WAG Pre-Team and TOPs variance across gyms.

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Aero

Coach
Fan
Jan 1, 2014
836
33
Michigan, Region 5
Hello everybody! I wanted to post this in the WAG forum because I wanted the widest range of responses; coach, parent, and gymnast perspectives are all welcome, as well as judges and gym owners.

So I am constantly working to refine the team program at my gym, which is a large part of why I was hired. I have already made huge changes in the JO program, and have changed the culture a bit in the Xcel program, too. However, one of the main areas I see problems in, which also happens to be one of the most important pieces of the team program as a whole, is the pre-team program. My gym calls it "prep-team" and it is open to all ages, which is great since there is no age-limiting criteria to getting on team. However, the large majority of kids on the prep-team are a bit too old to be considered for more serious tracks. Since developing a strong, ambitious, and capable JO program that leads to NCAA and elite hinges on getting kids into the program at young ages, this is something I am looking to change. I have no intention on changing the age required to join prep-team, as I love the all ages welcome philosophy, but I am looking to change the mindset to getting kids at a younger age so that the JO program can be fed sufficiently.

Additionally, kids are only accepted onto prep-team every six months. Personally, I feel if a child is identified as being team material, they should immediately have the opportunity to join the prep-team. There is a mock meet held once a year for the prep-team, but I feel that should have no bearing whatsoever on joining. I like the idea of a mock meet, but in the grand scheme of things, it's pretty meaningless. They allow the rare exceptional kid to join prep outside the six month windows, but I think it should be a standard rule. I operated my pre-team in this way before I changed gyms, and it worked out completely fine for me, but my current gym claims they have tried this method in the past and it resulted in most of the kids quitting. In my opinion, this is a reality on any pre-team and team, regardless of how the system works. I wonder if the gym's culture is why the previous model didn't work? Or perhaps it's reflected in the numbers and ages of the kids, or how the kids are trained? Or even in how it's presented to the parents? It's hard to figure out.

Another concern of mine is how the prep-team is coached. I really feel there is not enough focus on strength training, body shaping, and drills/progressions for skills. The kids learn skills, but they are always sloppy, and I feel skills should not be the main focus of a pre-team, but rather building the basics. The prep-team feeds Xcel and JO, and so I really want it to be much more effective at preparing the kids for team instead of ingraining a bunch of bad habits. It can be quite difficult to construct an effective and consistent training plan with kids of so many different ages, too.

Finally, I am looking to start a TOPs program at the gym in the near future. I'm curious to learn from you guys how your particular gym handles TOPs. I'm thinking it would be ideal to grab kids who are six or seven years old, and naturally have a lot of talent and a good body type for TOPs (very strong and flexible). As far as where to pull kids from, I really don't care where they come from. Even if they are a rec kid, if they seem capable and strong enough, I think it could work.


I have three main questions:
  1. How does the pre-team operate in your gym?
  2. What does pre-team training consist of at your gym?
  3. How does your gym pull kids into their TOPs program?

Please feel free to give super detailed answers, as that's kind of what I'm looking for. I'll probably show this to the gym owners too since they are very open to discourse and dedicated to making their business better.

Thank you to my ChalkBucket family! :)
 
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mommyof1

Proud Parent
Jan 31, 2012
2,541
The car
Here is our experience.

Gym #1: Rec coaches were the gatekeepers for preteam and could recommend kids for preteam evaluations at any time of year. Preteam kids could also be moved up to compete at any time as recommended by preteam coaches. This led to ridiculous levels of parental craziness in rec and in preteam, and very high rates of attrition in preteam.

Gym #2: Open tryouts are held once a year for all team-track programs (JO preteam, JO, Xcel). Preteam is treated as a year-long commitment even though kids can technically leave at any time. Very low attrition, much less parental craziness. Rec program is progressive and teaches strong basics, so a kid who has to wait a few months until tryouts to join preteam is not just wasting time.

