WAG Gym Challenges and TOPS question

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Proud Parent
Feb 23, 2013
I had posted a while ago about some issues going on at my DD's gym. Other gyms would want her to start competing now as they start competing in lower levels at all the gyms near me. I'm dealing with some other family issues so the fact she isn't competing this year works well for us. Next year we are hopeful that we will be able to do more with both my kids competitive sports. I keep getting told what a great reputation the gym we go to has, but I'm starting to doubt a lot of things. I'm not sure what to do.

Anyway, I would love some input on this. My DD skipped from L2-L4 as did all the other kids in her developmental program. For some reason the kids in their Rec program did A LOT more tumbling last year and they came in this year with round off back handsprings and cartwheels on the beam, the developmental kids only did the L2 routines all year. My DD and her other Developmental program friends are working their butts off and they are making slow and steady progress. My DD is one of the closest to getting a kip after only working on it for 4 months. They are making it crazy competitive promising the girls that the first to get a kip will get 3 leos and a bunch of other gifts. My DD wants it so bad she can taste it and works on her kip at home to the point she is tearing her hands up, but continues through it on her bar at home.

Anyway, I get a frantic call from a mom I'm friends with. She makes me promise not to say anything to anyone, but her DD made TOPS and she was told that she needs to not tell the other parents. My DD did not make TOPS, and to be perfectly honest, while I think its a good program I can't commit an extra 3 days and I hear over $300 for a conditioning program. So one of the times TOPS kids do their TOPS thing is right before one of the team practice times. I get there about 5 minutes early and my DD sees some of her friends in the gym. I knew of course that they were there for TOPS but my 6 year old didn't. I told her to wait for the coach to call her in. Then one of her "gym besties" comes out for a water break between TOPS and practice and says to my DD "hey, where have you been?". My DD almost cried and thought I neglected to get her to the gym on time. After practice I asked my DD if the coaches told her group about TOPS or a conditioning programs some of her friends were chosen for. She said no. I explained. She of course felt like garbage. I tried the whole "you should work harder"... but then thought that is ridiculous because she does work very hard. I did tell her to work on her splits and strength a lot more. Well after a million questions from her I showed her on YouTube what they test in TOPS. She decided to make her own TOPS training at home. She did something, like held a handstand for quite some time and came running to me to call her coach and tell him so that she can do TOPS now. TOPS is not something I'm familiar with as most of my experience is Varsity gymnastics. My friend said that this is not any benefit to the kids that do it and no disadvantage to the kids that don't. I do not see how that is possible. In fact the TOPS kids are now further kicking the butts of the non TOPS kids in things like press handstands and handstand contests. It's discouraging my DD, who asks me why the coaches want to make the other kids stronger when she wants to be stronger too. I'm not sure what to say anymore. Is this even a big deal? Also is it typical for gyms to make it some deep dark secret that some kids make it and others don't? Shouldn't the coaches discuss this with the kids? Do they think it won't be found out? I think now she doesn't trust her coaches the same. Like a betrayal. She tells me that they scare her when they spot her and she feels like they are pushing her off the apparatus. Thoughts? Meanwhile the parent waiting room has gotten crazy... the our kids are great and made TOPS moms and the "other" moms. It's not pretty and some of these moms are thinking their 2 cents about the other kids is warranted, one MOM told me I should remove my kid from team. I'm not liking that at all. My DD wants this, she just doesn't know how to get there and I can't get 5 minutes of the coaches time to ask. They are pushing private classes very hard.
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First of all, I'm sorry that you and your DD feel left out.
That said, I'm going to be blunt (and please bear in mind that I do not know your DD at all, this is just a blanket statement about TOPs which I am very familiar with): not all kids are TOPs material. At our gym, the selective process is very strict and only the kids who are deemed to have certain qualities (body type, muscle to weight ratio, raw talent, attitude and coachability) AND who are young enough will get invited to even the lowest level TOPs training. My own DD certainly isn't TOPs material.... She did the program for about 6mo and it was invaluable to her as it helped her gain enough strength to be able to successfully go straight into L4 instead of doing L3 when she joined team. There are girls on her team, in the same level who DO do TOPs, most are younger than her. Most are better gymnasts than her, but not in everything. tOPs kids have their limitations and issues just like all other gymnasts, and some of our most successful girls didn't do TOps at all. Some did.
