Parents Help: Pressure to switch to Excel and leave compulsory track.. :(

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Proud Parent
Jan 29, 2014
Hi all,

I would love to hear your feedback about the situation we're in with my daughter. She's 9 1/2 and in Level 2 on the "pre-team" at our gym. She passed the beginner and intermediate rec classes within 10 months, and was promoted to the pre-team 6 months ago. Since she was 9 at the time, we were warned that she may not get on the pre-team since they only like to accept girls up to 8 years old there, but they made an exception since dd was "good."

Now, the gym's saying that the owner and the junior team coach decided on just a few girls to be advanced from the pre-team up to the "junior team," which is a mix of levels 2/3 I believe. The girls on that team must then train for 1 1/2 years before they're allowed to compete. My dd wasn't chosen to be one of the girls to advance and instead the gym is recommending she join the Excel team. My dd is crushed, crying, depressed (at only 9 1/2??) because her dream has been (of course) to go the Olympic track and at least try to go towards her Olympic dreams. She knows Excel does not go toward the Olympics nor does it help her qualify for college scholarships and a spot on college gymnastic teams.

The gym says she can stay on the level 2 pre-team for another year, but there's no guarantees she'll be chosen to move to their junior team if other "new and up and coming girls" become more noticeable and are recommended instead. The coach who called me from the gym hasn't even seen my daughter do gymnastics and she says there's no formal evaluation nor try-outs for the junior team. It's just the gym owner and a junior team coach who make their decisions based on what the pre-team coaches recommend. She said there's no one at the gym I can talk to about my daughter's progress or why she wasn't accepted onto the junior team.

Is this the way it always works? I come from a competitive figure skating background and this is completely not the way it works in the skating world. Do we take a chance and work another whole year on this pre-team (which dd says was "boring" because she didn't learn anything new all year), or switch over to their Excel and squash my daughter's dreams of trying to go in the Olympic direction?

Or, should we visit some other gyms and have her try-out for their teams instead? It breaks my heart to see my daughter so very sad. I know there's disappointments in life, but to be told at 9 years old that she "can't" aim for her Olympic dreams anymore? I know she's not going to the real Olympics, of course, but do I agree with this gym to squash her dreams of just trying for it?

Thank you for reading, and would love your feedback,
I agree with the others. Personally, I would check out other gyms. At DD's gym, there was a girl who came in from a rec class straight to team at age 10. She was a solid tumbler and caught on quickly. She started with my DD at the old level 4 and has just finished competing level 9 5 years later. The coaches were hesitant at 1st because they had never allowed this before but once they saw she got skills quickly, they moved her rapidly through the levels. It can happen but the gym has to be willing to work with that child. It's not sounding like your daughter's gym is willing. I'd look for a gym who will give your daughter the opportunity to compete JO. Good luck!
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Check out other gyms. If they didn't choose her at 9, I really doubt they will choose her at 10. Many gyms consider this "too old". You have to find the one that will give her a chance. Good luck!
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They've all but told you that they're not going to put her on their JO team, so waiting around another year isn't going to change that. Might as well look around at other gyms in your area and see if another one will offer her a different plan.
I agree with the others. Personally, I would check out other gyms. At DD's gym, there was a girl who came in from a rec class straight to team at age 10. She was a solid tumbler and caught on quickly. She started with my DD at the old level 4 and has just finished competing level 9 5 years later. The coaches were hesitant at 1st because they had never allowed this before but once they saw she got skills quickly, they moved her rapidly through the levels. It can happen but the gym has to be willing to work with that child. It's not sounding like your daughter's gym is willing. I'd look for a gym who will give your daughter the opportunity to compete JO. Good luck!

I'd look around at other gyms too. We have a similar girl in our gym, great tumbler, but had never done the other 3 events, had no dance training. She went on the level 3 team, and in about 2 months has her complete bar routine, and even has her kip. She's 10 or 11 by the way...
How is the Xcel track at your gym? Are the girls clean and doing good gymnastics? How many hours a week do they train? I am an Xcel proponent, but only if it's done right.

It might be a good option. Not if it's simply the throw away program in your gym, but my Xcel kids train along with the Level kids so it's really just a case of competition being different for them.

