Parents Hoping for Some Advice RE Xcel vs JO

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Okay guys please bear with me as I know this issue has been discussed ad nauseam, but I'd love your take on our situation now. And I will apologize up front for being so verbose, but I feel like the more information you have, the better you can comment.

I'm the aunt, but in our family there's a village raising our one and only dear sweet gym girl. I'm actually the one paying for the bulk of her gym expenses and I played a big role in picking our current gym. My sister resides full time in East TN while I am bi-coastal. My niece is 4 years old (will be 5 in August but will not start kindergarten this year due to birth date). We started her in her current gym back in September. She was immediately put into Advanced Kindergym which as they explained is pre-team prep. This was her first good gymnastics training place and she has excelled pretty well. The whole focus of this class was to build strength and to condition. She still can't get completely over on a standing cartwheel due to her tiny stature (34 inches and 33 pounds), but she shows some promise and goes over very well on a running cartwheel. I'm not going to say she's a future Olympian, but I think she is the right size and flexibility to pursue the sport perhaps for at least college.

The niece loves her teacher and loves the gym, but the gym only does Xcel. From a business standpoint I understand why they only do Xcel. It keeps more girls involved. I will also go on record as saying I'm very impressed with the gym staff from the owner on down, and I feel good about the choice in sending her there last year. Unfortunately when we made that choice we hadn't found Chalk Bucket and did not know the in's and out's of JO vs. Xcel. Now that I've read on here I find myself worried that this gym won't give her the foundation she needs should she decide later that she wants to pursue NCAA gymnastics.

I know the first thing anyone is going to say is "She's only 4 so why rush it?" because that's also what my sister says I think my sister is also afraid she will regress with a new teacher because she's so taken with the ones she has at her current gym.

There are only 2 gyms I've found in the area that do JO compulsories. One is a non-starter at this time because it's a lot farther to drive, and they have over 100 gymnasts. We'd look at that down the line, but not at this point. The other gym has a good reputation, but we did try it before choosing the current gym and it did not seem like a good fit for the preschool program.

She was invited to pre-team, but they said she's not quite strong enough yet so they sent her back. At the gym that does compulsories their pre-team is 5 year old's, but at her current gym most of the girls were 7 so of course she's not strong enough. And we don't disagree with the decision at all based on the current makeup of the group and her tiny stature. The girl is likely to be going to kindergarten in a car seat. LOL

I wa0nt to make it clear that I'm not having these thoughts because she was sent back It's not a "take my ball and go home" childish reaction. If they did compulsories this discussion would not even be happening. But since they don't, I'm wondering if it's a good time to switch gyms.

So my concerns are as follows:

1 How detrimental is it to leave her in and Xcel only program for her gymnastics growth?
2. Is it possible she will end up bored repeating advanced kindergym because they don't spend a lot of time doing skills (and she was showing signs of boredom in the spring - to the point that she wondered off a few times)? Once September rolls around, they don't take new girls in pre-team until the following June so she would be locked out of pre-team for 9 months at any gym if the move isn't done soon.
3. Would adding a second maybe tumbling only class be a good alternative to make up for possible boredom and give her a chance to improve her floor work to get her more ready for pre-team next year?

I'm an over-thinker I know, but I want to give her the best possible foundation so she will have every opportunity possible for her when it's time for her to make the decision for herself. And I'm afraid not putting her in with a compulsory program will be setting her up to fail. This is not something I want to do.

And one final statement, in no way am I saying she must do gymnastics and must pursue Stanford. We're not setting a path for her to follow, but I believe it is the parents' (or village's in our case) job to lay the foundation so if she has that dream she's ready to pursue it. Make sense?

Would love to hear from parents, especially those local who might be more familiar with local gyms and opinions on them.
I'm not familiar with Xcel, but from what I've read on here, there's not a lot of hope for college gymnastics if she doesn't do JO.

In saying that - one thing in your post stood out to me, does she live with her parents? Are they actively involved? I know you mentioned a sister, is that her mum? What does she want to do? If she's not up to the commitment of finding a new gym, driving her there multiple times a week etc. then it's really a moot point.

I don't think its really something you can decide for another family. Had I known now the impact gymnastics would have on our family, the driving, the fuel costs, the late nights and general brain space it all takes up, I would have reconsidered he sport...
Thanks for the follow up questions.

My sister (her mother) is involved, but she's not the one who would take her to pre-team at any gym because of her work schedule. That would be my mother who would do that. My mother will also take her to school and pick her up. Her father is present but stays completely out of all her activities. It's like he has zero interest.

As for finding a new gym, that would not be hard because there's 1 option. I think my sister is more worried about my niece's reaction to a new place than finding one. She says she understands the need to do so at some point but just isn't sure it's urgent to do so.

We understand the commitment that comes with any sport. I work in professional sports, and if she were a boy she'd be on the best possible baseball travel team (also money and travel). As a girl, especially a small one, her options are more limited. She's also doing cheer, but she does not enjoy it nearly as much as gym. The other thing she enjoys is art which she will get to further explore when she starts school.

