Thoughts on prolonged TOPs training

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May 17, 2010
Region 5
I would like to hear some experienced parents' thoughts on training TOPs before a child is old enough to test.

Q is a 2005 birthyear. As such, the first year she'll be eligible to test TOPs is the summer of 2012.

She's one of those kids who *likes* to train. She likes the strength tests, loves to climb rope, does chinups on anything she can get her hands on. She knows there is a group that "gets" to work out more, and has asked how she can get into that, too.

So, it's TOPs recruitment time at the gym, and her work ethic has garnered her an application. She's not guaranteed a spot, but she's able to toss her hat in the ring, so to say.

So my question is this. If this were YOUR daughter, what would you do? Would you let her train the extra 2 hours a week (which would bring her total to 2 TOPs, 4 team, with the occasional 2 open gym hours/week) for what would, essentially, be two years?

I won't lie, I'm torn. I would never have considered it, has she not outright asked for it. It fits well into our existing schedule with her and the boys' hockey practices. It seems to fit her personality.

I have the same question into the TOPs director at the gym to get her thoughts. Her team coaches think that she'd be a great fit for it, but understand my concerns. (Have I mentioned how lucky I feel to have coaches that I feel like I can talk to and who really appear to have her best interest at heart????)

So - from those who have been through it - thoughts?

My daughter is in TOPs program. She made the A team last year and just got back from the National test this year and waiting for the result. If your daughter is interested in doing the training, I would let her do it if I were you. However, you want to watch out for any indication of burnt out. Another thing to consider is that will she be able to commit at such a young age. Ask the gym if it is okay for her to try it out for a month or so to see if she really want to commit to it.

Not yet. She may think it looks to be fun, but then the reality sets in of having to be there an extra day for training at age 5, I think she'll just have trouble with focusing for that long. Sounds like she's having a great time with gym, so I would leave it at that until next spring or so. Also there will be talk about testing and then you have to explain to her that she can't go---yet.
Can you let her try it for a while and see how it goes?

That's what I did with my young DD (age 6.5). She was chosen for TOPs training this Fall. It's an extra 2.5 hours on top of her regular practice (4 hours/week).

I was not sure if my DD would like it, and if the extra hours would make her too tired for school. Thankfully, DD loves it! She likes TOPs day better than her regular practices.

If at any time, it gets to be "too much" for my DD, I'll have no problem pulling her from the class.

I forgot to say - This is the 1st year DD's gym has done TOPs. They will not be testing this year, so my DD will do two years before testing, also.
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I don't think an extra 2 hours a week for a total of 6 hours is a big deal. If she wants to do it, I wouldn't worry about. If she thinks working out is fun and she's only doing four hours a week and wants more, I would go for it. It will give her plenty of time to get used to the TOPs conditioning without any worry about testing in the near future.
1st disclaimer: Yes, my DD has done TOPs testing. Yes, my DD made it to the National test. However, we opted not to go to TX. Fast forward - she's an upper level optional now.

Final disclaimer: my comments are strictly biased and blunt but no one should take these comments as admonishment, judgement or advice - strictly opinion.

Is training for TOPs for 2 years before you can even test a "good" or necessary thing? Some will say no harm no foul. Some will tell you it's a must in order to make it to the National test and have a shot at making the TOPs team. I say hogwash. My DD trained for less than a year and made it to the National test. She had never done ANY of the strength and flex training prior to starting the TOPs program. She was not at a gym that was "competitive" nor experienced at training TOPs. She was injured MORE during her TOPs training than at any other time in her gym life so far.

She trains more hours now than she did back then. She still does the TOPs conditioning because she's at a gym that incorporates it into their workout, but the gym does not participate in TOPs testing. (All this is just background. I don't think my DD is the next Olympian though of course as her mom I think she's really, really talented.)

It bears repeating: THIS IS A JOURNEY, NOT A DESTINATION. THIS IS A MARATHON NOT A SPRINT. I "shout" this in a motherly vain, not to be mean spirited. TOPs is not mandatory for ANYTHING. Even if you are looking to make the National team and vie for a spot on the Olympic team. We have current National Team members who never tested TOPs. Food for thought.
I wouldn't worry about the hours but there are some things they should not be doing at 5 years of age as their bodies have not developed quite enough yet.
I say every child is different and only you know your dd best. My dd trained TOPS and tested this summer. She is 7 years old and made the Diamond Team. However, my dd is one of those gymmies that prefers TOPS training to team training. TOPS training has motivated her and given her the love for the sport. But I realize that's more of an oddity then the norm. Good luck to your dd.
I would let her give it a go. If she enjoys it her gymnastics will benefit even if she never tests for TOPs.
Thanks for all the points of view. You've all brought up something different!

I sat down with one of her assistant coaches and posed all the questions that have been brought up here, as well as a few of my own.

1. The younger girls will be grouped together. Some other levels are mixed together, but the L3s are kept together (and separate from the others).

2. As expected, strength and flexibility are the focus, but it is not just round after round of testing type exercises.

3. While strength and flexibility is the focus, there *is* uptraining involved. For instance - all of the L3s (regardless of age) that went through TOPs training last year advanced to L4 this year, and they all entered L4 with their ROBH.

4. Giving it a try is completely acceptable, as is deciding not to continue if she needs to stop.

5. As with everything else at her gym, *yes* it's competitive, but it's also fun, and done in a way to meet every gymnast at her level and inspire her to achieve her own personal best.

As I'm sure you can probably tell from the tone of my post, we're going to give it a shot. Knowing that it's merely a month to month commitment helps - I was worried it was an all or nothing thing for the year.

So, her name is in the hat. We'll see!
I personally don't have experience with my 5 year old training with the tops group. So with that disclaimer, I am happy that you talked to the coach about your concerns and questions. Our gym doesn't put 5 year olds into their tops program. They also have multiple girls make it to A camp every year. Starting later should not be a problem if your daughter finds that she is not ready for the training at 5.
My daughter does however have some of the age appropriate tops skill training as part of her regualar class but the girls don't even know it. This takes some of the pressure off and doesn't add any extra time, money, or days into to her schedule. Not all of the classes at her level are doing the extra tops skilll-strengh and flexibility so I think the coaches are testing these paticular girls to see if they would be a fit for the program at 6. I like this approach because the coaches can work with this group and have a pretty good idea if these girls will be a fit for their program beforehand. I wouldn't be disappointed if the gym didn't pick my dd for tops next year but I know she would be if she knew she was being considered or tried it and then told she wasn't a good fit or not strong enough. I have had coaches talk to me about it since she was 4 but we will see. The classes she takes now are kind of a compromise with her being 5 but the gym also wanting to get started with some of the training now. There are only 3 girls and one is about to turn 6 so I imagine she will start training with the tops group very soon. She is doing exceptionally well.
My dd will have her first level 3 competition this month and I think her teacher forgot because they are focused on different things than the other level 3 classes. She has worked on their routines with them these last few weeks but I think it is kind of funny because they do so much uptraining that she forgot that 2 of the girls actually have to go to competition. Sorry to ramble on and I hope this helps.
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