Also, please consider the child's interest, work ethic, and commitment when determining who is "team material." If you have a kid who says she wants to be on team and is a hard worker, take her seriously and help her develop the skills and attributes needed to achieve her goal. And whatever you do, don't string kids along if they want to be on team but they don't fit the model you are looking for. Send them to a place where they will be welcome even if they are not TOPS material.
 

raenndrops

Coach
Oct 24, 2009
6,788
The 'Wood, Ohio
My gym calls it "prep-team" and it is open to all ages, which is great since there is no age-limiting criteria to getting on team. However, the large majority of kids on the prep-team are a bit too old to be considered for more serious tracks. Since developing a strong, ambitious, and capable JO program that leads to NCAA and elite hinges on getting kids into the program at young ages, this is something I am looking to change. I have no intention on changing the age required to join prep-team, as I love the all ages welcome philosophy, but I am looking to change the mindset to getting kids at a younger age so that the JO program can be fed sufficiently.

I have three main questions:
  1. How does the pre-team operate in your gym?
  2. What does pre-team training consist of at your gym?
  3. How does your gym pull kids into their TOPs program?
First of all, there is nothing to say that you can't consider an older gymnast for more serious tracks. If you are truly doing individualized plans for each gymnast, then you could fast track an older gymnast with potential... or you could allow them to compete JO to THEIR ultimate potential, even if that means competing L7 as a senior in high school. You CAN do this while ALSO running a strong, ambitious, capable JO program that leads to NCAA and elite since NOT EVERY gymnast, even amongst the best you will ever see, will ALL make NCAA or Elite.

So, to your questions:
1. Our pre-team is actually part of the rec program. The final level of rec leads to moving onto team. They can go 1 or 2 days a week for 2 hours a day, but those who want to try out for team are encouraged to come both days for AT LEAST one month before tryouts. Tryouts are in April, but if there is a gymnast that is team material, they can actually try out anytime between April and the end of December (our competition season is early November to mid-March). If they have 75% of the skills at tryouts, they are invited to team.

2. We have strong coaches at this level and they work both skills and strength and shaping. One of the coaches at this level is also a 2nd year Level 8 (training for Level 9). They go to all 4 events each day with side stations for related strength and shaping for each event.

3. We don't have a TOPs program.
 

Jard.the.gymnast

Coach
Gymnast
Apr 12, 2017
1,319
20
First off, I coach both pre team and rec, so I know how both go (I came from rec to team myself as well)
How does the pre-team operate in your gym?
Remember during this post that compulsory means I'm talking about kids younger than 12 and optionals kids older than 12. That's just how our system is.

Kids who start gym either start in rec or preteam. The stronger kids start preteam, the less stronger and also less focused start in rec. Both can get to team, but pre team starts team at a higher level.

Pre team competes as much as the rec kids and the low level team kids (2 meets and states, although you only get to states if you medaled at both meets. Mefaling is top 3 all around. I'm guessing 5 out of 11 pre team kids made it and 5 out of 30 rec kids) They start of in the lowest level for their age, in their second preteam year (if there is one) they do a higher level. After preteam the kids do 3rd or 4th division (divisions run 1 through 6, 1 being the highest) 3rd division has the chance to compete at the national level

When the kids turn 12,they all get to optionals. The rec kids and compulsory team kids all train together at this time. Rec kids still compete 6th division but are allowed to move up while on team, compulsory team kids also can move up but that usually happens less often, because they are already at a pretty high level.

We also have a 1st and 2nd division team. Promising Pre team kids go there, and usually don't get to the team with the rec kids. They are just their 'own' team.

What does pre-team training consist of at your gym?

Lots of basics and drills. Strength and flexibility are usually side stations.

We have standard side stations of standing presses, tuck ups on a stall bar and sit ups. On the low bar, candle hangs are one station, pull up and go forward to pull up pull yourself over again are the others. The last station is swinging and shaping for swinging on a high bar. I only coach them on Monday. On Monday, we always have them in straps. Unfortunately they don't get that in competition until they are 3rd division, but their hands get tired a lot less quickly with straps. On wensday they do use a normal bar

For vault,they all work handstand flat. Also here side stations. We recently also started introducing front tucks, since they would need that for 3rd division next year. Also here side stations, mostly keeping tight things. We have them lay on the ground and then we lift their legs off
It's their job to make sure they stay a little plank, so we can get them to a low candle.