Basically what it seems to me is that sending her into Xcel and her deciding later she wanted to try for Stanford or UCLA then it would be the equivalent of sending a boy to a pro scout showcase without first teaching him how to hit a curve ball. Please parents in the know, please correct me if I'm off base.
You mentioned that your gym doesn't do compulsories. While it isn't common in my area, there are many places where it is common to use Xcel as a path to Optionals. Does your niece's gym compete optionals?
If you all like gymnastics, and sounds like you do, and if you are thinking about her path now, then I'm guessing you will want more than XCEL pretty soon. If you want her to compete at the highest of her ability, then she must go compulsory.

Keeping in mind her age, which means she can't compete until 6 I believe, either way she has time to get there. IMO put her in a good gym early so that the path is set from the beginning. It gets harder to change later......

Good luck!
From one over-thinker to another you're exactly right, she's 4. She really just needs to have fun right now. You mention UCLA...honestly, you might as well have said the Olympics with the caliber of the 5 or so girls they add to that team each year.
The most important foundation she needs is enjoyment. And if she's not bored now, I wouldn't worry about what hasn't happened yet. If she's having fun you can really put off this decision until you get a better idea of where she is going to lead you. You'll know if she wants more because she'll make it clear to you. You aren't risking any future success by sitting back and seeing how the next couple of years progress.
Long story short, Xcel will not get her to college gymnastics ( in the D1 competitive mode) so you're going to have to move her at some point if that is the end goal.....but as you said, she's there's plenty of time...and you never know, next year she may not even want to do it and may want to do dance, for example....there's a lot of attrition between age 4 and college gymnastics...

...and given the family situation as you describe (mom not able to drive her due to work commitments, dad uninterested in it, GM transporting her to practice to and from school, you kind of running the show...), I'm not sure if I'd go for this sport as it requires a mammoth commitment of time and resources ( both family and money)for the next 15 years of all of your lives ....I know you said it was a village raising your niece but if you and the GM are the only villagers doing this, it will be tough...
We are in TN and I have seen some gyms that are bypassing JO and using xcel for their compulsories. They test the girls out of the lower JO levels after a few years of xcel then compete JO for optionals. Is this what her gym does? I guess if I were you, I would take a much closer look at their optional program if they have one and see how well these girls are doing (how many make it to Regionals and if any qualify for Nationals).
Your niece is also 4. Plenty of time to see if she really wants to stick with it and what changes you might need to make. DD has been competing now for 5 years (she's now 11 yr. old training level 8). Out of her original training group in preteam, there are only 2 other girls left out of 12 still competing.
As others have said, your gym may just be bypassing Compulsories. Or they may be solely doing Xcel. Either way, the fact that they are focusing so hard on strength and conditioning at a young age is a good thing no matter what "program" they do. If they do, in fact, transition into JO Optionals, then a move can most decidedly wait. She is somewhere that she will get a good foundation that will serve her well later.
You mentioned boredom. I would look into adding a tumbling class or something like that to keep her interest up. Possibly see about adding something non-gym related. Maybe dad just isn't interested in gymnastics... or maybe she will find another sport that she likes just as much (that might be less expensive or have more college scholarship opportunities).
In the next year of so, the entire "village" will need to have a discussion about how far they are willing to travel on this journey. Your niece should be driving the bus, BUT, if it is going to run out of gas by the time she is 10 (nobody to take her to practice and meets), then maybe this isn't the right journey for her... and this is coming from someone that thinks anyone who wants to do gymnastics should be able to do it.

Additionally, I would guess that it is not the 4 year old talking about wanting to compete for UCLA. Maybe if she decides not to do an expensive gymnastics program, you could put the money you would have spent on gymnastics aside in a college fund and she can attend UCLA and compete for their club team (NAIGC). Even if her team does Xcel only, she could compete on the club team and if she was Xcel Platinum or Diamond, she would do great at meets :)
If the gym uses XCel to bypass compulsaries and has optional JO gymnasts (that move into optionals from that gyms XCel program) that are successful at large meets I would not be concerned. If the gym only has XCel gymnasts and no JO optionals I would probably move her to a gym that has a preteam program that is feeding JO compulsaries.
Along the lines of "make sure everyone wants to be on this bus" - realize that gyms often have commitments beyond the driving to practice & meets and writing the check.

My gym also has volunteer requirements - we must work each of the 3 meets we host for 2-4 sessions per meet (so 8-16 hours per meet - basically you give up your weekend). We have to do setup & teardown for those meets (another 3-5 hours/meet.) We must also make food to sell in concessions. Finally, once you reach the optional levels (7-10), you are required to chair a fundraiser.