I'm a big believer in the program as far as identifying potential, training with the goal of achieving strength and skills faster and fast tracking some girls through the system. It doesn't always work that way, but even when it doesn't, the benefits are obvious.
It is not however, some sort of "if you're not in TOps you're never going to make it in gymnastics" scenario. Plenty of very talented, very successful gymnasts didn't do TOPs.
If your DD and you are seriously interested in perusing TOPs, ask straight up what your DD needs to work on to be considered. Be aware that it is a VERY age oriented program and girls age out rather quickly. You need to have a kid with all the right physical attributed who is also willing to work super hard many hours/week and be incredibly mentally tough. It is really intense and it is NOT for everyone, and that's totally OK!
I hope that helped get you some possible insight!
I am no expert and can't advise on much of your post, but just wanted to say two things: one, I have also noticed team kids do seem to move slower on acquiring the big skills. I assume the reason for this is that for them, it isn't enough to just do the skills, they have to learn to do them well. Perfectly. That requires motor patterning each little piece of a skill so doing it perfectly becomes automatic. And two, any six year old that is at level four is pretty amazing in my book! That other mother is WAY out of line. Avoid this person. Don't let these people get you down. I hope someone else can help you out with the rest.
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Im Not sure how to respond since you did get some of the info from another parent. However I dont feel TOPS is the be all of gymnastics. I can tell you most gyms handpick their TOPS kids. In our gym I an not the owner so I open my TOPS program to any that want to commit. Even if they are too old to test ,they can join for the extra conditioning flexibility work. I love the TOPS program and yes it has enhanced much of their gymnastics... I also incorporate it in their regular practices a bit. I am actively involved in TOPS and have had kids make A , B and Diamond levels almost yearly.
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I so appreciate all of your replies and totally appreciate the blunt, LOL. As far as commitment and coachability, you won't find a better kid. She is tall for her age though and I do know that can make some things tougher, her legs go on for miles so she is bottom heavy yet when she points her toes and has her legs straight she is beautiful to watch. Her weight/height ratio... all I can say is at her well visits she is in the same percentile for both. She isn't a toothpick, but there is no fat on that body. With that said I don't feel I want to emphasize that she wasn't chosen because her of her body type... I can only imagine what trouble/eating disorder that could cause. She in fact, is the odd kid who orders a salad and prefers foods because they are healthy. She has a great work ethic, but does tend to be hard on herself which is why I try not to push too hard, but she pushes herself so hard that I can't help but get "involved" because I'm usually trying to be supportive. I know from my own experience that no, she is not going to the Olympics, that there are many ways to make state championships (including varsity). She loves gymnastics, and she wants it. I'm not sure the coaches see that though this year. She is going through a shy phase. Last year she was more outgoing, this year she seems to hold back. A lot of the TOPS kids that were picked were only 5, a few 6, some 7... and yes they are tiny. She is 6 so I can't use the "you are too young" as she knows the ages of a few of the other kids. I'm not happy with the coaches making this secretive... fine you want a select exclusive group... but a secret? I would approach the coach but... I'm not supposed to know (big eye roll here). Plus, they don't give me the time of day and I don't want them to take anything out on my DD if they find my questioning them offensive or annoying. There are some parents that can chat and get some laughs with the coaches... I'm not one of them. This is the first year it's been this way. I have always had a good rapport with the coaches. When I do try to talk to this one about my child he is clearly distracted and seems to not be paying attention to me. I'm not looking for a buddy but for $$$ per month... don't I get some feedback? Don't I deserve to be treated the same way and get an idea of where my child is at?
Oh I didn't mean too young (I had missed the age of your DD in the first post), we don't accept girls older than 7 to start the program. 5 or 6 is a good age to start!
I also would never tell a child anything that would mess with their body image. There's nothing wrong with, as an adult, knowing that your child's physical makeup may not be great for whatever activity they want to pursue, but it's not something I would mention to my kids (or any kids) unless we are talking a high school senior who is 5'2" and dead set on going to the NBA, lol! I couldn't say whether your gym decided against inviting her because of being tall, but it could be a concern for some gyms.