Floor is working handsprings, rolls, walkers, cartwheels, handstands etc. All the things you need to become successful later on.

Beam is jumps, leaps, handstands, cartwheels and rolls as well.

At the end of each practice, we have half an hour overlap with the 'big kids' (compulsory team) and we will usually do flexibility the last 10 minutes with them. Sometimes we also do something more fun, like a new dance (with stretching elements)

Tops doesn't exist around here, so can't help you with that.
 
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Aussie_coach

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Jan 4, 2008
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I believe the secret to an amazing team is an amazing talent pool to pull from. I know many gyms really limit themselves by having a small pre team and then only pulling from that pre team. Even if the gym does not just pull form pre team, ma y gyms will really only emphasis the skills needed for team in pre team, and while rec kids may be considered for team, they are often not training in a way that gives them much of a chance to be considered.

We do not have a seperate pre team, rather every single child under a certain age is coached in such a way that would allow them to take the steps to join the team. Only those with the capacity will make it, but the talent pool is wide.

Obviously to prepare kids for team you must focus on strength, flexibility, body shaping etc. but learning skills are very important too. No point having kids who are brilliantly trained to join your team, if they quit before they ever get to a competition. These are young kids, many have not truly fallen in love with the sport yet because that takes time. The ultimate number 1 priority of a preterm should be to help kids fall in love with the sport. From there you will have committed athletes to groom.
 

mommyof1

Proud Parent
Jan 31, 2012
2,541
The car
First of all, there is nothing to say that you can't consider an older gymnast for more serious tracks. If you are truly doing individualized plans for each gymnast, then you could fast track an older gymnast with potential... or you could allow them to compete JO to THEIR ultimate potential, even if that means competing L7 as a senior in high school. You CAN do this while ALSO running a strong, ambitious, capable JO program that leads to NCAA and elite since NOT EVERY gymnast, even amongst the best you will ever see, will ALL make NCAA or Elite.

Like x 1 million. If your goal is to develop individual kids to their maximum potential, there is nothing wrong with being flexible with age requirements or allowing kids to progress at their own pace. By the way, sometimes it can be hugely rewarding to teach a child who struggles a bit and does not progress quickly but works very hard.

I believe the secret to an amazing team is an amazing talent pool to pull from. I know many gyms really limit themselves by having a small pre team and then only pulling from that pre team. Even if the gym does not just pull form pre team, ma y gyms will really only emphasis the skills needed for team in pre team, and while rec kids may be considered for team, they are often not training in a way that gives them much of a chance to be considered.

We do not have a seperate pre team, rather every single child under a certain age is coached in such a way that would allow them to take the steps to join the team. Only those with the capacity will make it, but the talent pool is wide.

This is fantastic. Many gyms in the U.S. seem to have a different philosophy. Kids are pegged as one of two types early on—team material or one to keep around just to pay the bills. The “team material” kids get extra attention in rec and then get pulled into special “hot shots” or preteam classes right away, where they get the training they need to progress to team. The “revenue-generator” kids just sort of play around in rec and may get strung along thinking that they will have a chance to earn their way onto team. Or they get shunted into an Xcel program that is not serious and doesn’t meet their goals.

As your program grows and becomes more successful it will get easier to ignore the needs of individual kids in favor of your desire to coach winners and get kids to a high level quickly. At least this is what I have observed at our gym.
 
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coachmolly

Coach
Jan 18, 2009
2,990
VA
The gym I'm at is very small, and only Xcel, but maybe some of our program can carryover.