The attrition rate in lower level gymnastics is extremely high. I'd look for a program where she is happy, so she stays for several years and has the time to improve. Realistically, a ten year old level 3 is not in the running for college scholarships or the Olympics. I say this as a parent of a ten year old who is a wonderful gymnast but also not in the running for any of those things. Of course, I'm sure there are exceptions and it can happen for the exceptionally talented starting at a later age, but it is unlikely. That doesn't mean that gymnastics is not a great sport and that your daughter shouldn't have any goals in the sport. That also doesn't mean you should "settle" for XCEL if she wants to do JO. The main reason for wanting to do JO just shouldn't be because of college scholarship aspirations or elite aspirations. I know you said you understood she wasn't going to the Olympics, but I just point that out because I've seen Xcel work as a program that actually keeps kids (including my daughter) in the gym longer than they would have in the JO program. My child would have quit as a Level 3, I think, but because she moved to Xcel she's learned a lot of new skills and kept moving forward, albeit more slowly than she likely would have she stayed in JO.
I am in the exact same situation. It stinks -- I'm sorry. Because I'm an inexperienced gym mom, I don't have much to offer but my own story and sympathy. This spring, my DD (age 6 -- turns 7 this summer) and three other "older" girls from pre team were directed to Xcel Bronze. The two little ones (age 5) plus one particularly tiny and talented 6 year old were moved to a level 3 prep (JO track) group. Age, body type and "potential" rather than skills seemed to be the primary considerations. Like yours, my DD was very upset (we had the added disappointment of having first been offered the JO track, but then the JO coaches changed their mind).

At the suggestion of many on this board, I checked out the two other gyms in our area. I agree with everyone who is recommending this course. Take a look and see what else is out there.

However, in our case, neither was a good fit right now for our family -- for totally different reasons (that's another story). In the end, we decided to stay put. There is some history of Xcel girls moving to JO at our gym, although it's definitely not a given. Is this a possibility at your gym?

In addition, I have been quite open with our gym -- in a very positive way -- regarding my DD's long term goal of competing JO. Another mom has had similar discussions with the gym. As a result, some good changes have been made to our already solid Xcel program, at least for the new Bronze girls. The four new Bronze girls will work mostly with their former pre team assistant coach (4 to 1 ratio!), and may also have some time scheduled weekly with the JO3 and JO4/5 coaches. In addition, an optional gym day has been added so the girls can have 12 hours per week in the gym (rather than 9 hours per week, which is typical for our Xcel girls) if they want. Lastly, the girls will all learn and compete the JO3 routines as Bronze. Do you have details regarding your Xcel Bronze program? Could it be a good next step?? For what it's worth, I personally found it was tough to change gyms while at this in-between stage (not quite ready for JO3, but older and/or more skilled than many pre team programs) because every gym has a different way of handling girls at this early stage.

In any event, I mostly just wanted to share that you are not alone! Good luck with your journey.
To answer your other question--no, this isn't the way all gyms do it either! Our gym has try-outs, they evaluate the girls there and take into consideration their current coaches recommendations. I would definitely call around and visit other gyms.
Exactly what sevenatenine said.
At her age, like it or not, she is on the older side for a lot of the POSSIBLE, extremely hard to obtain, end outcomes of gymnastics. It's not "fair" but it's true. Unless she is extremely talented and finds a gym that will cater to her and move her through levels at lightning speed, those things are already out of the running.
For my kid too, as a 10(almost 11) yo L5 who is likely to either repeat 5 or go Xcel.
However, she is not by any means too old to get a LOT out of gymnastics as a sport, and who knows, it's possible that she could end up doing gymnastics in high school or even a D3 college (not on scholarship) if she sticks with it and finds a gym that's willing to give her a chance.
There are really sooooo many more advantages to doing gymnastics than to have a specific end goal in sight. Even for the most talented, "non age challenged" gymnast the path is full of pot holes and detours, and there is NO certain outcome.

I wish all gym (and dance!!) parents would just see the journey for what it is without setting their sights on highly elusive end goals that won't happen for 99% of the kids in the sport (mine included)....

That said, I am always an advocate for getting the best training you can, in whatever sport or activity you're doing. So if your DD is not progressing and she has a feeling that the current gym has already given up on her, then definitely seek out what is available elsewhere. If this is simply the way of it in your neck of the woods (it is in some areas), then take a look at the Xcel program and see if it's a good fit for your DD. it may be wonderful for her and allow her to blossom as a gymnast and young lady, having her progress at her own speed without worrying about the rat race of JO and simply allow her to fully enjoy gymnastics on her own terms.
I agree with the others. If they are not taking her onto their junior training team at 9 they won't take her at 10.

Time to check into other gyms if she really wants to try to get into a JO program.

If she decides to stay in Xcel, carefully check into the programs and see which one is a better fit. Gyms that have a great JO program don't necessary invest a lot of time and good coaching resources in their Xcel program. Some do, some don't.

