For Parents Newbie with 5yo - What Can I Expect?

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RockyMtnAmy

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May 15, 2017
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Hi there. My DD started at our competitive (with Elites, etc) gym about a year ago - coincidentally right after the Rio Olympic games. She was 4 years old at the time and started in the preschool rec class.

We sort of stumbled into this sport. She was displaying athleticism that was quite impressive to me and we wanted to give her the opportunity to channel and develop those skills, as well as have a safe environment for the endless climbing, leaping, and daredevil stunts she wanted to pull. I didn't realize we were attending a pretty excellent gym until well after we got there and I looked up stats -- I had simply picked the closest gym to our house.

She moved up from the preschool class to the kindergarten rec class quickly, and then this spring (so about 9 months after beginning), the coaches approached us about moving up to the competitive track. She's just turned 5 now and is working out twice a week for an hour with the youngest pre-competitive group. I guess it's like pre-pre-preteam (two levels below pre-team). She's working on handstands, backbends, and pullovers (which she apparently got by herself one time, so that's cool).

I'm a structured, process-oriented person, and it's frustrating to me that no one sits down and says "Look, this is how it works to be in this sport and part of this gym." It's exciting to be on this path, and DD is so proud of herself and is having a blast, but... I wish I knew what to expect. In terms of when we might be looking at having to make bigger commitments, etc. I've been lurking around here at CB for a few months, trying to pick up terminology and a general sense of the process, but I'm still lost at this young-kid end.

So. My question. Allowing for the fact that every child develops differently and that we are focused on having fun and learning lots right now.... can you share with me what I can expect coming up in the next year or so? Is having 3 different levels of pre-team-ish girls usual? How long will she spend in each of these pre-team levels, approximately? Are they looking for her to acquire skills before she moves up or just developing a "how to be at practice" mentality? What's the timeline look like?
 

raenndrops

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Every gym is different.
At our gym, we have 3 levels of rec for girls age 5+, with the last level leading to team (IF that is what the family wants).
Some girls spend a short time at Rec Levels 1 & 2 and spend less than a year at Rec Level 3.
Others spend a year or more at each rec level.
Our move ups are based on skill acquisition AND ability to follow directions.

Other gyms with a "competitive track" to team might focus on strength and flexibility and the ability to take corrections OR skill acquisition OR both in determining move ups. Usual "length of time" at each of the pre-team levels might also depend on the first level the gym competes (some start at JO L1, some at JO L2, more at JO L3, and some don't start until JO L4).

Good luck and enjoy the ride.
 
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gymbeam

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Mar 18, 2014
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I've realized it is so different at each gym and also that many a good gym will individualize the path for each girl. Also, what a gym has done in the past can change at any moment as they tweek their program to align with new rules and demands of the sport. Also, even once a girl is on team and reached mid to high levels it's still sort of mysterious figuring out what happens next!

Sorry, not really clearing much up for you but it does sound like your daughter is in a place to reach her maximum potential and is on their radar.

She can't compete Level 4 (the first required level) until she is 7 so until then there are a lot of possibilities for how they will prepare her for that. Some gyms don't compete at all until then, some will do some Xcel meets, some will do some level 1,2 or 3 meets or some just do some in house exhibitions.

So, basically for the next two years you probably won't hear much about competing or promises of a future on JO team. Or maybe you will if they see something that makes them want to pursue an Elite track with her!

Have you tried to ask a few questions of coaches or front desk? I'm sure they'd be willing to at least tell you about their basic framework. I'd also try and friend another parent there who has a Level 4 or 5 gymnast and ask them what their timeline was like.

Best wishes! Such a fun time!
 

notthatmom

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Jul 6, 2015
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Like others have said, all gyms are different. It's hard to say what to expect as far as logistics go because we don't know how your gym works :)
From a parental side of it, honestly just keep driving her to practice (and don't stay and watch!) pay the bills, give her hugs, and be her mom. In other words, let the coaches do the coaching. OH and no gymnastics at home, keep practice in the gym :)
This sport is rigorous and demanding but the lessons your child will learn are with every penny, and every minute spent in that gym. Gymnastics is a long journey, it takes years to perfect even the most basic of skills, so as long as she's loving it, just be the encouraging parent that you are.
She is still so very young, and may decide next week that she likes soccer instead, and that's ok. Just take it one day at a time, and enjoy the ride.
 

