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Mar 4, 2008
My 8 year old loves gymnastics. She's level 5 this year. Unfortunately, we've moved twice in the last two years. First from Tennessee to Scotland, now to rural Kansas. In Tennessee she trained 12 to 15 hours a week and thrived. Her teammates won state last year, and she missed out because she went to Scotland. In Scotland she trained about 8 hours a week and passed her grades with distinction and was to move to the elite team, but we had to leave because of my work.

Where we are now, we cannot find a gym that trains more than 5 hours a week. She begs to work more, but it is not possible. She gets frustrated that she is not getting better when all her friends are (she keeps track on the other gym web sites). Any suggestions as to alternatives? It seems silly to keep spending the money and paying for meets when it just leads to frustration, but she doesn't want to quit. Anyone else have this experience? There are no dance studios in town either. Is there a way to keep her fit enough so that she can progress if we move in a few years? I'm kind of at a loss here. I hate to disappoint her, but the only option for improvement would be to drive two hours each way several nights a week, and that would keep me from any time with my other 4 children.
Hi Sterlingdad---don't know if I can give much advice, but I can totally relate. We live in a very rural area as well, and we do drive 1 hour each way to train. Right now, my daughter is only 6 and has competed as a level 2 this year, so we're only at the gym one night a week for 3 hours, but when she advances, things will change. Also, if she decides to stick with it (which I'm sure she will--she loves it), then we will ultimately have to make the decision to go further away (at least 3 hours) for training. I also have 4 other children at home, so it is definitely a challenge to make it to the practices. My boys (thank goodness) are older (10, 11, 13 and 17), and don't require the constant need of mom anymore, but they do need me. Thankfully, I have both sets of grandparents around to help out. I would maybe go ahead and give her a chance at trying the gym that is 2 hours away---just my personal opinion. You may have others tell you that there is no way they'd do it, but where I'm from, you have to make sacrifices for all kinds of things-----even going to the mall is a challenge!!! We're lucky that we have a Walmart! Driving to get the things we need is a way of life for people who live in rural areas. If you need to talk further, please feel free to contact me, and good luck with your decision.
Does the gym that does 5 hours per week have a competitive team? If so would any of the coaches be willing to let her come in extra for open gym or private lessons? Private lessons would be expensive - but no more so than the amount you would spend on gas driving 4 hours round trip to practice. If there are other parents who would like more gym time, maybe you could approach the coaches as a group? Good luck with whatever decision you make - it sounds like a tough situation.
Check out larger gyms that may offer clinics or camps. Many have clinics over school holidays and camps in the summer. I would try and find 1 gym and stick with them, that way at least she gets known a little by those coaches. While I'm not an advocate of training full time at 2 gyms, you might see if its possible to take her to another gym for a Saturday practice with their team. That at least gives her a few more hours without sucking up your entire week driving back and forth. Now, I personally would only do that after letting her present gym know about it. They've had to have had kids in the past who wanted more training.

Try asking her current coach/owner about getting her more time and if they can't offer it, where would they send their dd?
are you military? Because military families we know have had a hard time finding good gyms near any of the Army posts in Kansas.
I moved just over a year ago too the boonies. The closest gym for my daughter was 1 hr 20 minute drive one way. The first 9 months I drove myself 3 days a week than I talked to some other people that are driving far, that live just south of me. Now we carpool I drive 2 days a week and she trains 4 days a week. Contact the better gym and see if they have students living your way or not, they would know. It helped me out!
We also have 2 groups that carpool to our gym. They drive between 45 minutes and 1 hour each way. Sometimes you can participate even if it is hard to drive a turn. I know one single Mom who can't get off work early to drive the to the gym but can pick up. Another pays a family and doesn't drive a turn, with gas prices what they are it's always an option. I would definately inquire. You might be surprised.
Good advice

Thank you for the good advice so far. Where we are is very limiting. It is over 1 1/2 hours to Wichita, which is the nearest big gym. The local gym is too small to have a full floor, and has no room for Vault (it is a small barn/shed converted to a gym). I've been driving to a gym an hour away that has chance to practice 5 hours a week instead of two here. This way at least she has some practice on a full floor and vault. She qualified for the state meet in USAG for level 5 last week, but she's the only one in her gym to do so.

Based on suggestions, I've at least made two arrangements. I've arranged to rent the local gym a couple afternoons a week so she can work out an extra 5 to 6 hours by herself on the beam and bars, and do conditioning. I also bought them a rope so she could get some upper body strength back. For spring break, the week before the state meet, we've decided to go visit my sister in Tennessee...and have her train 20 hours with her old team and take a week of private lessons from her old coach (something we're not mentioning to my parents since they think we're crazy anyway). It won't be a magic cure, but it will help fine-tune some skills and hopefully she won't feel embarrassed again.

