What are coaches looking for in a gymnast?

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I have been looking for an answer to this question as I really hate to ask out loud. I am really trying to see what it is that a coach looks for when selecting a young lady to join pre-team (L3) or team(L4).
Is it all about the skills? Is it about desire? I'm sure some of it has to do with following directions.

I'm sure it's different at each gym.

My DD is 8 and has mixed skill levels I would say she is a L3 in all areas except bars(L2). We started a new gym a few weeks ago and it's amazing how much are other gym didn't teach. She hardly EVER had bar time and when she did it was for a total of 3 min. Honestly she may have had an hour on bars all season (and she went to 2 classes a week).

Anyway...since coming to this new gym he skills have improved and she is now learning about correct body position etc. She works hard at the gym 7hrs a week in her rec class and she conditions herself at home as she has weak arms.

She wants to compete. She wants to be the best she can be. The kid would be in the gym every day if she could. At the same time though...it's fun for her. She said that if she was on team didn't place it would still be OK.
Great outlook!!!

So...is this enough for a coach to bring her on??? The director had met my DD at an open gym before she even took lessons there. The director was helping her with a pull over (she could even get over back then). When I called to inquire about classes she gave us a invite to a special class in which they will be selecting kids for the new team season. She even went as far as to tell me what our schedule would be like in the summer. Do you think she saw something there???

I'm just so anxious ...but I'm trying to be :cool: about it.(((scream!)))
Sep 9, 2007
I know my coaches would always prefer a girl who loved the sport, behaved herself, got on well with the other girls and always gave her all, if that meant 1st, 5th or 100th place, rather than a girl who got 1st every time and was a moaning lazy kid.

Good luck :)
Feb 26, 2007
Why don't you just tell the coach that your DD is interested in team and ask what skills she needs in order to reach her goal. No pressure, no creepy parent stuff just a simple question. Most coaches would be happy to tell you the basic requirements in their gym. It would also help your DD focus on what she needs too.

Good luck, move ups always seem so stressfull.


Oh... the girls gym director knows :) That's why she invited her to this "special class". I am trying to be patient and let things fall as they might. I know the answer will eventually be spoken I"m just nervousand curious. Like most parents I would love to give my DD the world if I could, but we will be Ok no matter what the result. There's always next yr.
I just look at the other girls and they are much further along. I feel like I threw her to the wolves as they have all been attending this wonderful gym for at least the last 8 months. She never seemed too intimidated, even though she's a very quiet girl.


Club Owner / Manager
Mar 23, 2009
West Midlands, England
I am in charge of Talent ID at our gym:
Physical things I look for are:
Good upper body strength ie can do at least 1 chin up
Good core strength - at least 1 leg lift on bars, manage to balance on tip toes on beam etc
Good Flexibility - can do bridge and at least 1 splits (normally bodes well that they can get the other 2 with some work)
Good toe point and straight legs
Amongst other things of course.

Skill wise, I just look for those who are advanced for their age. If a 4 yr old can carthweel it is a good indicator!

After that it comes down to:
Good behaviour, ability to listen to instructions and retain information

But the main thing I look out for above all of this is a desire to improve and a love for the sport.
Like I heart beam said - I'd rather have a gymnast who loves the sport and gives 100% all of the time, but comes 100th in competition, than one who wins everything but moans constantly!

Geoffrey Taucer

Staff member
Gold Membership
Jan 21, 2007
Baltimore, MD
There is a certain minimum skill level the girls must have in order to join pre-team levels at my gym.

But when I say minimal, I mean minimal. Like, they need a handstand and a bridge on floor, the need to have a basic understanding of how to hit a springboard for vault,a nd they need to not be afraid of bars and beam. It goes a little beyond this, but not much.

Basically, if a kid has a little bit of talent (it doesn't take much) and loves the sport enough to want to be on team, we find a preteam group to put them in. From there, the team coaches are much better able to analyze their work ethic and attitude, as well as their knack for picking up skills. Some kids pick up the skills necessary to move forward from this point by being talented. Some pick them up by working their butts off. We'll find a place on team for either type.

I personally would rather coach a hard-working kid with minimal talent than a prodigy with an attitude problem.
As was stated, it does depend on the gym. The gym where I currently work has a really subjective set of guidelines for who may go to preteam, with one exception. The child must show above average flexibility, above average strength, obvious talent, good listening skills, and enjoy the sport. The exception... to be on our preteam you can't be older than 6. Yes, that's right. Only 6 years old. Now, having said that, these mostly 4 & 5 year olds are not doing level 4 skills. They are training to be level 4 by 6, maybe 7 years old. I really don't agree with the age limit philosophy, though it does make training easier because all the kids are very close in size. They also don't carry a lot of the drama that older girls do.

Thankfully, we started a new competitive program last summer. It offers levels 2, 3, & Prep Op. Once the girls have competed all levels of Prep Op and are successfully doing strong level 7 skills, they may go to level 7 (have to have a judge come test them out) with the other girls who went through the compulsory track. These teams are considered recreational and anyone who can successfully and consistently do the skills for the level may join that team. These teams work out fewer hours (2.5 for level 2, 3 for level 3, 6 for Prep Op -- preteam works out 6 hours, compulsories work out 10-12, optionals 16), don't have the top coaches in the gym, only compete 3-4 times per year, and have less conditioning & flexibility training.