We have a specific pre-team group for little ones (5-8) who seem to have ability in the sport or are just especially driven. We don't limit age because we don't want older kids, we limit the age so they can receive more age-appropriate coaching and because kids 10+ don't typically love being in a group of "little kids." These kids are recommended by class coaches to HC and myself (pre-team director) and we take them as we have space. Currently I'm the only coach for the pre-team group so we limit it to around 7 kids. It's not a fool proof process, sometimes we take a kid per the recommendation of a rec. coach based on the fact that they are good on floor only to find they really struggle with strength. Unless those kids REALLY love gymnastics, they usually pull themselves out when they realize gymnastics is hard. The pre-team kids work a TON on basics, flexibility, and strength (conditioning and flexibility is probably about 1/3 of each practice). We look at the kids in the spring and decide who to move to team and who needs more time on the pre-team track. Some of the kids realize it's not really their thing and opt out. We do have a few pre-team girls who we quickly realized after they joined the pre-team that they had some major struggles in certain areas (strength or flexibility typically) but are so devoted to the sport that they have made it work. Unless their is an attitude issue, I almost always allow them to head to team and get creative with their routines. They aren't the top scorers on their team, but they love it and are great kids. When looking at who to move to team, work ethic and commitment to the sport usually outweigh pure natural talent. But this is also Xcel. In a JO or TOPs program where you can't work around weaknesses quite as much, outright ability matters a little more.

We also let kids come to team directly from the class program. So if we have a kid who is older, joins classes at a time we don't have space on pre-team, or is just really exceptional we keep tabs on them until spring when we make team selections. Our top scorer this year just sort of showed up out of nowhere last year and is now competing for the first time as an 11 year old and doing amazingly well. While she didn't necessarily have the foundation of the kids who went the pre-team path, she has a ton of natural ability and her age and maturity help her to understand corrections and what her body is doing a little better. We have another girl in the class program currently who looks like she will follow a similar path next season. In those cases I try to keep tabs on her progress and make sure she is in a class with coaches who will do their best to prepare her for team.
 
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Puff

Proud Parent
Aug 16, 2014
23
I'm just a parent. Only a couple opinions that I'm compelled to interject.

Couldn't agree more with the direction you are going here:
"I really feel there is not enough focus on strength training, body shaping, and drills/progressions for skills. The kids learn skills, but they are always sloppy, and I feel skills should not be the main focus of a pre-team, but rather building the basics."

About TOPs and selection for TOPs--
"grab kids who are six or seven years old, and naturally have a lot of talent and a good body type for TOPs (very strong and flexible)"
--I would just caution against being overly picky about selection and type here. I think the TOPs physical abilities, which are all they do when they test at age 7, are really geared toward small and slender-legged girls, with just enough upper body to do the tricks. To me, that's old thinking. Many of the best gymnasts now at both the elite and NCAA level are power gymnasts with meat on their bones and strong legs. You'll be lucky if you develop an elite gymnast, but you might develop some college-bound gymnasts, which means college-bound gymnasts will probably be the very best gymnasts you have, and they may not fit the TOPs type at age 6. But you want those kids in your TOPs group because you want to do the very best for them. TOPs does not take into account that power gymnasts usually are BUILT, that so much of the long uphill battle of gymnastics is MENTAL, that so much of the success a gymnast attains is what a gym gives them (though talent of course exists.)
I have seen gyms that pick the lightweight ones, hmmm-and-haw about a few bigger girls, test them to see if they can almost do some of the physical abilities at the onset, then put those selected in a group that gets a couple more hours per week than the other groups, and let them give TOPs tests a shot. And a couple of the naturally-inclined ones (*AT AGE 7*) are successful, and become the chosen ones that the gym gives all their effort to. I have seen other gyms who openly admit they don't give a flying crap about TOPs, put ALL their young ones in a TOPs group that has an extra practice every week, and the number one thing they work on is DEVELOPING STRENGTH, plus maximizing flexibility, and plenty of the shaping and basics you mentioned. And these gyms that are doing more with their TOPs programs, but care less about TOPs, often qualify as many or more girls for national testing than the gyms where it's all about selecting "a good body type" among 6-year-olds.
Essentially, I want to say that I've seen soooo many of the better gymnasts in many gyms that did not look the part at age 6. Girls that were scared and cautious can break through mentally and become hungry, girls that came in too old but were just so easy too progress mainly because of how ridiculously smart and self-motivated they are, girls that were plump and out of place at age 7 but with a little growth and a committed gym DEVELOP into absolutely sculpted FORCES by age 11-12. So don't always look to be handed those magic kids--build them. At least in the years that I've been watching this sport, it seems clear to me that nothing counts for more than a gym's strength and conditioning program, AND the mental make-up of the kid.
 

