WAG Finding the value in the dedication of the slower progressing gymnast

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Proud Parent
Oct 10, 2008
Starting a new thread to answer aerialriver
I just do not understand. Certainly everyone has to know that not all kids are cut out for all activities. There were a lot of activities my parents stopped me from doing after short periods of trial like playing the flute and singing I am not musical at all and after a while it becomes a waste of time and money.

I am not saying that if a kid really wants to do gym they should not have the chance to, but why is there this attitude that all of them should be entitled to compete? There is nothing wrong with doing something recreationally. Just because I like to shoot hoops with the neighbor does not entitle me to join the WNBA. Lots of sports have tryouts even kids school sports and some kids don't make the cut.

Everyone has talents and apparently for these girls it just isn't gymnastics. I would hope most parents would respect this and find it a good time to try other things.

There are in many gyms quite a few girls who are cut from team gymnastics for not being "team material" who, if the gym was able or willing to tolerate a slower progression through the compulsory levels, would ultimately achieve more in gymnastics than the girls who are deemed team material but lack dedication.

Let's address the "why should such girls be entitled to compete," well, they need to be allowed to compete the levels that they have the skills for, cleaned to the standards of the particular team, because obviously they will not have a training option at most gyms that does not actually REQUIRE competition ... everyone knows this. And at most, probably nearly all, gyms you are not allowed to just say, "you know I think my daughter won't score well in her first year of L4, so let's just let her train and she can compete next year."

As for your judgment of the VALUE of pursuing activities that a child does not have a strong aptitude for, I really think that gets to the heart of it.

Why is it devalued for a child to train hard with joy for the blue mats for 10 years if she only gets to L7? Is that not a major achievement that will follow her for the rest of her life? Might she not ultimately contribute more to the sport in the 60 odd years she has left AFTER gymnastics, as a coach or gym owner, or patient educated gym mom, or judge? Is what she learns at every level not beautiful in and of itself?

Why is it devalued for a child who is passionate about singing, and whose family can afford to help her get better, to take lessons and practice -- even if she has to practice twice as hard to get half as far, in singing, as a "musical" child? The value is tremendous in just being able to enjoy singing, enjoy singing in church choir, enjoy singing your baby to sleep, in teaching your children childhood songs, in singing along to the radio with ones college friends without standing out -- this is the stuff of life. Not just a long shot at American Idol for the uber talented.
This is where there is a big difference in our two systems. Here in there UK, in the majority of clubs, gymnasts rarely achieve more than say a level 7. Pink and Fluffy is a member of a club of approximately 350 gymnasts. All will have then opportunity to compete at the most basic of levels (rec), some will progress to Novice, at the last meet We had 15 girls enter the 4 piece, and We will have 3 enter the Intermediate 4 piece.

So you could say 10% progressing beyond the lower levels. Of those three girls, one is competing as 9, one as 10 and one as 13.

There is no age barrier or expected progression. Pink and fluffy didn't start gym til she was 6.

Here rec compete floor and vault, novice and Intermediate compete floor and vault, and 4 piece, so if a girl can't Do beam or bars they can still compete.

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Oh lordy I was cranky and half still asleep this morning when I wrote that thread. I did not mean to spark a whole new topic. What I forgot to mention was I was responding quite a lot to the bit in her thread where she implied that one of the Moms was kind of pushy and none of the kids seems happy and one wanted to quit for the summer and one did not want additional hours. These are not dedicated kids at least not to gym. And I think the Moms are crazy if they continue to push them or not accept the fact that gym is not their bag.

I guess it was also more along the lines of the attitude that some parents have that their kids will succeed at everything and are lended well to every thing they try, this is not so in life. I def. did not mean to say that I don't think a truly dedicated, determined child that does not want to give up should not continue gym at even compete if the situation allows (that is why we have programs like Excel in the US, sadly some countries do not)

I think some peoples remarks on how this coach should just open up a new team just for these girls is absurd. That means offering it at certain times, times when you need to pay a coach to coach it go to these competitions special for them etc. It is like the Special Olympics except for totally normal kids that apparently don't even want to do gymnastics. Kind of like keeping a kid in Kindergarten until he is 18 because he can't tie his shoes even though he can do everything else.