Another gym that I worked at would let anyone who got to level 4 compete if they wanted to. If they didn't want to compete, then they still worked out with the team. There was no class option for that skill level gymnast.
Sep 19, 2008
Before I look at any skills, I look for all 3 splits, and a bridge with armpits over their wrists + straight legs. They need that to start with because me and any eventual team coach they end up with is only going to ask for more in that department. I don't put kids on pre-team without those, because in the past I have on the condition that they get their splits since they can't get on team without them. Also because though it's uncomfortable, it's also the easiest thing they can do on their own. Anyway, every single kid I ever put on pre team without having a split or two never got all 3 down all the way. What's sad about that is they usually only had about 4-5 inches to go, and you can get that in a week if you are truly dedicated. So now it's dedication first pre team after without question.

Bars- Pullover, back hip circle

Beam- arabesque, releve turn, straight leg releve walks, nearly vertical handstand is a plus

Vault- I'll take a handstand flatback that's done just on a mat very tight, hard punch on the board is nice

Floor- handstand forward roll, cartwheel, backwards roll to pike, backbend or bridge kickover,

I don't look for anything in particular for strength. If they can do these things they are strong enough to do whatever may be asked of them at their level for conditioning.


Wow...thank you for your feed back. I am amazed to see that many of you share the same ideas. I feel very at ease after reading your replies.

I'm feeling rather optomistic! :goodvibes:
Thank you all so much!


Jan 18, 2009
The gym I work at currently lets pretty much anyone who asks join the team class. Because of this, the skill level ranges from girls who can't do backward rolls and cartwheels to girls who can do ro-bhs by themselves. It makes the group really hard to coach.
Anyway, I also coach some rec classes and look for potential pre team/team candidates in that group. In those girls one of the main things I look for is natural strength. Typically, their skills on bars are a good indicator of this. Girls who can hold a pull up position, support themselves on the bar with straight arms, do a few good straight arm casts, etc.
I also look at progress. Some girls start in my class not being able to do a cartwheel and in a few weeks are doing some of the best in the class. Not all of these girls have great natural ability or the "look" of a gymnast, but they listen and work hard and want to get better.
Ability to listen, follow directions, and take corrections. This is essential! I've had some pretty talented kids come through my classes that just could not listen. I mean, I don't expect little ones to be perfectly focused little robots, I just want to know they are capable of trying and willing to do their best.
Someone else mentioned letting the gym know your daughter is interested, this is a good idea. Sometimes gyms, especially those with large class programs, miss girls who love gymnastics, work hard, and want to get better just because of the mass number of kids. Sometimes just a tip off to the coaches or administration can set things in motion, helping get that kid to the pre-team levels. Don't be afraid of looking like a pushy parent. Just mentioning that your daughter loves gymnastics and wants more hours and opportunities just shows your investment as well as your daughters desire.
Good luck to your daughter!


If you got an invite to special class then they did see something there.

Our gym puts out in their news letter this month actually the criteria for team selection. At our gym there are alot of factors that go into the selection process. The biggest one we have been told is "is this kid a coachable kid" "or is this kid a "team player" There are alot of talented kids out there but if they won't listen to the coach or have the "im the best" attitude it just creates issues. The next thing they look at is the Parents - Will they give the commitment needed to the program and are they going to be one of "those" parents we all dread. Then its skill - does this kid have the skills or potential to learn the skills for team. If a parent is insistant that their kid needs to be on team then during the summer they have a 1 and 2 day a week (3 hour each class) "try-it" team. Most will go for it but usually 90% will drop by the end of July because it's too hard or parents keep pulling kid to go to beach etc. The ones that are left usually 2 or 3 make it to a "team" they usually start with about 20 kids.


If you got an invite to special class then they did see something there.

The biggest one we have been told is "is this kid a coachable kid" "or is this kid a "team player" There are alot of talented kids out there but if they won't listen to the coach or have the "im the best" attitude it just creates issues. The next thing they look at is the Parents - Will they give the commitment needed to the program and are they going to be one of "those" parents we all dread. Then its skill - does this kid have the skills or potential to learn the skills for team.

Cher062...I am so hoping that this is the case where we go. The director already knows how much my DD wants to be at practice. The original reason we were there was that she didn't get enough time in at her old gym. I have to say...this is my DD idea. We use to do cheer for the last 4 yrs but then when she started gymnastics(tumbling) she wanted more...so we offered her more. Then she said she didn't want to do cheer this yr and that she wanted to "focus" on gymnastics. We were really surprised that she wanted to drop cheer but we obviously weren't going to make her stay in cheer.
She's definately a sweet girl and very modest. I on the other hand am really trying to be laid back but it's not easy. I love to cheer on the kids...mine or anyone else's. It's so great to see a child experience success.

Thanks for you guidence :)
Jan 9, 2008
I would give it some time. You said your daughter was put in a specail class so they know she is interested and has talent. I know alot of gyms like my daughters gym will not put a girl who has never competed on the team right away. They usually have to go through a devo class probally the same as the class your daughter is in to get them ready for the team this sometimes could take a whole year so be patient. I am sure you would not want to pay the extra money to have your daughter compete before she is ready. Even if she does not care how well she does I would still want her to be able to do the skills and have some sucess at the meets.


Well, at my gym, the girls who get "picked up" for team are the ones with 2 or 3 oversplits and reasonable back-handsprings. I think this is unfair, because I am not naturally flexible and had a lot of problems with my back-handsprings, but other than that, I was pretty much ready for team a year or two before I got moved up. And what finally fixed my back-handsprings? Joining team and getting all the practice time I wanted.

If you don't have splits and back-handsprings, but most of your other skills, you still have to work your way through the rec classes (you can only move up once every 3 months unless you're "picked") which can take years. I worked in the same rec class with an ex-cheerleader high school student for a coach for 2 or 3 years until someone finally noticed I had almost all my L4 skills and started moving me up, although I still had to go through the rec class levels for one trimester each.
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