John

Proud Parent
May 5, 2017
1,592
54
Another Parent and his thoughts.

  • Gym is open to everyone. More kids larger pool for team kids.
  • Coaches who do not coach everyone are not in their sport to COACH but for some other reason.
  • Pre-team is a complicated ideal. Should be open to anyone with the skill at any time. Find a way to consider Too much intensity will chase the kids out prior to them developing the "love" needed to make it to the end of their gymnastics journey. Not enough and they won't be ready to progress the levels.
  • Tops. I do not like TOPS. I believe a coach should give every athlete the same ability to be successful. If a coach feels TOPS type training is something the athletes need then shouldn't all the athletes get that opportunity?
  • There is really a few secrets to being a successful gymnast. The one I find most admirable is the ability to give your all and work hard for such a long time. Find a way to instill this and you will have a great team.
 

Sk8ermaiden

Proud Parent
May 6, 2013
925
  1. How does the pre-team operate in your gym?
  2. What does pre-team training consist of at your gym?

At our old, very competitive gym, talented kids were pulled out of rec starting at 4 years old. It was kind of breezily mentioned to me in passing, and then the week she turned 4, she moved up. The preteam at that age, is only one hour a week, for 4 and 5 year olds. The next year they move to 3 hours a week, over two days - 6 and 7 year olds. Then 6 hours over 3 days at 7 and 8, and then level 3 or 4. It seemed to work well for them for my point of view. They freely drop girls through those three-four years, who they no longer think would be good on team, but the girls who make it through tend to be very motivated, competitive and disciplined.

They work conditioning, drills, shaping. They also spent a disproportionate percentage of their time on the high beam and on the bars. Very few skills were taught until the last year of preteam, but the girls were ridiculously strong.
 
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CLgym

Proud Parent
Dec 22, 2014
1,165
-- I have been at two gyms. Both selected pre-team girls at a young age (4-6 years old mostly), and both had two levels of pre-team. Current gym calls it pre-team and Level 2 (Level 2 does compete in one meet at the end of the year, but is mostly focused on conditioning and basics). Obviously the "higher" level pre-team goes more hours per week. I think it is roughly 4 hrs/week for the first level, and 6 hrs/week for the second level. Focus is on strength, flexibility and basics, although the second year of pre-team is also trying to get the girls ready for L3 so they train upgraded skills.

-- My first gym (super small, selective JO program) only took the best 3-6 girls each year from pre-team for JO Level 3. The rest were pushed into Xcel Bronze. This is what happened to my DD and several teammates -- and eventually prompted our gym change. In fact, of the 4 girls that were pushed into Xcel Bronze my DD's year, only one remains. If you are going to use pre-team to feed several team programs, then I would make sure it is clearly communicated to parents and expectations are understood across all stakeholders. (Note: Our current gym feeds Xcel from the rec program, so this is not as much an issue.)

-- Current gym does TOPS. I think the gym is still trying to figure out the "best" way to do this too.... But generally, all JO levels (starting at L2) work on TOPS physical abilities skills throughout the year, and are tested internally several times a year. Age-eligible girls with the most potential to be successful in TOPS are identified annually around February/March and are pulled into a separate group several times a week to train. It is a subjective coaching decision, and potential success looks different at different ages as the TOPS focus shifts from physical abilities to skills for older girls. (For example, my 9-year-old L6 DD has a slightly higher physical abilities score than another 9-year-old girl in the gym -- they are posted inside the gym on a wall -- but this girl is L8 so obviously and justifiably was selected for TOPS while my DD was not.) The group selected is usually quite small -- just a handful of girls. On the plus side, the gym's system arguably gives every girl a chance to prove themselves annually. On the down side, an annual selection process means the potential for annual drama. And, once the TOPS group is identified, it does receive different (and unquestionably better resourced) training which can create a feeling of us/them (the rich get richer kind of thing).