I'm sorry your gym is making a big deal out of keeping it secret. They are really just asking for discourse among the parents and that's never a good thing.
I still would figure out a way to ask the coach. E-mail, ask someone else in charge... The people who work at the gym discuss things and if you make it known, in a nice, respectful way, that you are interested in finding out more, then the coach in charge of TOPs will know that and can take another look at your DD. It may change absolutely nothing, but at least then you have made your interest known and done everything YOU can. :) HTH!
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If it were me, I'd be looking at other options. There are many red flags in what you've posted, but I think the biggest is how they've handled this with the veil of "secrecy". Unless this is their first rodeo, they know the types of issues that are caused within groups when some are separated and singled out and told to keep it hush hush. Why is it a secret? If the gym offers a program, the parameters of that shouldn't really be top-secret...it's a recipe for trouble. Make it public so there is no question about how/why some are selected and some are not. Scheduling the TOPs session right before their regular class is an extra special touch. Nothing like rubbing a little salt into that skinned knee. :confused:

They clearly don't care about the fact that the way they're handling this alienates little girls and makes them feel bad. I'm sure your dd isn't the only one feeling that way. The fact that they didn't choose your daughter (and can't be bothered to even discuss it with the parents) would motivate me to at least find out what other gyms have to offer. Even if she isn't "TOPs material", she is worthy of respect and that doesn't seem to be happening. I wouldn't even try to fight that uphill battle. They've shown enough of their hand to you already....and it ain't pretty.