Mamabear123

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Apr 25, 2017
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My DD was tracked for pre-team at 5 as well. I wasn't ready for it so I declined the offer. The following year at 6, she was given an envelope with a congratulations to level 3. I went in with zero expectations. I asked the coaches questions as they came up, but basically I just wrote out a check and drove her to meets.
So I guess my advice is, go in with no expectations. Enjoy watching your baby do fun new tricks and let the coaches drive the ship. When they have information for you, they will give it to you. Don't be afraid to ask other parents questions. Other parents, even parents from other gyms have explained things to me at meets. DD just did level 3 and was 6 for the season. I now love helping out new or rec parents.
 

honu

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Aug 29, 2016
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Every gym is structured differently, so your best bet for more information is to chat with other parents at the gym or ask the coach to explain their general process. At this point, enjoy seeing her having fun and learning new skills. If she does progress onto team the hours can multiply quickly. While you can, I would let her experience other activities. Let her try other sports that interest her so when and if the times comes for a bigger commitment to gymnastics she knows that it is truly what she loves and wants to spend her time doing.
 

notthatmom

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I agree with just talking to the gym directly. It's going to give you a good peace of mind to know what is to come. Also don't be scared to ask about the increase in hours, tuition, and fees...as all of those increase dramatically once she is on team. I was lucky to have that info about a year in advance so that it wasn't such huge sticker shock once it was time.
 

John

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May 5, 2017
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My DD started Gym at 5 also. The thought of trying other sports and other things seemed very important to me. While in Rec we tried everything from softball lacrosse to dance. Nothing else took (i was hoping for softball). After this trial period, the hours quickly ramped up. Every few months the coach would come and say she needs to move up she needs more hours I can't teach her anymore in this class. I blindly just increased the hours and time, DD loved every second. I noticed at 3- 3-hour sessions in a week the gymnastics skills really increased. My advice is to be aware gymnastics will consume you DD and your family. I like the journey but you may not.

As for gyms, we have been at two. Also two different governing bodies. Find one that is top notch and one that fits your communication needs, it's a long journey they become like extended family. Let the coaches drive if it's a good gym they have a plan even if it's not obvious to you. I do watch from time to time. DD likes to see me there but we do not talk gymnastics we are just enjoying the trip together.
 

SMH

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Dec 17, 2016
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I think the most important thing with a 5yr old is to let gymnastics be fun! My daughter was 5 when she started on the level 1/2 team, then after a move, did a few months of pre team before starting level 3 at age 6. It becomes serious/time consuming quickly- let her have fun, don't try to focus too much on the destination- just enjoy her love of bouncing and flipping. It will become serious faster than you can imagine!
If you can find a parent who has a child on team they are usually a wealth of information. Every kids path will be a little different, but you can get somewhat of a feel for how it all works.
Good luck!
 

RockyMtnAmy

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May 15, 2017
6
I get what y'all are saying about "letting it be fun," I really do. But I don't think that letting her have fun/releasing expectations and understanding the general process are mutually exclusive.

If I wanted to put her in baseball/softball, I'd probably get some handbook explaining that they are in tee-ball until they are in 1st grade, at which point they start slow-pitch. Fast pitch generally starts around 6th grade, and there's no all-star team until they are at least 8. None of that information precludes my daughter from having fun, and it doesn't mean I'm unreasonably focused on her making the all star team. It just gives us all context for how the sport works for young kids.

I don't really get why this sport is so secretive, like an exclusive club. Why is it on me as the parent to ask the coaches/gym management or even other parents about how it works when I really don't know what I don't know? Would it be so hard to put some of this stuff down into a "Welcome to our Gym!" packet that just explains the basic idea of progression and gym policies? I know there's a team handbook (which is, of course, secret), but she's not on the team, so I can't have access to it.