Good luck.
 

mls529

Proud Parent
Feb 12, 2016
241
45
Pre-team at our old gym was 2 different tracks. One was called something like "Mini Team" and the other was called Pre-team. The Mini-team did TOPs-like training, but didn't actually do TOPs. They practiced twice a week. These girls went into Mini-Team at ages 5 or 6, with an occasional 7 year old in there. These girls had at least level 2 skills with decent form, but they didn't necessarily fit one body type. The goal is to get those girls on team at a young age.
My daughter came up through the regular pre-team track. This is where girls who are at least 8 are placed when they have level 3 skills with decent form. But there were some pre-team girls who were 10 and 11 too.

The level 3 team became a mix of mini-team (basically everyone on that team was offered a spot on the competitive team) and most of the pre-team girls. Some pre-team went to Xcel instead, or just stayed in rec.

I really liked this way of doing things, as it gives kids who may be late-starters or late-bloomers a chance at team. And honestly, some of the very best girls who went the furthest were pre-team girls, not mini-team.
 

Flippin'A

Proud Parent
Dec 4, 2017
306
34
Our current gym has pre-team split into an older and younger group. My DD's in the younger group which ranges from about 6-8 (There might be a five year old but I'm not sure.) The older group is 9 and up, with one girl who I think just turned 12. I think when you're open to any age in pre-team, it becomes very important that you make sure the practice is still developmentally appropriate for everyone. Working with kids who are 6 years apart is a challenge. Presumably they don't move kids up until they feel they have the maturity to handle it, so the groups are combined once they're put on the real team, and it looks like the oldest girls will all be starting in level 4 rather than level 3, so there'll be a little bit of separation anyway.
Apparently they start the younger girls on tops conditioning as well, since they would have time to build the strength while they're still age eligible, but I honestly haven't looked into the tops program very much at this point. One of the other moms told me they tap specific kids for it once they move them up, but I'm not sure how many or how strict the criteria is.
 
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Jazzjerz

Proud Parent
Aug 18, 2013
201
First of all, there is nothing to say that you can't consider an older gymnast for more serious tracks. If you are truly doing individualized plans for each gymnast, then you could fast track an older gymnast with potential... or you could allow them to compete JO to THEIR ultimate potential, even if that means competing L7 as a senior in high school. You CAN do this while ALSO running a strong, ambitious, capable JO program that leads to NCAA and elite since NOT EVERY gymnast, even amongst the best you will ever see, will ALL make NCAA or Elite.

Like x 1 million. If your goal is to develop individual kids to their maximum potential, there is nothing wrong with being flexible with age requirements or allowing kids to progress at their own pace. By the way, sometimes it can be hugely rewarding to teach a child who struggles a bit and does not progress quickly but works very hard.

I beg to differ with this thinking. While I do believe that there should be an individualized gymnastics plan for every kid that wants to do it, each option doesn't have to be available to each kid at each gym. If a gym has specifically stated that the GOAL of their JO program is NCAA or elite, then they would not be wise to allow a level 7 senior in their JO NCAA / elite track program. It would take away a spot from a child with goals more in sync with the gym's stated program goals. Just because not every gymnast in the program achieves the goal of NCAA or elite, that doesn't mean those goals are null and void, and the program should take all girls at all ages. It actually might not be possible to do both, as stated above, due to capacity of coaches and gym size, etc.