I'm sorry for your daughter.
OMG... these responses are wonderful. I have a lot of thinking to do. She has made some wonderful friends. Again, gym has a good rep... but the bottom line is she has to feel respected and happy and I should at least feel respected by those I employ to teach my child the sport and that I can approach a coach. (LOL). The secrecy of a Nationally known program and its credentials is the last straw for me. I think we will be shopping and if the outcome means she has to repeat this level because of the other gyms requirements I'd rather her be a great L4 then a crappy L5 and a L5 and 8 isn't any worse in my mind that being that at 7. I totally believe this sport isn't a race... it's definitely a marathon.
There seem to be a couple odd things about this program? Do you know when the season is where you are? I would expect she'll be placed in level 3 without a kip, but at her age that's not a problem - just a heads up. 6 is too young to compete level 4 anyway, but I know the compulsory season ended in some places and they don't compete again until summer. But in other states we're still in the middle of compulsory season so a 6 year old would have to do level 3.
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I'm sorry you're in a situation you're worried about. I remember some of your post from last time.
I have very little idea about anything. So just posting to show my sympathies and support and a few random observations.
  • Gyms can have fantastic programs and reputations but not be a great fit for a child or their family.
  • I find it bewildering how a coach/dance teacher etc. could think that parents and children don't/won't tell each other stuff. Yet even faced with evidence to the contrary, they (some of the less sane ones) seem to think that this is a right and good approach. This gives a view into how their minds work and how they view their secrecy and lack of communication as fine too. These people sadly don't change their approach in my experience.
  • The gym has missed a fantastic opportunity to really push the TOPs class by making it clear who are in the group and what people have to improve to potentially get in. Or simply offering for people to unofficially join the program, train with them or however it works.
  • Once you stop trusting that a gym/coach/program has your child's best interests at heart it's very difficult to decide to trust them again.
  • Not watching or similar doesn't stop the problem that once you've noticed and started to verbalise, doesn't go away :-( Those little twinges of "is there something here that doesn't quite work" are easily cleared up by good sane advice from others, if it's just normal parental paranoia, sorry, I mean concern ;-) But when it becomes something more, then you can tell if it's time you need to do something about it. You'll be wondering for a while if it's reached that point, then there may be a point when you realize that something needs to be done. It doesn't mean that this point would be reached for another similar child or family, each family is different.
I hope everything works out.
After many years of GCMing, there are some things that stand out to me. First, yes the rec kids get to do skills and whatever they want because they are not competing the skill and parents are paying for the kids to do gymnastics and be happy. Competitive kids must learn everything correctly from the beginning. Our coach says that it takes years for kids learn how to do a PROPER handstand...years.......
Tops, hopes, etc.....ask yourself one question. What kind of life do you want for your 6yo child? How much time are you willing to sacrifice from your family and what is the point of 'normal' are you willing to go for gymnastics? Will your daughter want to spend time with the family? Do you want to homeschool? Will she want to have sleepovers and play outside? Your 6yo does not know this side of serious gymnastics.
Sorry to sound rude but MOST girls are not meant for this program. I have seen two girls, and one boy (FS) in my 7 years in the sport that were MADE for it ....I know 4 of the main gyms in my city.......these children are outliers and would eat this extra training up and ARE physically and mentally superior. I know of many moms who opted for Tops, and whatever other 'special because my daughter is extra special' training only to pull their kids out months later due to misery. ( remember we are talking kids 6-10yo!)
My DD just turned 10 and we just changed gyms and our new gym has Tops, anyone can join.....after that, there is track 1 which is by invite only, girls put in 24 hours a week....then there is homeschool too 40 + hours a week......no thanks.... DD would NEVER give up her life for gymnastics. She loves it, but she loves school, and dinner with her family, and etc.....so she makes the most of her regular gym time....16 hrs...which still is a load!!!
A 6 yo can't make this kind of decision.....only a sane parent can. If your DD is a regular good gymnast, then just sit back and relax! Teach your DD to work her hardest for what she wants....and to have fun! Put it on HER to work for it and don't do it for her .....who knows she might surprise her coaches!
One last thing, the more fun your DD has doing gymnastics, the LONGER she will do it. Take all these posts here and CB and arm yourself with reality before you go into the waiting room with the other CGMS....let them talk away and listen to how silly they sound.....I was always glad to turn down all these special programs, not because my DD isn't good (she is high average) but we are not going to the Olympics, and an academic scholarship is easier than a sports one......just logic.
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Our gym doesn't even do TOPS. We have a successful program with girls at L10 that compete at nationals (and even are event champions at nationals), girls that get college scholarships (not all, but a few graduates each year).....and we train 16 hours/week (20 hours/week during the summer).

Our L4 train 9 hours, L5-7 train 12 hours. L8-10 train 16 hours. The gym is consistently successful without taking away everything from these girls' lives. It IS possible.

My dd is a middle-of-the road gymnast at best. More hours would probably make little difference in her performance.