Case in point: the first day she ever went there (preschool rec class), they left the little kids' area and went to play in the foam pit at the end of the session. I followed them back deep into the gym. The coach turned around, clearly frustrated with me and said, "We don't allow parents back here." There are CCTV monitors for watching the more remote areas of the gym in a room, with no sound. First of all - no one told me where parents were and were not allowed to be, so how was I supposed to know that? Second, I was trying to get a handle on what a gymnastics class was like for my 4 year old - this was a trial class to see if we wanted to come again and, you know, pay them. How was I supposed to do that if I couldn't see very well and couldn't hear anything at all?

Interactions like this have happened on and off throughout our time there. I have even asked them "What do I need to know?" when I'm not sure what direct questions to ask and I don't get straight answers.

After reading CB here, it seems like this is not restricted to our gym, this seems to be the way its done across the board in gymnastics. I don't get why a parent has to fish for information or learn the hard way by committing some huge gym parent faux pas (potentially jeopardizing your own child's experience for some reason) when simple instructions presented up front would have prevented it. I also don't understand why asking for this general process information is equated to being obsessed with your child's achievements in the sport, as opposed to just making everyone feel more comfortable with where they are supposed to be and what they are supposed to be doing.

I'm, generally speaking, a rule follower. I like to know what's expected of me so I can do the right thing. I wish that "just drive her to practice and pay the fees" was sufficient description of what I'm supposed to be doing, but it doesn't seem to be. There's an unwritten set of rules here that I'm having a hard time figuring out and makes me feel like a total dolt.

Any thoughts on why the culture is like that?
 

Mamabear123

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Apr 25, 2017
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I
I get what y'all are saying about "letting it be fun," I really do. But I don't think that letting her have fun/releasing expectations and understanding the general process are mutually exclusive.

If I wanted to put her in baseball/softball, I'd probably get some handbook explaining that they are in tee-ball until they are in 1st grade, at which point they start slow-pitch. Fast pitch generally starts around 6th grade, and there's no all-star team until they are at least 8. None of that information precludes my daughter from having fun, and it doesn't mean I'm unreasonably focused on her making the all star team. It just gives us all context for how the sport works for young kids.

I don't really get why this sport is so secretive, like an exclusive club. Why is it on me as the parent to ask the coaches/gym management or even other parents about how it works when I really don't know what I don't know? Would it be so hard to put some of this stuff down into a "Welcome to our Gym!" packet that just explains the basic idea of progression and gym policies? I know there's a team handbook (which is, of course, secret), but she's not on the team, so I can't have access to it.

Case in point: the first day she ever went there (preschool rec class), they left the little kids' area and went to play in the foam pit at the end of the session. I followed them back deep into the gym. The coach turned around, clearly frustrated with me and said, "We don't allow parents back here." There are CCTV monitors for watching the more remote areas of the gym in a room, with no sound. First of all - no one told me where parents were and were not allowed to be, so how was I supposed to know that? Second, I was trying to get a handle on what a gymnastics class was like for my 4 year old - this was a trial class to see if we wanted to come again and, you know, pay them. How was I supposed to do that if I couldn't see very well and couldn't hear anything at all?

Interactions like this have happened on and off throughout our time there. I have even asked them "What do I need to know?" when I'm not sure what direct questions to ask and I don't get straight answers.

After reading CB here, it seems like this is not restricted to our gym, this seems to be the way its done across the board in gymnastics. I don't get why a parent has to fish for information or learn the hard way by committing some huge gym parent faux pas (potentially jeopardizing your own child's experience for some reason) when simple instructions presented up front would have prevented it. I also don't understand why asking for this general process information is equated to being obsessed with your child's achievements in the sport, as opposed to just making everyone feel more comfortable with where they are supposed to be and what they are supposed to be doing.

I'm, generally speaking, a rule follower. I like to know what's expected of me so I can do the right thing. I wish that "just drive her to practice and pay the fees" was sufficient description of what I'm supposed to be doing, but it doesn't seem to be. There's an unwritten set of rules here that I'm having a hard time figuring out and makes me feel like a total dolt.

Any thoughts on why the culture is like that?