At our gym, the JO program has pre-team for two years, before competing L3. Most of these girls are pulled from the rec program. Our L3 team girls are generally between 7 and 9 years old, and our L7 girls range from 10-12 years old. Each year of pre-team is a year long commitment. It is laid out very plainly that the JO program is an NCAA track program, with evaluation of each girl's progress taking place annually. Most of the pre-team girls end up going JO, although some choose (or are offered a spot) to go the Excel route at the end of year 1 or 2. Our Excel team is very competitive and treated well within the gym - it just has different goals that are a better fit for some girls.
 
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mommyof1

Proud Parent
Jan 31, 2012
2,541
The car
I beg to differ with this thinking. While I do believe that there should be an individualized gymnastics plan for every kid that wants to do it, each option doesn't have to be available to each kid at each gym. If a gym has specifically stated that the GOAL of their JO program is NCAA or elite, then they would not be wise to allow a level 7 senior in their JO NCAA / elite track program. It would take away a spot from a child with goals more in sync with the gym's stated program goals. Just because not every gymnast in the program achieves the goal of NCAA or elite, that doesn't mean those goals are null and void, and the program should take all girls at all ages. It actually might not be possible to do both, as stated above, due to capacity of coaches and gym size, etc.

If a gym’s JO program is only designed for girls with NCAA or elite potential, that is fine as long as the priority is made clear to rec parents before they invest time in a gym that may not be a good fit for their kids. It sounds like your gym makes this clear. I would never have my child try out at a gym like that because it would not fit her goal of competing JO throughout high school so she can learn big bars skills.

There are no gyms in our metro area with elite programs and only a tiny handful of kids here go on to the NCAA, so there is definitely room for kids who do not fit the narrow profile of the future elite or NCAA competitor in JO. If a gym chooses to restrict its own JO program in this way, this needs to be transparent to kids and parents. This is a legitimate decision for a program or coach to make, but there are tradeoffs for the program if it chooses to go this route. You need to have a large enough base of potential customers that you can pick and choose.
 

Jazzjerz

Proud Parent
Aug 18, 2013
201
If a gym’s JO program is only designed for girls with NCAA or elite potential, that is fine as long as the priority is made clear to rec parents before they invest time in a gym that may not be a good fit for their kids. It sounds like your gym makes this clear. I would never have my child try out at a gym like that because it would not fit her goal of competing JO throughout high school so she can learn big bars skills.

There are no gyms in our metro area with elite programs and only a tiny handful of kids here go on to the NCAA, so there is definitely room for kids who do not fit the narrow profile of the future elite or NCAA competitor in JO. If a gym chooses to restrict its own JO program in this way, this needs to be transparent to kids and parents. This is a legitimate decision for a program or coach to make, but there are tradeoffs for the program if it chooses to go this route. You need to have a large enough base of potential customers that you can pick and choose.

I 100% agree that the philosophy of the gym should be made clear up front so that parents and gymnasts can make an informed choice. Thankfully, from the first exploratory phone call we made, and continuing on to the try out, this was made super clear to us by the gym owner. He also offers to help recommend other gyms that may be a better fit if his gym doesn't work out. Being in a larger city does allow for a larger talent pool, I suppose, and training girls from a younger age helps ensure fundamentals are there as they grow. I would also assume that as a gym develops a reputation for sending girls to college, that would be helpful in getting girls with that talent and those goals to come join your team.
 
