For Parents Frustration with Xcel

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Twinmom

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My daughter is in her first season competing Xcel Silver (skipped bronze, was asked to join the JO team but we opted to begin with Xcel because she has other interests). We have found the program to be good for her overall, her gym treats Xcel with just as much care & respect as their JO teams. The meets though... I didnt know much about Xcel before she started competing (and I still don’t) but it seems a little bit crazy to me that she is sometimes competing against girls from gyms that have no compulsory programs, so all the girls that would normally be JO are competing Xcel. And training JO hours b/c they will go right to level 4 when they can. So when my daughter competes against gyms with “true” Xcel programs like ours (lower training hours), she does very well and is encouraged. She feels like she can actually compete. When she shows up for a meet and these other gyms are there, she knows right away that she has no chance at a higher medal spot. Such a bummer. I get that “winning” is not the end goal, and she does too. But every kid who plays a sport wants to know they have a shot, and that the playing field is level. At the risk of sounding like a whiny whiner, it just doesn’t seem fair! Can someone explain to me why this is ok and how these gyms can feel good about themselves coming to these meets and sweeping the podium with their “Xcel” gymnasts who everyone knows are not training the way Xcel gymnasts are meant to train? Was the program not invented for girls who want to train less hours?? Sorry, but it just seems like bad sportsmanship to me. I don’t get it :(
 

tpMom

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I'm not sure that I agree that Xcel was created to allow gymnasts to train fewer hours and still compete. I believe the reasons for Xcel were to allow older girls into the sport and to give them a chance to compete relatively quickly with optional routines. Girls that start on the JO track sometimes train in rec and preteam for years before they are allowed on a competitive team, which doesn't work for an 11 year old just starting out.

For girls on the JO track, Xcel is a chance to learn skills without the strict adherence to judging texts compulsory gymnasts need to worry about. Just because they're planning on moving to JO or training longer hours doesn't mean they aren't real Xcel gymnasts.

I get that it's frustrating though. My DDs gym trains relatively low hours for compulsories, so sometimes it feels like the athletes are at a disadvantage, especially when we go up against homeschooling girls training twice our hours. I try to console myself by remembering that I choose her gym for a reason, and placements mean very little in the long run, the goal is to grow and get better and a gymnast can do that no matter who they're up against at a competition.
 

EGPtriumph

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I feel for you because my understanding is that, yes, some gyms use Xcel instead of JO compulsory levels in order to prep their girls for score out meets for 4 and 5 and then their girls move on to optionals. It does seem unfair when Xcel was intended for lower hours. However, my daughter is a newbie to competing and we find the same thing in JO in regards to an uneven playing field. For us, there are some girls who homeschool and do a day program of 14-20 hours for Level 3, while my daughter only trains 9-10 hours a week while also going to school full time. It just makes us feel like how in the world can we even compare? Sigh....I feel your pain:(
 
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wandrewsjr

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My daughter is in her first season competing Xcel Silver (skipped bronze, was asked to join the JO team but we opted to begin with Xcel because she has other interests). We have found the program to be good for her overall, her gym treats Xcel with just as much care & respect as their JO teams. The meets though... I didnt know much about Xcel before she started competing (and I still don’t) but it seems a little bit crazy to me that she is sometimes competing against girls from gyms that have no compulsory programs, so all the girls that would normally be JO are competing Xcel. And training JO hours b/c they will go right to level 4 when they can. So when my daughter competes against gyms with “true” Xcel programs like ours (lower training hours), she does very well and is encouraged. She feels like she can actually compete. When she shows up for a meet and these other gyms are there, she knows right away that she has no chance at a higher medal spot. Such a bummer. I get that “winning” is not the end goal, and she does too. But every kid who plays a sport wants to know they have a shot, and that the playing field is level. At the risk of sounding like a whiny whiner, it just doesn’t seem fair! Can someone explain to me why this is ok and how these gyms can feel good about themselves coming to these meets and sweeping the podium with their “Xcel” gymnasts who everyone knows are not training the way Xcel gymnasts are meant to train? Was the program not invented for girls who want to train less hours?? Sorry, but it just seems like bad sportsmanship to me. I don’t get it :(
I understand. And I imagine we are talking about entire gym programs, not just some kids who might be older moving from rec to JO? Those gyms that want to skip level 2 and 3, and just test out of levels 4 and 5 with their JO kids should do just that. Train, and then compete those JO meets. Those JO kids can then get plenty of competition experience in optionals if those gyms don't want to compete full JO compulsory seasons. What you are seeing is not what the Xcel track was designed for, but there is unfortunately, not much that can be officially done about it.
 

