Please clarify- they select the youngest athletes, put them in the system, and that is the only talent pool they draw from? If a super talented, well trained elite athlete popped up somewhere at the age of 14, what would happen?
Interesting system- do you know the success rate? How long has this system been in place? What do the coaches in your country think about it? I know its off topic, but I'm very interested.
Hi, well its quite complicated. In Australia there are 3 different levels systems. they are
1. The national development program
2. The national levels program
3. The international levels program.
Basically the gymnasts start out in the national development program and in this program is levels 1, 2 and 3. But it is a little different to the USA. Instead of just 1 set of routines for level 1, 2 and 3 there are 3 sets of routines for each level. Each level has an A, B and C routine. There are competitions held in level 1, 2 and 3 and often 3 divisions for those doing mostly A routines, mostly B routines and mostly C routines. The C routines are the easiest and cover the basic skills that are needed for that level. These are the most popular with recreational gymnasts or competitive gymnasts training a few hours a week only. The B routines are harder and generally done by more competitive gymnasts who are training more hours a week. The A routines are the hardests and generally done by just those gymnasts who are outstanding and identified as talented enough to reach the international level. Those doing A routines a training often more hours a week at level 1, 2 and 3 than most level 6-7's. To give you an idea of the differences.
Level 3 C floor routine contains skills like - handstand forward roll, Cartwheel, cartwheel snap up. Level 3 B floor routine contains skills like back walkover and round off. But the level 3 A floor routine has front handspring to front tuck, and round off back handspring back tuck. So basically right from level 1 the gym must evaluate the gymnast and choose which stream to put them in. From level 1 they decide if they have the potential to train elite or not.
After the national development program most gymnasts will go into the national levels program. Which is levels 4-10, they will train around 8-20 hours a week and compete in regular competitions. Thise program is offerred at the normal gyms.
The gymnasts who have done level 1, 2 and 3 A routines may have the chance to be selected to go onto the international levels program. The international prgram has 5 levels, they are International level 6, International level 8, International level 10, junior international and senior international. To do this program they can't do it at their regular gyms. They must go to one of the few elite training centre in the country (There are about 7 gyms in the whole of australia that offer these levels). From this point they are trained and have their training overseen by the national coach and are being trained up for international competition. If they do not progress at the appropriate rate they will be removed from the program and sent back to train in the regular program.
The system has many good points and many bad points. The good points are that the selected gymnasts train at the top facilities in the country with the top coaches. This is important in a small country like ours where there is a very limited number of gyms and coaches able to deliver such a high calibre program.
The negatives are basically that we have a limited number of gymnasts to choose from. Many of the competitive gyms will not allow their gymnasts to be selected for the international program because it means they will loose them from their gym and they will go and train at the specialist gyms. Gyms often want to hold onto these athlestes that give them so much success but by doing this the gyms are destroying their chances of representing Australia. The other negative is that there is no big goals for non international gymnasts to work towards. basically they get to level 10 and thats it they quit. They can't move from level 10 to elite and compete internationally and we don't have a college gymnastics program like you do in the USA so there is nothing for them. As a result very few gymnasts continue training past the age of 12 or 13.
It is possible for an elite athlete to pop up somewhere at a later age and transfer into the international levels system but it really doesn't happen. Gymnastics is a political world aswell, like I said before the next olympic team has been basically already chosen even though the olympics is still 4 years away. With a few extra's being chosen in case some get injuries or quit the sport.
The success rate of the system is good, we do very well with our limited population. 6th in the world is outstanding. But I personally believe that the system is limiting us a little. Basically we choose a few outstanding athletes and put enoormous recources into making them outstanding., But the USA system also brings about great success by deepening the talent pool so there are more athletes to choose from. Unfortunatly that type of sustem would not have worked here in the past as we just don't have coaches all over the country with the ability to train international athletes.
How to coaches feel? Its a mixed bag, most coaches want what is best for their gymnasts. If that means sending them off to one of the countries 7 elite gyms from the age of 7 or 8 then thats what has to be done.