Again I see nothing wrong with recreational gymnastics, gymnastics for fun, fun competitions, heck my first gym as a child was a rec. gym with rec. only classes that had one "fun" meet per year against other rec. gyms. I also thinks it is great if a child lags a bit if she is 14 in level 4 as long as she is loving it and not feeling awkward being with a bunch of kids half her age. I just don't see the value in beating a dead horse. If you can't even do a handstand by age 7 or you can't hold a basketball by age 7 and you don't even like the sport it may be time to move on. If it is your passion in life, you can't live without out keep plugging away, do what flies your flag!

And some day we all hope great kids with great attitudes will become great adults that want to give back to sports and the community and no it does not matter if they were a rec. gymnast, an Olympian, a 7th grade level 7 drop out or what. OOF

Also the entitlement thing was about the parents feeling like because Suzy did gym for 5 years she should get to compete even if she is not good and dislikes it not a kid feeling entitled to compete because they are dedicated.
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I am not going to get into the nitty gritty of all of this, but just want to say that my DD is one of those slower progressing gymnasts. She is also not one of those kids that is motivated by the podium. She gets some medals, sometimes she doesn't. She's not terribly upset by it. I am grateful that she is at a gym that is very patient with her, with a head coach that believes in her having the ability to get to whatever level of skill that she is capable of physically and mentally. She loves gym. She works hard and is eager to learn. She has come SUCH a long way this year. There's no denying the improvement and progress. Maybe it's not quite as fast or up to the standard of some other gyms. But, it's good enough for her and for her coaches. She may very well have been pushed out of the sport long ago had she not landed in her current gym. She does it for the joy of doing it. Which makes me joyful as her mom, as there is no better reason to do something, IMO.

Hope that's not OT!
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As a coach I did start Xcel this past season just for a few kids. They were not ready to move up but had competed 2 years in their current level with some success but defiantly no 35.0/36.0 all arounds. They continue to work out with the level they would be on (working on the same skills) but they are performing the skills they can. After this year of Xcel, 3 of my 4 have the skills to move to the next compulsory level. We are in a differ situation- I'm parks and recreation and run by the government... So we don't ask kids to drop down if they can't keep up we just find another path for them. And so far, it has worked very well and has not added any "extra" time at meets or extra practices as they are practicing with the L4s and working L4 skills just a different routine. It all depends on what the gym/coaches are willing to work out for the kids and each gym has different reasons for the way they work.
Here in Quebec we have a lot of options for all kinds of gymnasts. Non comp gym is very common and lots of kids do it year after year. Then we have regional gymnastics, which basically goes from about a L1 to about a L6/7, girls train 9 hours and under a week and they can compete 6 apparatus (tumbling an tramp included), this gives all kinds of gymmies a chance to compete. Then we have the provincial and national streams which are really more like USAG. Though I do not see any gym kicking a kid out of their gym for not being up to team standards, that is what non comp streams are for. Any kid who loves gym should be able to enjoy the sport.
In the US it seems so much about competing.
You do so many competitions and it seems to be all about winning medals (which so many get) and only doing it if you can get to level 10 and college or elite.
Even rec classes sometimes compete? But then it's not rec class.

It's just so different here. Yes many kids can't get on 'team' due to talent and continue in recreational classes. Many kids don't want to get on 'team' and continue in recreational classes. They all love gym or they wouldn't be doing it, but not everyone and not the majority want to dedicate their lives to gymnastics. And even less have the talent and even less the desire to do it to an elite level (ie in our international stream).

Not everyone wants to compete. I know my dd spent her first competitive year hating the competitions and just wanted to get back to training. (luckily she did eventually find things about competing that she liked, ie hanging out with her friends, lol).
We also compete far less than the US kids. If you live in a city there isn't much travel. Most kids do around 3-4 competitions a year I guess. (maybe one friendly, 2 trials, and then a state comp if they qualify).

Because most kids won't get past level 6-7, age is less of a big thing I guess. We compete levels 1-3 so there is no pushing 6 year olds to do back handsprings and compete level 4, so a child starting gym at 7-9 would not be years and years behind other competing the lower levels (though I gather it evens out with kids in the US repeating the higher levels a lot).
I think as long as a child is allowed to go to gym and learn new skills as long as they want to, then that is good enough for me. Not everyone gets to compete. That is just how it is. It's just like a kid signing up for football year after year and never seeing field time during a game, but they love the sport, so they continue to go to practice and try.