Of course, all of this is very premature with a 4 year old and your gym's requirements may differ, but it is something to keep in mind as time goes on.
i think you're fine with an xcel only program for at least one more year. at least. if staying there makes everyone happy for now, then i'd stay and reevaluate next summer. good luck!
First of all, I completely understand why you're asking, and I do believe considering these factors now (research and planning ahead for different scenarios) is perfectly reasonable, even with a turning-5 year old. At some gyms, if you're not on whatever 'track' they have at age 5 or 6, then you are considered too old. A shame, but I repeatedly read stories of 7 year olds being tracked into Xcel for age reasons.

So given that your options for gyms are few (basically current Xcel gym, and the nearby JO gym), my main questions would be:

1. If she's "not strong enough" for the nearby JO gym's preteam right now, would they take her next year at age 6 on the preteam if she gains the strength by then? Or would she be 'too old' for their model? If you haven't asked yet, ask straight out what their age limits for pre-team are, and if she would be considered for testing in next year. Also ask what she would need to achieve so you can monitor her progress (i.e., 5 pullups, a pullover, a clean cartwheel, kickover, whatever).

If the answer is "Yes, of course"! Then you may do well to keep her in her present program that seems to focus on the right things (should be lots of conditioning and shape/form drills drills drills), and feel free to add whatever other tumbling/dance/other sport classes to her schedule that might be fun and sneakily increase her strength.

2. What level does the nearby JO gym start competing? If they start with Level 1 or 2, it's probably more likely your niece will have a bigger window of time to get skills and make their team at some point. If most of their girls are 6 year old level 3's and 4's, however, then that is a faster moving train.

3. What happens to the girls at your current gym who compete Xcel? Do any of them move on to JO Optionals at other gyms? (I am assuming your gym does Xcel only, not Xcel plus JO Optionals?). How many hours do the Xcel girls practice at Gold level and above? If there are a number of girls who are able to transition over to JO Optionals after Xcel, and hours are high (at least 9-12) then you may be at a gym who treats Xcel more like JO, and spending some time in the lower Xcel levels may be adequate training for transitioning to a JO gym along the way (though restrictions apply, so that would be another discussion). Caution, though, from what I hear on CB, this is less common, but worth investigating. Tends to vary by region, but primarily by gym.

Planning ahead for the best training you can offer your niece in your area is wonderful. Do prepare yourself, though, that since your choices are limited, it is a possibility that she won't "make" the nearby JO team if they have a more narrow selection criteria. Strength is probably the #1 factor among a majority of pre-team coaches' criteria. At our gym, she could join preteam as a 9 year old, and transfer from Xcel to JO at any time if she was coachable and willing to train more hours. But I'm concerned they 'sent her back' at such a young age, that your nearby gym may be much more rigid.

Good luck!
I would go take another look at the 'other' gym one more time. You had mentioned that it wasn't good for the preschool program. You obviously weren't looking at it from the 'team' perspective. You (or mom) should definitely ask about the commitment required for their team.

Also, if she were to go to the compulsory gym, she would be with girls her own age, which is important. Plus, they would train her for their team and give her all the strength training that she would need for their program.
We were at a gym that did xcel and JO. My daughter was on bronze there with the intention of moving to level 3 the next year. We switched gyms last October/November (can't remember) and she competed in Novice (level 2). She learned so much from the new gym about form. I am extremely pleased with her progress and think she will do well in bronze. Our gym uses xcel to eventually go to JO. She is currently training 6 hours with 2 additional classes. Level 3 at our old gym trains 9 hours.
Remember also that you are in region 8, and Xcel is very competitive. Xcel is just an optional program. If the gym is using it up until platinum and then scoring out of 4/5 and going to optionals, its ok. To me, if she's that young it probably would be easier for her to remember compulsory routines.
Yes, for college gymnastics, she will most likely have to switch gyms. Yes, form, foundation, technique, & conditioning are all very important in the early years of their career. HOWEVER, the BEST thing she should be developing at 4, almost 5, is a love & passion for the sport! This, above all else, will give her the drive she needs to push through the bumps she will experience down the road. AND there will be bumps! Lots of them! So, the truth of the matter is you could wait and she could age out of other local gyms preteams OR you could switch now and kill her passion. In all absolute honesty, based on the dynamics you've described, unless there's some major overhaul, college gym is probably not in the cards. You cannot imagine the amount of dedication that is required from the family. Especially when 'traditional' events, like vacations, school assemblies, birthdays, other social gatherings, must take a back seat to practice. And it will be on top of you before you know it! If all the cards begin to fall in the correct places, and they could, you will KNOW when it's time to make the switch. Boredom will be a key factor.
Remember also that you are in region 8, and Xcel is very competitive. Xcel is just an optional program. If the gym is using it up until platinum and then scoring out of 4/5 and going to optionals, its ok. To me, if she's that young it probably would be easier for her to remember compulsory routines.
I think it is easier with Optional routines for younger ones because there is no deduction for doing skills out of order and as long as you have something that meets the requirements, you get the credit. And if you do it with grace and dynamics and technique, you get great scores.

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