had some similar experiences with her dd, she might have some insight into the situation.
     
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  14. Randomactsofcheer

    Randomactsofcheer Member Proud Parent

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    It won't hurt to call around and visit the other gyms in your area. DD switched from gymnastics to cheer just before her 9th birthday. The first gym we took her to placed her in a beginning rec class. We took her to three other gyms after that, two of which placed her on pre-team and one of which placed her in their most advanced rec class with a promise to re-evaluate her for pre-team in a few months. We went for the gym that placed her in the advanced rec class. She ended up moving to pre-team in a week and then to the competitive team a few weeks later.

    She competed level 3 last year and is training level 4 now. I think she will end up competing level 3 again this year. She did get a high enough score at sectionals to qualify for state, but her form and technique were major issues last season and there was definitely a huge difference in scores between her and the girls who have been doing gymnastics for longer. But the scores didn't seem to bother DD and her form and technique have improved immensely over the last year.

    My point is, you never know where other gyms will place her. Some gyms are willing to work with older kids and correct poor form taught at another gym. Some are not. For many gyms, eight years-old is not too late to correct problems or start new.
     
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  15. l.c.o

    l.c.o Active Member Proud Parent

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    I wanted to add my opinion here... I agree with others that if you/your DD are genuinely interested in giving JO a try, I'd visit other gyms. Requirements really do vary so much gym to gym.

    Some gyms may turn away bent arms and flexed feet, but there may be one that sees some untapped potential - you never know.

    My DD started rec at age 4, but actually started official pre-team on the 'later' end for her gym, just as she was turning 6. Her gym seems to tend to lean towards younger girls, but they will take the occasional older kid. As far as switching gyms, they can be picky about who they take in from other programs, but that's also taking into consideration resources (available space in groups, etc). Some gyms are not so 'picky' and sometimes a given gym may have more space at a given time than others (...maybe a bunch of 8th graders just quit).

    There is nothing wrong with YMCA or Xcel or AAU if you/your DD decide to stay there - they're fun and keep them fit and progressing in the sport! I have days where I feel like I've been run ragged where I really wish my DD would move to a less intense program. :) Good luck deciding.
     
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  16. gymdoc

    gymdoc Member Proud Parent

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    We switched from a YMCA program that did USAG JO and AAU to a straight USAG JO program a few years ago. Mostly it was because of administration issues and all the coaches quit. When my girls were trying out new gyms, one slotted them for their Xcel track (too old for their JO track), another offered them JO tracks spots but said they would have to repeat a level until their form, strength and scores were "up to par" and the third gym offered them a JO spot with a plan to compete the next level up the next season. My girls chose option 3. It was still a lot more conditioning, but within 2 seasons their form is MUCH better and scores have improved

    All that to say, not all gyms are the same. Keep trying to find one that works for your gymnast. Don't get caught up in the names - just pick a program that she loves!!
     
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  17. JumpingBean

    JumpingBean New Member Proud Parent

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    My dd got invited to JO preteam at 8 after only taking rec classes before. Having said that, the reason the coaches accepted her and looks like are paying her attention and hoping for progress is because they say while she needs to play catch up on skills, her form on the ones she has and gets is excellent right away. They and I credit that to her serious ballet training which we are continuing (she is not the ballerina type but knows it's important both for other forms of dance and gymnastics). I would look around for more accepting gyms but also find ways to improve form. Ballet would definitely help with pointed toes, straight knees, correct arm positions.
     
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  18. doodlebug

    doodlebug Member Proud Parent

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    If your DD can throw skills like a RO-BHS-BT, FT and ariel, full turn on beam, etc and she just turned 8, IMO that gym is being short sighted. Our gym has several 8 and 9 year old level 3s from other gyms that came in needing a lot of help with conditioning and form and they just worked with them and they all turned the corner quickly. I'd keep looking.

    Did the gym you visited have xcel or JO? Is there some rule dictating the minimum JO level she could transition into from xcel gold? Perhaps, due to form and strength, they'd accept her only in a lower level than she be permitted to transfer into based on her gold status?
     
  19. hbsmama

    hbsmama New Member Proud Parent

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    You all have given me a lot to consider and I really appreciate you sharing your experiences/advice. Before I posed this question, I was feeling like it was a lost cause and as if my early decision to put her in the YMCA ruined her track. Truthfully, when we started I couldn't imagine her in practice 12 hours+ a week, so I figured that AAU would be best. But when she progressed so much in one year and they invited her to the USAG Excel team, I adjusted my mindset. It's not so bad driving her back and forth to practice three times a week and she NEVER complains about going. However, I might feel differently when she's up to five days a week :) I don't want to be a pushy parent, but I also want to make sure she is doing the best she can do at this age. I feel like we'll really know what her future is in the next two years. I've set up two more trials so I will update everyone on how those go! Thanks again!
     
  20. hbsmama

    hbsmama New Member Proud Parent

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    @doodlebug Interestingly, when the gym evaluated her, they spent only 10 minutes with her. They had her do the turn on the beam and a cartwheel. She fell out of her cartwheel the first time but completed it the second time. They had her do a split on the floor and a roundoff, backhand spring, back hand spring...but didn't even have her do her back tuck or her aerial which I found surprising. They had her climb the rope which she accomplished albeit slowly. It just seemed like such a short evaluation....and mind you, she did all of these things without even warming up. The other places I set up trials for will have her do a 2 hour workout which seems to make more sense to me.

    Their gym only does JO or AAU (no Excel). I will ask them if they are willing to let her train/compete level 3 just to build up her strength. They are indeed a GREAT gym and just looking at the girls practice I could see the difference, so it kills me that they weren't interested. Even a woman who works the front desk there with a level 8 gymnast knew my daughter's name because her daughter attends the same school as my DD and had noticed my DD on the playground doing strong acro skills last year and told her mom about my DD. So it just baffles me that her form is a deal breaker now.
     
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