As far a car-pooling, I checked that out when we first arrived and there is no one doing gymnastics here since there isn't a competitive gym (the local one is for toddlers and up to level 3 -- the woman who runs it just doesn't have the time to do more). So we'll see if we can make do and I'll let everyone know how the state meet goes.
Good luck to your daughter at her state meet. It is good that the gym will let her work out extra by herself., and visiting her old gym with privates, I am sure she will do great!
To supplement, I would start having her do conditioning at home.

Install a pull up bar and make a set of parallettes and maybe a floor bar. Get an ab wheel. Buy some theraband tubing. Buy a simple piece of pvc to do stick dislocates with. Build some plyometric boxes or a medicine ball ( or you can buy one ). Hang a rope at home if possible. This stuff is all very cheap compared to buying or building a low beam, cheeze mats or panel mats.

She could be working a lot of handstand stuff at home. Presses, straddle L, handstand pirouetting, walking. Spot if necessary. A lot of dips ( you can have her do chair dips till she can do them on a dip station ) and pullups and leg lifts. Train planche and lever progressions on the parallettes/floor bar and pullup bar.

And a lot of stretching. Basically Tops strength skills.
Resolution after State Meet

Thanks to you all for your responses. Thanks to Blairbob as well for the exercise options. The small local gym is building a 30 foot addition so they can have almost a full floor and enough room to practice vault, so we're just going to keep her here next year. We've worked out an agreement where we can go up several days a week and work out in that gym by herself -- mostly just conditioning. I'm familiar with most of the exercise suggestions, but not the "plyometric" thingy or the floor bar. Is there a good web site that would list the exercises she should do to stay in shape? I bought the gym a good climbing rope and I'm thinking of buying a good vault table for them in exchange for use of the gym. The State Meet was a disaster, but there were signs of hope, but that will be another thread.

One question -- would you all leave an 8 year old at level 5 another year, or move her to level 6? She won't be great at either, but at least level 6 would give her new things to try. Next year will be all AAU instead of USAG, so that is an esteem builder, too.
Where do you live?? I live in Olathe, Ks and of course I have a ton of gyms to choose from. HOw did you like State Meet facility? We were there for level 4 and yesterday we watched level 5's 2nd session so I guess I didn't see your daughter's team. What team is that???
Oh and I think you should leave your daughter as a 5 next year. She is only 8 and it would be good for her confidence especially since you did all that moving. I heard 6 is very tough for judging and sometimes the girls get discouraged because they just don't score as well.

I live in Sterling, which is about 1/2 hour west of Hutchinson -- about 4 hours from Olathe. I thought the choice of gym for the State meet was interesting, as there was far less room than most of the Wichita meets we attended, and no other space for warm-ups when not competing. Also, very little space for spectators. My daughter competed at 11:30am Sunday for the level 5 - 8 year olds (weird having 7-8, and 11-12-13 yr olds at the same time).

A couple weird things happened yesterday that I didn't understand. Instead of having the whole team compete, they often mixed the groups -- which made it hard to follow. On the floor, 4 girls from my daughter's team went, then 4 girls from another team. Then my daughter went. She was the last gymnast on floor for the day after everyone else had finished. She was overwhelmed by nerves since everyone seemed to be watching her, or milling around getting ready for awards. Is that usual? I'm new to the state meet experience.

I was impressed with the preparation some of the teams demonstrated, especially the Kansas City area teams and Folgers from Wichita. Night and day, in my opinion. When we lived in Tennessee, the team was like that. Her old teammates are getting 9.5's or higher on most events at USAG meets, so it is hard to struggle for 8.5's when you know you could be better at a different gym (4 hours a week or so just isn't enough to do really well).

At least she got a medal in one event, so she was thrilled.