I have kids in both situations. I have a just turned 7 year old who has competed one season in the JO program and is uptraining for new L4. I have a 9 year old who has never seen competition and won't more than likely. But she goes to gym for the intermediate rec class. Was she a little sad that she doesn't get to do what some of her friends and her little sister does? Yes. Does she continue to go because she loves gym? Yep. Will she possibly make it into the Excel program this year? Maybe.....IF she has the skills she needs.

But she is in the school choir and has a beautiful singing voice, does little sister? Nope. Should she get to be in performance choir because she likes it? Nope, she doesn't because she doesn't have the skills necassary. But she can be after school choir club.

I also have an almost 6 year old who is no where near where her sister was 1 year ago. Should she be on team, just because she wants to? No. She can't do a cartwheel, she can't do a handstand, she can't do a pushup. Could she if she worked hard enough? Possibly, but the point is that right now she doesn't have the skills necassary to compete.

I have a 10 year old son (who is not involved in gym) who plays football and basketball every season. He has the biggest heart and the most try out of almost all the kids on the field/court. He's getting better slowly but surely (because he has a passion for those two sports). But has he ever been chosen for the traveling competitive team for our town? Nope, because he doesn't have the skills to be a part of that team. But he can continue to play in the rec leagues. When he reaches middles school he can be on the team, but that doesn't mean he will ever see field/court time during an actual game.

Not everyone can be a superstar in the gym, on the podium at meets, be the quaterback, or even get on a team at all. That is life. Participate in what you want because you love it, not because of the "status" you might attain from being in it.

I also agree with the people who have mentioned how far the US medals out at meets. It's ridiculous. I firmly believe it should be top three on each event and top three AA. That's it. I'm also of the belief that it would be more eye opening for parents than for the kids :) If we taught our kids to value the sport as a whole whether they get to compete or not, kids will stay involved with it if they love it. Instead we have parents who see their child being pushed aside and they pull them, even if they love it, a lot of the time. That is my own personal experience anyways.
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Just to add my dd1 has never wanted to compete gymnastics, be on the competitive team etc. she has no jealousy of her younger sisters who compete (lol probably thinks they are mad, though im sure she has moments of being jealous of their skills but she knows how many more hours they put into it and doesnt expect to gain the same skills as quickly) but she loves gymnastics and her rec gym class.
Not everyone wants to compete, everyone seems to think the kids doing rec gym are desperately wanting to get onto the team.
Certainly not the case here, I know many kids who have left competitive gymnastics to do rec as they didn't like competing, practicing routines, the hours etc, they just love gymnastics .
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There are in many gyms quite a few girls who are cut from team gymnastics for not being "team material" who, if the gym was able or willing to tolerate a slower progression through the compulsory levels, would ultimately achieve more in gymnastics than the girls who are deemed team material but lack dedication.

We do not "cut"...we simply don't invite them if they are not ready for team.

The kids that are not dedicated get weeded our before optionals.

Slow progression through the compulsory levels was our #1 reason that gymnasts were leaving (quitting) our team. We were a team that would invite almost anyone to team...we would put people on team at their request. We have since changed our team model and no longer have this issue.

Here was our fix (using old level numbers):
  • L3 - we invite 5-7 year olds with a FWR, BWR, CW, HS and pull up.
  • L4 - we invite 6-9 year olds with a FWR, BWR, CW, RO, bridge kick over, HS, pull up pull over, and that's about it. We will invite kids age 10 & over...but they must first express an interest in the JO team program.
  • Xcel: We invite all kids that make it to our top two rec. levels.
  • Started a 4.5 - 6 year old pre-team (hotshot) group.

Lack of progression is no longer an issue. They do quit for other reasons now...but we are OK with those.