Twinmom

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Yes, these are 6/7/8 year old very talented gymnasts (who would be funneled into JO team) competing Xcel Silver. I don’t understand how it all works or why, but it seems to me that most gyms have Xcel and JO, and the JO starts at pre-team, then level 2 and so on. For whatever reason these gyms train their girls as “Xcel” gymnasts (at least they come to Xcel meets) until they are ready for level 4 or 5, or maybe even 6- I don’t really know, I was just told that these particular gyms don’t have “compulsory programs”. I’m sure there is some benefit there for them or their gymnasts, but to me it just seems like they don’t really belong at the same meets we are at! Lol
 
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EGPtriumph

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Yep. I actually feel like age/level groups at meets should also have categories like '' JO day program/ home school track", " JO regular school track", 'Xcel in place of compulsory track", and "Xcel as it was intended track" (which according to the website is: The Xcel Program is designed to offer a broad-based, affordable competitive experience outside the traditional Jr. Olympic Program to attract and retain a diverse group of athletes.) One could assume that yes, based on their description, that means fewer hours for an affordable competitive experience meant to retain gymnasts. That might help to even the playing field and truly have peers competing against peers.
 
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SurpriseGymMom

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So my other daughter is a dancer. At dance competitions, they *sometimes* have levels (novice, intermediate, competitive, whatever) that are supposed to be based on the numbers of hours the dancer trains/wk. All good in theory.... except people cheat. And do exactly what these gyms are doing. They place dancers who train 12-15hrs/wk up against girls who are truly “recreational “ and train 4hrs/wk. You tell me who is likely to look more polished....
My point is, it isn’t fair and I totally get, and sympathize with what you’re saying. If it was somehow implemented though, gyms would lie. That’s a fact.
 

z2akids

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Unfortunately, the playing field will never be level. It used to bother me that DD was competing against girls with more hours, multiple years at a level, TOPs training, etc. How fair was that in compulsories? or in Xcel?

It took me longer than it took DD to get over the "knowledge" that she wouldn't place well if the gymnasts from XYZ gym were in her age group. Or the meet that she and her teammate with the exact same bday were in different age groups because it was the split and that she would have placed much higher if they had put her in the other group, etc. Or when DD's age group had 30 and the next age group had 11 gymnasts.

After a couple of years in the sport, I got much more laid back about placements. DD only cares about her own progress. And, this is why I believe she is likely to continue in the sport through HS even though she will likely not get past L8 (although she coyld surprise me).

Her proudest meet ever had nothing to do with scores or placements or how many hours her competition trained. It was a few weeks ago competing her BHS (with a spot). The beam score because of the spot and fall (because she was so excited shs rushed) placed her last AA. But, she was happier with the meet outcome than any previous 1st place. And, my DD has been very competitive at points in her gym career. But, not this season with puahing new skills.