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raenndrops

Coach
Oct 24, 2009
6,788
The 'Wood, Ohio
I beg to differ with this thinking. While I do believe that there should be an individualized gymnastics plan for every kid that wants to do it, each option doesn't have to be available to each kid at each gym. If a gym has specifically stated that the GOAL of their JO program is NCAA or elite, then they would not be wise to allow a level 7 senior in their JO NCAA / elite track program. It would take away a spot from a child with goals more in sync with the gym's stated program goals. Just because not every gymnast in the program achieves the goal of NCAA or elite, that doesn't mean those goals are null and void, and the program should take all girls at all ages. It actually might not be possible to do both, as stated above, due to capacity of coaches and gym size, etc.
I never said the idea of wanting to train girls with the goal of NCAA / Elite was null and void.
What I am saying is that it is okay to accept an older gymnast into Level 3 or Level 4. Maybe she will gain skills quickly and be able to move up quickly (sometimes older gymnasts have more body awareness and can catch on quicker), and eventually make it to Level 8 or 9. THIS might be good enough to compete in NCAA D3 or even D2 if she has a really good event.
If the girl doesn't meet the gym's set move up requirements, it is okay to repeat a level (no matter what age they started on team). If she doesn't WANT to repeat, the option to compete Xcel should be available... I just don't think age should be the only deciding factor on JO versus Xcel... UNLESS they workout the SAME number of hours, and even then, I don't 100% agree with age being the only deciding factor.
Many girls want to be in JO because they WANT the hours. They WANT the intensity. They WANT to learn the big skills. It is unfair to say JO isn't available to them because they are not NCAA / Elite material at a young enough age.
At our gym, all levels of team, JO and Xcel practice together. They have the same hours, same intensity, and the same opportunity to learn big skills. However, most gyms aren't like ours.
As for not enough coaches... as the team gets bigger, they should be able to afford MORE coaches... and / or more equipment... and can re-work schedules to accommodate the gymnasts.
 
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Jazzjerz

Proud Parent
Aug 18, 2013
201
I just don't think age should be the only deciding factor on JO versus Xcel... UNLESS they workout the SAME number of hours, and even then, I don't 100% agree with age being the only deciding factor.
Many girls want to be in JO because they WANT the hours. They WANT the intensity. They WANT to learn the big skills. It is unfair to say JO isn't available to them because they are not NCAA / Elite material at a young enough age...

As for not enough coaches... as the team gets bigger, they should be able to afford MORE coaches... and / or more equipment... and can re-work schedules to accommodate the gymnasts.

But at some point, age vs. level IS a major deciding factor for colleges. A level 7 senior you mention above is not realistically going to be able to compete NCAA. A gym should be honest about the goals for their program, and accept gymnasts that fit that. In the same way, I don't think a gym that only goes up to level 7 (and doesn't intend to change that), should be training girls with NCAA ambitions without letting them know upfront that they will likely not be able to take them as far as they want to go, and the girl will likely have to change gyms at some point.

I don't think it's unfair to tell the girl above who WANTS more hours and intensity that they can't train JO at a specific gym. There is likely a gym that's a better fit for that girl, at that age. My son may really want to play on the top travel soccer team, but realistically, his talent and skill level at his current age prevents that. It's not unfair that he doesn't get to play on that team.

As far as number of coaches, at some gyms, as the team gets bigger, the costs and losses get greater, as there may not be a lot of profit in team. Even then, an owner may not want to have a huge team program, and they don't owe it to anyone to do so.
 
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z2akids

Proud Parent
May 19, 2014
711
DD's gym pulls kids out of rec into their preteam program primarily in the late spring and summer. However, DD started rec classes in mid-September and was pulled to the preteam a few weeks later.

The preteam actually competes in small, local, non-sanctioned meets. They have 4ish meets in late January-March in a local league. They compete at the Xcel Silver and Xcel Bronze levels. When DD participated, she did the old Level 3 routines. They do 1 to 2 years depending on skill and form acquisition. They start at about 6 yeara old and don't have a preset age limit. Anyone who wants to join can try out and they are oretty liberal on their acceptances. Costs are low. Commitment is low. Attrition is fairly high. Think along the lines of a community league for other sports for young kids. Lots of families try out rec leagues in a variety of sports for a season or two before their children find what they love.

Now, DD's gym is not training elites or NCAA hopefuls. Our Optionals program has topped out at L9 so far, with no expectation of training L10s in the near future.
 

SMH

Proud Parent
Dec 17, 2016
653
Pre team is split into 2 age groups, 4-6 and 7+. They pull kids from rec throughout the year, and there is a evaluation for team around April, where a head coach comes and evaluates them for specific skills. There is also ‘open’ tryouts at this time.
No TOPS program at the gym.
 
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