EDIT: Every girl in our club has the opportunity to compete...just not in the JO program.
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I place a lot of value on desire, effort, self discipline, and just plain loving the idea of doing gymnastics as your #1 thing. Kids with those attributes, plus a minimum level of fitness, can work their way through to level 7, and probably 8, before ability becomes a factor. Once ability becomes a factor they will slow down, but I've seen kids with minimal ability continue to improve their strength, flexibility, and understanding of what makes skills work to help them continue far beyond kids with a boatload of natural ability who lacked the intangible qualities I first mentioned.

I don't know who should and should not be placed on a particular team, but do know that kids who have the intangibles, plus that minimum level of fitness, can make a pretty good run of it with parents supporting their efforts to be the best they want to be, and coaches who get that most of their "future elites" have little future at all with out desire, effort, self discipline, and the heart of a gymnast.

So what would I do? I'd put on team any child whose work, attitude, and health habits screamed "I'm a gymnast", and let the chips fall where they may.
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I run a gym for a living...have done so for years now. I have spent years trying to give gymnastics to all...and it is very possible...but it is not currently possible in the JO program. There are tens of thousands of kids that will never be able to compete a skill as basic as a RO-BHS.
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i'm with you JBS. it's to hard for most kids. :) most kids are on a soccer team.
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AAAAAAAAAAAaargh!!! Sorry - I keep trying to reply to this thread and getting 'internal server error'.
I think my DD is one of those who who takes a while to get skills and I don't know if she will ever get to level 7 (step 7 here), I will be extremely impressed with her if she does! There is another girl she started with in level 1 who went up to step 2 with some others, while DD and some others went to step 3. This girl repeated step 2 and is now in step 3. She is currently injured and comes in and just does conditioning. I really admire this girl for her perseverence, she obviously really loves gymnastics and doesn't seem too bothered by her slow progress.

The problem here, or at least at our gym, is there is a huge gap between rec and competitive. Rec really is just for fun, just one hour a week. There is hardly any conditioning or emphasis on form, and hardly any would learn skills harder than a round-off. There are novice competitions for rec gymnasts, some are actual competitions with placings, while others are participatory, with coloured ribbons based on scores. There is nothing in between rec and competitive, nothing like excel here. I guess because New Zealand is so small, and gymnastics is such a small sport here, we couldn't support so many different systems.

Some gyms here do have IDP (the Australian system), which is the elite track. The IDP track here is much more exclusive, the girls are carefully selected, they must be small, strong, flexible, talented, tough, and totally dedicated as the hours are long. For this reason I like to think plenty of girls could get a chance to do STEPs, whether younger or older. No matter what step they get to, I think it is great that they get to be involved in competitive gymnastics at whatever level, it doesn't matter if they drop out along the way, not everyone is going to go all the way to step 10.
(Continued...) Those who are not keeping up in IDP get cut, but they will be offered a place in STEPs if they want it. There are also IDP girls who drop out completely to pursue other sports and interests. It is also possible to be moved from Steps back to rec, but I can't think of any examples of it actually happening when it wasn't requested. Generally, once selected for STEPs, if the gymnast wants to be there they get to stay, and just repeat steps if necessary.
My issue with the model of only inviting certain kids to preteam without open tryouts and clear requirements is that it prevents many kids from ever getting the chance to TRY gymnastics beyond playing in the pit. I think it's entirely appropriate for kids who aren't making adequate progress to weed themselves out within a couple of years and find some other activity for which they have more aptitude. I am not going to demand that my daughter be allowed to compete if she can't do a safe ROBHS. And I agree that it is ridiculous to give out a gazillion medals at meets.

It just seems like our gym's system, or lack thereof, for selecting kids for preteam is not a very accurate method of screening. If I had not spoken up more than once, my daughter would never have gotten an evaluation. But now that she's been on preteam for a few months and has gotten some real conditioning and quality coaching, she is pleasing the coaches with her steady progress and awesome work ethic, while more than half of the other girls who joined preteam at the same time (most of whom were deemed more "talented") have quit. I am sure there are lots of other parents on this board with identical stories. Wouldn't a gym ultimately have a stronger team if it opened up evaluations to any kid who was interested, required kids and parents to observe a preteam practice so they knew what they were really in for, took any kid who could meet a clearly defined set of requirements (including attitude and ability to pay attention), and then allowed the kids a year or two to learn whether they really have what it takes?
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