So, my advice is - try bot to worry about placements and scores. You can't control either of those things. And, the ride becomes much more enjoyable when you do. DD has a friend whose mom still stresses about how "successful" her DD is. The girl has talent, but has trouble pushing through fears. I give it 50/50 that she will quit at the end of the season. And, objectively she is doing better than my DD who LOVEs her sport. But, mom puts a lot of pressure on her to continue to place well even though she is working through fears.
 

raenndrops

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My daughter is in her first season competing Xcel Silver (skipped bronze, was asked to join the JO team but we opted to begin with Xcel because she has other interests). We have found the program to be good for her overall, her gym treats Xcel with just as much care & respect as their JO teams. The meets though... I didnt know much about Xcel before she started competing (and I still don’t) but it seems a little bit crazy to me that she is sometimes competing against girls from gyms that have no compulsory programs, so all the girls that would normally be JO are competing Xcel. And training JO hours b/c they will go right to level 4 when they can. So when my daughter competes against gyms with “true” Xcel programs like ours (lower training hours), she does very well and is encouraged. She feels like she can actually compete. When she shows up for a meet and these other gyms are there, she knows right away that she has no chance at a higher medal spot. Such a bummer. I get that “winning” is not the end goal, and she does too. But every kid who plays a sport wants to know they have a shot, and that the playing field is level. At the risk of sounding like a whiny whiner, it just doesn’t seem fair! Can someone explain to me why this is ok and how these gyms can feel good about themselves coming to these meets and sweeping the podium with their “Xcel” gymnasts who everyone knows are not training the way Xcel gymnasts are meant to train? Was the program not invented for girls who want to train less hours?? Sorry, but it just seems like bad sportsmanship to me. I don’t get it :(
Xcel was designed to replace programs that a lot of states already had in place. There are multiple reasond to compete Xcel and it i up to the individual gyms to decide how to do it.
1- opportunity to compete optional routines at a lower level
2- a lower hours option
3- a lower cost option
4- a way to keep girls in the sport that would have quit if stuck in compulsories

Be happy that your gym treats Xcel with respect, unlike some gyms where Xcel isnt considered as team or it is the red-headed stepchild of the JO team. There are gyms that funnel girls who are "too old" into Xcel - where "too old" can mean 7 or older in some cases. There are strong gyms that funnel their "weaker" gymnasts (gymnasts that would be JO at most gyms) to Xcel so they can focus their JO training for those that they deem have potential.

I am at a YMCA. All our girls (L3-L8 and XG & XP) practice 7.5 hours. We only compete against other YMCAs. Some gyms in our district practice more hours for their higher levels. Some will allow a girl to move to Xcel, but technically in the "wrong" division (after L5, they allow a move to Gold when the girl should be Platinum).
It may not be "fair," but it is what it is. YG is a Platinum this year and she is competing against girls that doing L7 routines on all events. And considering our Platinums, all 5, have never competed above L4 in JO... and the 2 that competed L4 struggled there, so they moved to Gold. As soon as they were ready, they moved to Platinum.
 

Pigeon

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Our club was just competing at a fairly big meet and I had the opportunity to be on the floor with our Xcel silver girls (our Xcel team is probably like your Xcel team with lower hours) and I agree with you completely. I thought it was absolutely unfair to watch these huge teams with these tiny little gymnasts (all with perfect little gymnast bodies and lines) doing perfect RO BHS BHS and scoring 9.85...in Xcel Silver. I'm not kidding you, there were overall scores in the 39's. It did not feel to me like these teams were competing within the spirit that Xcel was intended.

For girls on the JO track, Xcel is a chance to learn skills without the strict adherence to judging texts compulsory gymnasts need to worry about.

And I really don't understand this. Judges can take text errors to a max of, what, 0.4? I can't believe that a kid scoring 37-38-39 can't handle a text error of 0.4 per routine? Is it that they just don't like the music? Can't fathom making their L3 gymnasts do a mill circle for one year?

So you end up with Xcel gymnasts who competed well, no falls, did everything asked of them and scored in the 35s (so clearly their routines were reasonable for Xcel silver) only to end up being ranked 70-something out of 80-something kids in the session.

I think there is a real problem with that.
 