This is my personal opinion from my very short time being a parent in this sport. There aren't really any hard fast rules for how old kids will be at certain levels. There are the usag rules that state kids must be 6 to compete level 3 and 7 for level 4 (but even that isn't a hard fast rule according to another thread). Hopefully once your DD is actually on team, they will give you a handbook with rules, payments and schedules. Not every kids has the same journey through this sport, so I think gyms leave it up to the parents to seek information when they want it. If your DD decides to stay with this sport for a few years, her dreams and her journey would be clear. At 5 years old, gymnastics should be fun and very low stress, just like any other sport for 5 year olds.
 
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GYM0M

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Jul 23, 2013
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So here's the deal.... the examples you've given are both age based programs, but comp gym is not. There are no hard and fast rules, & all programs are different. Also the sport is quite subjective, and individualized. What works for one, might not work for all. Unfortunately, many gyms choose not to publish policies bc there are always exceptions. Definitive timelines also do not work out well.... I understand the innate need to want to plan ahead, it just doesn't always go according to plan.
 

John

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I do go against the gymnastics code. I will never attend a gym where I can not watch my DD, even if I want to watch all 20 hours a week I will do so. I usually only watch a few.

My speculation on this is mostly positive. I believe great coaches, for the most part, are former gymasts or were involved in a gym in some aspect of their lives. These great coaches wish to make each athlete the best athlete they can become. This is where the problem starts. Not every child is the same and not every child can succeed at the same pace. Every child in gymnastics has their own journey on their own timeline. Because of the pace of the Gymnastics journey this sport is very hard both physically and mentally. The great coaches have plans, possibly not shared well enough, for their team members, each and every one. Trust me they do. Those plans are not the same for each child. There is no timeline that says every child can kip by age 7. The skills only get harder and the timeline fluctuates. As parents, we need plans and timelines, but after you see your DD struggle on that skill that is her nemesis you will then have a true understanding of the process.

Hard stuff:
Remeber for coaches and owners this the way they have chosen to make a living. To be able to support yourself and family you have to be successful. Coaches want to be successful. How does a coach measure success? I believe the great coaches wish to share the benefits gymnastics can bring a child who desires to work hard and become great. He wishes to make every athlete the best gymnast they can be, but they have to do all of this while making hundreds of families happy and still make a profit. Tough spot.
 

Natasha

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Jan 28, 2011
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Gyms seem to be notorious for not communicating very well and not having a lot of info out there for teams. I know in part it can change from year to year based on needs, coaches, changes in USAG, etc... I was frustrated about this too when my dd first started a LONG time ago. I had a hard time finding information when my dd started team, and unfortunately, the parents that are around in the gym lobby to ask questions are sometimes the CGMs so then the info you get may not be accurate or may be skewed.... I ended up quickly being involved with the booster club and then that evolved into over the years holding Q&A meetings for new parents to help new parents understand this crazy world of gymnastics and specifically, how it works at our gym. I didn't find that the coaches were ever opposed to parents having the information, it was just never on their top list of things to do as they are pretty overwhelmed with focusing on getting the girls where they need to be, training plans, etc....
 
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SMH

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I think the big difference with gymnastics is that although there is a 'team' it's not really a team sport. Trying to pin down the timelines would be difficult because there are as many timelines as there are children, and every child will progress at a different rate.
I do appreciate that our gym has team hours and tuition/month posted on our website, so at least that piece of the puzzle is available.
 

Randomactsofcheer

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Apr 24, 2016
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It is different for every gymnast and every gym.

DD did preschool and kindergym gymnastics from 3 until she was 5 1/2. She moved from child/parent preschool to "advanced" preschool to kindergym to advanced kindergym in about a year. She was then placed in a "hot shots" pre competitive program. The program focused a lot on strength and conditioning which quickly became very boring for DD. She also started experiencing some back pain which we attributed to all the bridges they were having the hot shot kids do. So we pulled her from the program and put her back in rec. Which also ended up being boring for DD because she was more advanced than the most advanced class for her age group. We started getting some pushback from her about going to class and she began dealing with a medical condition, so she took a break all together.