What did you think of the facility as a choice?
The Pink Ribbon Invitational Hosted by KGDC was there a year ago and I didn't like the lighting of the gym but overall it is close by and I think they broke up the ages in enough sessions that it didn't feel over crowded. Folgers hosted state last year and I didn't like that facility as the track separated us too much and it wasn't roped off and little ones were almost running out onto the floor when girls were competing. That mixing up groups was going on in level 4 too but not with our level 4 team in any of the sessions but other teams had several teams competing with them but yesterday our team had Wichita gymnastics and Gymnastics Plus girls going in between our 9-10 year old level 5 girls. It was confusing. However, I am so glad they had the electronic score board rented for the meet because at Pink Ribbon both this year and last year, the gymnast numbers were printed so small on the cards you couldn't see it and then the girls wouldn't hold the scores up long enough. I am just happy that state was in town because it was very convenient and I could go watch all our teams if I wanted too. I only watched all 3 sessions for level 4, 2nd session for level 5 and the level 8-10 session. I heard a rumor yesterday that Wichita Gymnastics is most likely going to host next years State Meet at the same place they host the Land of Oz Invitational. Some parents are already excited because they love that facility. They say it is the best one they have ever been too for spectators.
My dd is at the gym that hosted state so I maybe can answer some of your questions. The reason the teams are mixed up at the state meet is because the rotation schedule is predetermined. All the teams are put into 8 roughly even squads without splitting teams. Then it is a randomly drawn to see who goes first on the first event. After that, they drop back 2 girls to determine who goes first on the next event, and it keeps going like that. The coaches and judges are given that rotation sheet to follow. I assume that is required because it isn't done that way for any other meet. Also the age groups are set based on having each session roughly the same size.
The problem in the Kansas City area is there are few spaces to host a large meet. I don't know if the convention spaces here charge more and/or are booked more than the Wichita one but no one uses them for meets. There are some quirks with the high schools that make those pretty much not an option. We lucked out for Pink Ribbon in that UMKC was out of town for basketball--otherwise we couldn't have used that space.
I agree the electronic scores is much nicer! It was supposed to be there for PRI but we couldn't get it up and working-apparently we had no instruction manual. I know when we go to meets with the manual flashing it is hard to see the gymnast number and the girls never seem to hold the scores up long enough--or at least the one you want!
I also have heard that state will be in Wichita next year at Century II--which is a great place. Padded seats, plenty of them, and really not a bad view from any of them.
Those are parallettes and a floor bar.

I can never advocate buying them. A little know how and a trip to Home Depot and they can be made for very little. 150 dollars?! Sta' loca?! ( Ok, I need to stop watching George Lopez ).

Here are some plyo boxes. Usually there should be something around the gym you could use instead ( stack panel mats ). I've been using a chair at home lately, but I can't say this is what I would let a child do. is a pretty good site for conditioning exercises and drills. Bunch of videos too. Don't forget to check out their articles. Gymnastics bodies is good too, but many of these drills are daunting upon watching but the progressions are good for them.

I was just looking at L6 AAU and it didn't seem any different than L6 USAG. What is she scoring in L5 right now? Can she do all her L5 skills decently? Can she do any of the L6 skills? I don't see any reason why she could not train L6 if she was proficient enough in L5 and it is not a safety issue. Have access to a trampoline? Get her to learn a back pullover ( drop on back, back flip over ). It will help a lot with the flyaway and back tuck. I'm not saying skip all the other drills. Look for a coach first at the gym or go somewhere.

Instead of a vault table, I would get one of those stackable soft vaults. Signicantly cheaper and safe. Unless they already have one. If you're in a small gym and have move that vault table out of the way at times, it could be a real chore.

Ever think about having her attend a gymnastics camp during the summer? Not sure if it's in the budget, but it might be a good idea in your case because how things stand.
Thanks for the advice and the websites. They'll help. My daughter has been very inconsistent this year at meets. Usually she'll get high 8's on 2 or three events and then blow one or two. Every AA score has been between 30 and 33. But each event has had a score in the high 8's at some point. Usually beam was her worst, but then she got a 7th place at State. Bars are usually her best and she's gotten over a 9 at USAG. It's just lack of practice time leading to inconsistency. There's nothing she cannot do at 5, but nothing she does well always either.

I'll talk to the coach at the little gym and see what their needs are before I get anything. I just found out that a small gym a couple hours west is closing and the local gym may be getting a lot of equipment from them, so that's encouraging.

It's just depressing because last year when we lived in Scotland she made the national elite team and was going to train with the Olympic choreographer and coach once a month. She has really regressed since then.
Just my opinion on whether to move your dd to L6 or not. I would say she's only 8 and if she's still not extremely consistent with L5 and you have all those challenges of practice time and space for floor etc. let her stay L5 for another year. Doesn't mean she can't start learing some L6 skills. I would say bars is by far the toughie for moving up followed by beam. On bars, the judges are really looking for good form, a routine that flows(no stopping or pausing) plus there is the clear/free hip, flyaway and baby giant to be mastered. Beam has the bwo and full turn plus the overall dance etc. is supposed to look nicer.

Watching L7 meets this year, I've seen some really bad bar routines---kips with arms and legs bent, clear hips that well aren't clear of much, very low casts etc. Either the gyms these girls came from aren't strong on bars or they've just been rushed up through the levels and now its really showing. Get her basics down, more conditioning and see if a coach will watch her routines one on one(probably the one you travel to) to give her tips on little things to improve on each event.

I'm incredibly impressed with how she did at states with such limited practice time and space.
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