MILgymFAM

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I’ve been through this feeling with Xcel.. seen it a bit in T&T.. and I see it in optionals too. My DDs current gym trains all optionals at 16 hours per week. At the last meet my DD came in third. First and second were girls from a gym that trains 30. I used to think it was unfair but now I just shrug. I’ve realized gymnastics will never be fair. The fairest thing they could do would be set practice ranges for each level (similar to IGC- which people would cheat on like they do in IGC) and eliminate age groups in favor of two groups per level- first year and repeaters. That would mean my DD would never medal (she’s in the oldest age group, which is the least competitive for her level), but I’m ok with that too. Gyms would find some workaround for that too- they would make girls skip every other season to uptrain to win the first year category or something. Bottom line is that some gyms are in it for the contest aspect- it is competition after all, and they’ll do what they have to in order to win. Other gyms are about developing gymnasts, be it with higher level goals in mind or just as people. We as parents have the ability to choose which kind of gym our kids go to, and we get the output at meets accordingly.
 

John

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I do not believe this to be a problem isolated to XCEL. I feel it is a problem throughout gymnastics.

I do not see much of a solution. I was thinking that scoring in gymnastics has to change. It has to become more like FIG. If all gymnastics scoring had execution and difficulty then kids could be grouped based on difficulty. In my simple mind, this would allow for groupings that leveled the playing field. I am sure some gyms would then just remove difficulty from routines,. but still, the execution would play a larger role in top finishers. I am sure I have missed something with this thought that someone here can point out.
 

gymgal

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Our club was just competing at a fairly big meet and I had the opportunity to be on the floor with our Xcel silver girls (our Xcel team is probably like your Xcel team with lower hours) and I agree with you completely. I thought it was absolutely unfair to watch these huge teams with these tiny little gymnasts (all with perfect little gymnast bodies and lines) doing perfect RO BHS BHS and scoring 9.85...in Xcel Silver. I'm not kidding you, there were overall scores in the 39's. It did not feel to me like these teams were competing within the spirit that Xcel was intended.
This happens all the time in JO with teams choosing to compete down, knowing full well their gymnasts are ready to compete the next level, albeit maybe not to the 38/39 caliber. It is not just happening in xcel.

If your dd goes to JO you will see it there too. As others have said, there will always be gyms that train more hours than yours, uptrains more than yours does, hand picks their girls better than yours does, have strategically aged girls in each level to increase potential for wins in each age group, etc. dd is a L10 and she trains 23-25 hours a week. She competes against gymnasts who have been training 30-35 hours since they were in L7 (so 4+yrs). That's a lot of additional hours to prefect skills, form, routines, you name it. She goes against gymnasts whose gyms won't allow move up to the next level until they are able to get a high AA score before the season even begins instead of allowing the gymnasts to work on perfecting during the season, which means they repeat these girls who are already scoring 37/38+ at that level. Is it fair? maybe, maybe not but I don't see it changing anytime soon.

In all honesty, it is best to keep dd's (and your) focus on her skills, goals and scores, never on placements at meets. Otherwise, you just go crazy. Been there, Done that...
 

gymbeam

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Our gym is one that uses Xcel in place of Levels 2 and 3. We have two separate Xcel teams who go to different meets in fact....one that is “Xcel forever” and one that is “Xcel until Level 4”.

I agree it is not ideal. That being said, I do have to give our gym credit because they do not take the “Xcel until Level 4” girls to the State Meets. They only send their “true Xcel” team to that. I think that’s honorable.
 

QueenBee

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Gymnastics is not and will never be 'fair'. There are gyms with better coaches, there are gymnasts who are better athletes. There are gyms who train longer hours, families who choose to homeschool for the flexibility it gives their gymnasts. There are the gymnasts who train beautifully and compete as a hot mess. There are the 'game day' gymnasts who seem to be able to pull out amazing meets no matter how they train, how they feel and even how they look during warm ups. We see gymnasts from certain gyms in our area who are just unbelievably great gymnasts, not always from the highest training hour gyms. And they are often the youngest gymnasts competing at each level, competing the 'hardest' skills and doing them the cleanest.