Also, some gyms only want kids in their JO track who they perceive fit close to that "elite" potential in strength, flexibility or who have certain characteristics/ages. And some preteam coaches who do screening haven't been anywhere near a college science class, but may think they are genetic experts. And they can do that because people line up at their door, they can pick and choose using whatever criteria they want, and when their program has attrition, they get lots of their optionals from other gyms anyway because of their strong 9/10/elite coaches. It may work great for them, but that gym might not be the best fit for your daughter.

About the Olympics? All those JO team superstars in the other room have only marginally more chance of getting there than your kid (both of them are way less than 1% and round down to zero), so eh, not to worry. College, heck who knows, but no reason to say never on that one, just get her into a program where she can realize her potential and have fun and enjoy the journey.

Few kids get full ride scholarships. But then again, gymnastics ends at age 22 or so at the latest (most much earlier) for girls, so college really should be about getting an education for a great career if she wants it. If she has to go somewhere that offers gymnastics scholarships, she is ruling out a lot of great universities/colleges, so hey there is even a silver lining to that one. For example, MIT doesn't have a gymnastics team. So, eh, don't worry about that one too much either.
I am another Xcel Proponent (like @sevenatenine2 , our Xcel team works right alongside our JO girls). We only have Gold and Platinum though, and they work with the L6+ girls.
If your gym treats Xcel right, it would be something to consider... I would definitely NOT wait around another year for your team to decide. You could look at other gyms and see if you can find a JO program willing to give her a shot.
If you have a YMCA with a SOLID gymnastics team program, you may even consider that. They tend to "take a chance" on older girls... and some offer competitive opportunities through L9 or L10 (and have sent girls to college with gymnastics scholarships).
If your gym DOES have the right kind of Xcel Program, she may be able to use it as a stepping stone (learn more advanced skills, move up in divisions, and eventually, find a gym where she can transition into the JO program - either through scoring out of L4 and L5 or petitioning at 14 for entry into L6 or L7).
Good luck in whatever you decide.
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Lot's of great advice here about looking at the Xcel program to see if it might suit and/or looking at other gyms. I just want to add one note based on experience with m dd who was an "older" pre-teamer when she first began. She used to complain a lot that pre-team was boring, that they weren't doing new skills etc. So I, as a completely ignorant mother, asked her coach about it. The response from her excellent, rigorous coach was a great eye-opener. She simply said, "What we are doing *is* boring. Of course she is bored; but that is part of gymnastics." She was so right. I didn't realize but every single girl walks in the gym wanting to do back tucks immediately. The girls who can deal with repetition and boredom stay in the sport. I think by now my daughter actually likes the conditioning more than the skills. She likes feeling strong and powerful and she knows it comes from the drudgery. She is just as happy about breaking a personal record on dips, rope climbs, handstand holds etc. as about skills.

Just a perspective
Thank you all, so much, for your incredibly helpful and supportive comments. Thank you, thank you!

I was in tears earlier when a very kind gym mom from dd's pre-team asked me if dd was invited to join the junior-team. The mom was fully surprised when I told her that my dd was only offered Excel since her dd (who's just 6) WAS offered a spot on the junior team and this mom told the gym that her dd was too young and wanted to wait at least another year to move up. AND, this mom couldn't believe my dd wasn't invited since my dd placed 3rd over-all in a mock-meet the gym had last month out of all 20 girls on their pre-team while her dd didn't place at all in any of the meet's events, and her dd can't even do a back kick-over yet while my dd can do ALL the moves on bars, beam, floor, vault (including back kick-overs cleanly over and over again). So, she suggested it does sound like dd didn't get invited because she's 9 (on the older side) and this one coach (out of the 4 pre-team coaches) seemed to be recommending all of her own students from her class be moved up to the junior-team (including the 6 year-old), while my daughter has never even met this coach who apparently was doing all the recommending of her own students to the gym owner to recruit her students only to the junior team. Just sounds like a no-win situation for my dd.

Makes me want to absolutely move dd to another gym- yet the other gyms are 30-60 min away and it's a big strain on our family to drive her that distance while our current gym is 10 minutes away. I will be thinking a lot in the next few weeks about all this, and I agree with the poster who suggested that if dd wasn't picked this time for junior, most likely she wont' be invited in a year- especially since it's obviously not based at all on the child's skill level. What a big disappointment. :( Thanks mom's, you're very kind for replying.
That's a shame. :( with your update, I would look at the xcel program. I personally wouldn't be driving to gyms an hour away unless here was some huge benefits. Your daughter might love xcel, tailoring her own routines etc. I said in another thread yesterday that I wish we had xcel in Australia. It sounds like a great program, no compulsories, not as much pressure, whilst still being competitive.
Realistically, as you said, she's not going to the Olympics. But neither are 99% of kids doing JO. I know you don't want to squash her dreams, but I would gently explain that to her, and see if she wants to giv xcel a go.
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