I understand being disappointed in being "left out," but realize it is possible to be successful without that program.
I totally agree with all of this. As for homeschool, I would likely never homeschool this DD. She LOVES school and is an incredible student who gets academic and leadership awards and while I know she is still very young, I want to encourage her to continue these great things. Yes, not only do I agree that scholarship is possibly easier to get for academics... injuries can happen at any time, bad ones... then what? Her world is shattered? I'm with all of you. Also, I would personally not want a child who is strong academically to choose their college based on gymnastics. I chose my college for the wrong reasons and while I have had a successful career I can't say I have been terribly passionate about my work. It's a means to an end and reality is that there are a lot more years a person has to wake up and go work in life than there are spent doing gymnastics, especially for competitive girls gymnastics. I want this to be fun and give her some experience in a competitive sport if that's what she wishes (I do see value in that for her in the future and by competitive I include Varsity not just club), but I agree... she would be better off being well rounded and family time is very important to me. Gymnastics for her started because there weren't any little girls to play with on our block, I had another little one, and she was a "climber" so she was able to take a class where she could learn coordination, play in a safe place and such and make some friends. I went with the flow, but then the $$$ demands increased and it was hard to see this at times as a "fun" thing it became an investment. Her monthly tuition is a small car payment already. I'm happy to do it if it makes her happy and the sport does, but at this price I feel that I'm still a customer and should be treated respectfully and yes, be honest about the criteria unless the criteria is more subjective than objective. If its objective I won't be offended... how could I be? I work in sales... I win sometimes I lose sometimes based on factual, measureable metrics. When I lose it's a learning experience to make me better... that's what I teach my DD. No, she can't and shouldn't change her body and as someone said no... at 5'2" myself the NBA never came for me despite how much I enjoy playing basketball when I was younger, so I get that and it's so fine. Honesty would be the best policy. I feel like their only responsibility to me is to collect my money and I'm supposed to just sit there, don't question anything. CGM's... I have to say, I have always loved the other GM's there, but since this TOPS thing it's us vs. them. The children are amazing. They cheer each other on and it's beautiful. I live too far to drop off and the gym is in the middle of nowhere. I am taking in what everyone is saying. I also feel that a gym's reputation is secondary. If the child is enjoying the sport they will progress. Definitely will look at the waiting area CGM gossip differently.
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You seem to understand the sports thing well so you will be fine and so will your DD. I sounds as if you just need a good heart to heart with the coach. It is important for every gymmie, and parent to feel valued, no matter what the potential is. Every kid has a special talent that is needed to make the team excel.
I would talk to the coach one on one, with time. I have found that when I try to catch them in between groups, or after practice, it is not a good time......usually before practice is good.
Our gym doesn't even do TOPS. We have a successful program with girls at L10 that compete at nationals (and even are event champions at nationals), girls that get college scholarships (not all, but a few graduates each year).....and we train 16 hours/week (20 hours/week during the summer).

Our L4 train 9 hours, L5-7 train 12 hours. L8-10 train 16 hours. The gym is consistently successful without taking away everything from these girls' lives. It IS possible.


I totally agree with this ....we have been in gyms at both extremes, ones with TOPS programs and without, National Team training centers and not; training 36 hours a week versus 9 hours a week and I have to tell you that while my girls have been successful (multi yr L10s making and doing well at JOs; D1 scholarships; one even did a stint in elite , both made TOPS teams) ; the gym that they have thrived in is the one that saw the big picture...where we train 18-20 hours a week and no TOPS program; girls have gotten D1 scholarships and some who are just going to school for academics ....TOPS did help them with conditioning drills but it wasn't the deal breaker for their gymnastics ...a good sound gym with quality coaches is what makes or breaks your gymnast, period.
.. I have to say, I have always loved the other GM's there, but since this TOPS thing it's us vs. them. The children are amazing. They cheer each other on and it's beautiful.
This is what is so great about children, they can rise above groups, levels and the nonsense going on out in the waiting room. I love that.

I'm sorry your feelings are hurt, mine would be too. Would your feelings be less hurt if you talked to the coaches? Im not sure mine would be. But if you think it would help please talk to them. Who cares if you aren't supposed to know...you found out. It's crazy for the coaches to think you wouldn't.

I wish you had a crystal ball to see which of these little gymmies will still be in the sport years down the road. The extra hours of conditioning has a way of burning out these young ones prematurely. I've seen it first hand with our gym's Tops program.
I wish you had a crystal ball to see which of these little gymmies will still be in the sport years down the road. The extra hours of conditioning has a way of burning out these young ones prematurely. I've seen it first hand with our gym's Tops program.

So true ...of the roughly 120 TOPS team members with my daughter, only 19 remain competing on any level today ...and these were supposedly the ones to watch in the sport...so be careful what you wish for
Gosh. 5 year olds in a tops program? Don't they have to be 7 to even test as "diamond' or whatever?? 6 year olds competing new level 4? That sounds like an awful lot of pressure.

We don't have any tops programs where we live, and there are zero 6 year olds competing level 4 in the entire state. I can't really compare what you are describing to our state bc we just aren't competitive with other states from a gymnastics standpoint. The gyms here are more like what @Amusibus described--girls compete low compulsory levels, very routine focused, perfecting tiny details of basic skills. I believe the youngest age group for level 4 is 8-9. But even by other states' standards, what you are describing at this gym sounds pretty extreme.
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