When we all start out in this sport, it can be hard to watch the scores and not think that they are the be-all and end-all of how your gymnast is doing. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that most parents don't understand scoring and have difficulty understanding why the gymnast who stayed on beam might be outscored by the child who fell on beam. It can (and does) make some parents go absolutely crazy.

Try to remember that your child's progress is not in anyway determined by the actions of other gyms/gymnasts/coaches. Your child will progress at your child's pace with the gym and coaches you chose. If scoring is important to you, investigate the gyms in your area that score better than your gym. See if the program would be a good fit for your family. I don't know if it will make you feel better but know that many of the lower-level high scoring gymnasts at gyms that hold kids at the same level for multiple years disappear once you reach upper levels. Most of the gyms holding gymnasts like that don't have strong upper level programs. It's one of the reasons they hold the gymnasts back to score high at the levels they can train well.
 

mls529

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Really want to emphasis what others are saying -- it is not just Xcel, this happens throughout gymnastics as well as other spots. I now have an Xcel gymnast (at an Xcel only gym) who practices only 6 hours per week. We have gone to meets where our girls place high because it is a smaller meet competing against other "true" Xcel gyms. But our first meet of the season was at a large meet and the competition clearly was more like what you are describing -- superstar young kiddos who appear to be using Xcel Gold as a way to get to JO optionals. Scores were easily in the 38 range to place in one of the younger age categories. Hopefully you can find the meets in your area that attract other like-mind competition.

But honestly, you have a gym that gives Xcel the resources and respect it deserves, which is awesome. With a gym that is good for your daughter overall, you have "won" in a way that is much more important!
 

NutterButter

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As others have said, this happens in JO too not just Xcel though I'm sympathetic to the argument that the intent and spirit of Xcel is an alternative option to JO for kids who either want less hours or are older. As your DD progresses through Xcel you should find fewer gyms as they will be weeded out by Platinum.

I used to be much more bothered by 'sandbagging' and kids repeating levels when they could be competing higher. Now I don't care. I even appreciate the meets where we will be against "those gyms" because the quality of routines is generally high (with some stunning routines!). Also, it makes me thankful that that DD is where she is because in other programs she may have been funneled to Xcel (and she started there because she got a late start in the sport) or she would be still be in L7.
 

UnoMas

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There are definitely pros and cons to xcel. My kids have done both. If the main focus is winning/placements, then I honestly think “older” kids are better off in JO (especially level 5 and up) because the older divisions in JO tend to score lower! Those xcel silver scores can be crazy ridiculously high and some teams definitely send their JO girls to xcel in their “off season”.
My youngest moved to JO (she is definitely on the older side for her level) and has tended to place higher than she did in Xcel.
 

Pirouette

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OP, I think we've been to some of the same meets, lol.

Like SurpriseGymMom, my other dd (16) is a dancer, and she is getting ready to start her 11th competitive season. We have seen all kinds of ways to "work the system" to get the win. Sometimes it's covered with a layer of "let's boost their confidence" or "she may practice elite hours but is an intermediate level dancer, so she's being registered intermediate" and it's all about helping them win. Seeing this for so many years made the transition to gymnastics and Xcel so much easier for us. My DD (14) is a true Xcel athlete who practices 3 days a week, participates in her high school cross country and (soon!) track teams, and has time for volunteering and friends from school. There are many, many meets where she comes home empty handed, and although it's not a barrel of laughs, she recognizes that the journey is more important than the hardware. She doesn't want the additional hours that JO at her gym requires, and she likes the flexibility of Xcel.

I hope you and your DD find your happy place when it comes to Xcel. It really can be a great program.
 

ldw4mlo

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And when you get to JO your gymmie will likely be competing with kids who go more hours. Or hold kids back until they can score 37s and so on. Or conditions more...... and so on. Unless of course your at the gyms that have high hours and hold kids back.

It is the nature of this sport.
 
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