After a little under a year break from gymnastics, she did all star cheer for two years before she decided to go back to gymnastics (right before her 9th birthday). At her current gym, she went from advanced rec to preteam to team in one month and then competed level 3. At the end of her first compulsory season, we experienced a death in our family that greatly affected DD. The 12-15 hours a week of practice began to overwhelm her for the first time. After a couple of months, we decided it would be best for her to switch to the Xcel track for lower hours and more flexibility when she needed to just come home from school and chill. After being in Xcel now for 4 1/2 months, she has maxed out the amount of competitive Xcel hours her gym offers (8) in addition to attending a two hour non-competitive Xcel class once a week. She is now begging for more gym time and we are considering speaking with her coach to see if it is possible to switch back to the JO track at the conclusion of the Xcel season.

The point of my story is that progression is not typically based on age and many times is not linear. While in softball your DD would move from teeball to slow pitch at a certain age regardless of whether or not she can hit the ball off the tee, gymnastics progression is different for every gymnast and gym. The other five year olds in your DD's class could move up a preteam level every six months while the coach may decide your DD needs to stay where she is for a year. And, after a year, the gym may decide that other kids in your DD's class need to be moved back to rec while your DD remains in the class.

If you want more information on how your gym typically handles progression/level changes, you should ask her coach or the owner directly. But the answer they give may not necessarily be what actually happens with your DD, so you should set your expectations accordingly and be prepared for the unexpected.
 
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mom2newgymnast

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I agree with the others that is really is gym dependent and no one can answer how it works at your gym. But I do agree that your gym should be able to tell you the general progression to expect. When my dd was invited to the training group (pre team at her gym), they had a meeting with the parents where they told us what to expect. It wasn't in great detail but it did let us know that they would be in training group for x amount of time and then they would decide whether they would be invited to team or not. At dd's gym, once you are on team the progression is pretty straightforward. But they are not an elite gym and, generally speaking, it's a level per year.

Have you asked your dd's coach(es) what to expect and they are refusing to answer? Or are they just unapproachable? If it is an elite and successful gym they probably have tons of kids in their preteam levels which probably makes it hard to answer everyone's questions. But, imo, they should be willing to tell you in general terms what to expect for the near future at least (for example "she'll spend 6 months in the pre pre team program and then will be evaluated to move to pre team", etc).
 

triplethreat+1

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OP, I get what you're saying. The first few years my DDs were in gym I felt clueless a lot. We were at one gym for 7 months or so and ODD was invited to team (or maybe preteam, who knows) but we moved. So then I tried to find info about team at gyms near our new place- ha! Impossible. I ended up putting her in rec class as I thought asking for an evaluation would be over the top- esp since I wasn't sure if we wanted to commit to anything. All three DD are now on team teach pi
 
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Gymx2

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Oct 9, 2015
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I've thought a lot about the poor communication piece and have concluded that what makes a good coach and good gym owner are not necessarily the same skills that make strong business managers or communicators. I often find myself saying, "If only they offered a brief explanation for this sudden change...if only they planned to get this information to parents more than a few days in advance...etc." If I wanted a job at DD's gym and was willing to go without much pay I'd love to work as a communications manager for the team- it seems to be something many gyms could benefit from, but most likely can't afford given the other staffing needs.
 

triplethreat+1

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OP, I get what you're saying. The first few years my DDs were in gym I felt clueless a lot. We were at one gym for 7 months or so and ODD was invited to team (or maybe preteam, who knows) but we moved. So then I tried to find info about team at gyms near our new place- ha! Impossible. I ended up putting her in rec class as I thought asking for an evaluation would be over the top- esp since I wasn't sure if we wanted to commit to anything. All three DD are now on team teach pi
Whoops clicked post by accident there... That should say "on team track now".
But sometimes I wonder...
Sometimes I'm a little jealous of a group of moms who seem to know all the ins and outs, whose dds started preteam younger. From what I've overheard most if not all have done gymnastics themselves, some at this same gym.
And this is at a gym that does a pretty good job of communicating.

I do think you'd be better comparing to a non-team sport, maybe golf, or tennis (ok I'm guessing here). How quickly a kid progresses is what determines the next steps.
And the answer your coach gives you will depend on a combination of your gym AND your DD.
 
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