Parents Why move fast through levels if not going elite?

Parents... Coaches... Judges... Gymnasts...
DON'T LURK... Join The Discussion!

Members See FEWER Ads!
Join for FREE!
Not open for further replies.


Proud Parent
Proud Parent
Sep 25, 2007
So, my DDs best friend (she also does gymnastics and is really talented) were talking about our gyms and the way they move through levels, etc. We were discussing how both gyms have some really young upper level gymnasts and wondering if their goal is elite or not, etc. It led us to question at what pace you would move through the levels ideally and if it is different if you are going towards elite or does it not matter?

I am wondering, if your child has dreams of being an elite gymnast and is working towards that, then should they work through the levels as quick as they can? And if they aren't, should they be held back a bit to slow things down a bit, even if they are really talented?

Just wondering the pros and cons of moving through the levels. What if there is a really talented kid that doesn't want to compete as an elite or parents can't afford elite track? What happens after level 10?

I can see the compulsories being a bit boring since the routines are all the same, but if a child that didn't want to/couldn't go elite, would it be challenging for them to do 2 years at each optional level?

Would love to hear others reasoning. It doesn't probably pertain to my child, but my friend's DD is very talented, very strong, flexible, driven, etc. If she isn't working towards going elite, is their still lots to do while working through? If that makes sense.
I am by no means an expert on this topic, and I'm sure that some of the Level 8-10 parents will have better answers, but as I understand it there are two possible routes to elite. Girls can either just work through the JO system to Level 10 and then, if they are good enough, they can test elite. I understand that you need to have an elite coach, though, so your gym would have to have a coach certified to coach elites. Alternately, girls can use the TOPS/HOPES route to elite, whereby they start very young on the elite road. If a girl wants to go this route, she needs to be at a gym that has these programs. The issue with this route, at least from my perspective, is that it seems to require you as a parent to jump on the elite bandwagon very early - before you really know whether this is what your child wants (before your child is old enough to really know what it entails) - and get into homeschooling and mega hours in the gym.

As for whether one gets enough challenge at the higher levels, I don't really know. I imagine it depends on the girl. I'm sure that many of the skills are difficult to learn and probably take years to perfect. It's probably also difficult to deal with growing and maturing and hanging onto those skills.

We have a 13 year old Level 10 at our gym and several girls who are 8 year old Level 7s likely to go to Level 8 next year as 9 year olds. They will, in all likelihood, hit Level 10 at age 12 or so. I asked one of the parents whether any of them would test elite and apparently the issue comes down to one what the girls' ultimate goals are and whether they and their parents are willing to make the sacrifice - in terms of money, time away from everything else, risk of injury from the hours of training, possibly having to move - for a very remote chance at the Olympics. If not, then I believe many girls spend several years at Level 10 perfecting their skills to have a shot at a college scholarship. As I understand it, there is nothing but elite or college gymnastics after Level 10. I believe many elite girls drop back to Level 10 to spend time on their studies or to just enjoy a more normal life before they head to college.

There is a thread in the Elite section that talks more about HOPES and I believe that the gymnasts' father posts about her desire to do HOPES and go elite. It might have some useful information for your friend. Best of luck to her and her daughter.

Last edited by a moderator:
Mariposasmom, I just wanted to add that I think the rationale for moving fast is to get a child to a higher level of skill before the whole fear thing kicks in, usually around age 11 or so. In addition, many gyms (including ours) try to get girls to skip Level 6 because the Level 7 skills are not that much harder and the scoring at Level 6 is very very tough and even demoralizing for some girls.


That was what I was talking about. I know they have the Hopes and TOPS for the elite track, but wondered why rush through if those weren't the goals. I did think a bit about the fear factor, with the younger ones. Also figured that maybe some even just go on to something else after level 10. I know that as the levels get harder, the numbers drop, so that probably takes care of most of them.

We were just really wondering if you don't have a future elite goal, why be a 9 year old level 8, etc? You know what I mean? I so don't have anything against that, just wondering why. I am not (am hope not to ever be) at that point, but am sure those that are have their reasons and we were interested in them. :D

The college scholarship is of interest to my friend and her daughter already says she wants to compete in college (she is only 4.5!). We also wondered if those years at L10 were just more risky for injury if you were competing it for several years, etc.

Thanks Meg!
We've got 2 girls competing level 10 at our gym. They are high school freshmen. Their moms have said that to have a good chance at a scholarship, the girls need to do several years of level 10. They need to start making and sending out tapes to coaches end of sophomore year. I'm not sure many 1st year level 10s have the skills necessary to get the bonuses required to have 10.0 start values on all events. I suspect without the big skills, attracting the attention of a coach would be tough, so they need several years at 10.

We have a level 9 who is a 6th grader. Her goal is also a scholarship, and she plans to compete many years as a 10.

As far as elites go, there were less than 100 in the country in the 2007 season--and 20,000+ level 4s. I'm thinking elite isn't a realistic goal for very many gymnasts.

Personally, I've never understood the rush. My level 8 is done this year. She's in high school and would like to have a normal life instead of a nightly rush to the gym. Good for her (and my checkbook). I have a 6th grader competing optionals. She could make level 10 by freshman year, so she could realistically go for a scholarship. She doesn't want to. Ok by me (and my checkbook). I figure with our rather casual approach, we've had many years (5!) of good exercise and traveling with the team. Nobody burned bright and burned out early. Nobody's been seriously injured. It's been a good run.
Thanks Geoffrey Taucer! I was thinking of re-phrasing it for the coaches forum, but now I don't have to! :D
I'm curious, is it the Mother of the 4 1/2 year old who is talking about her daughter going elite?

No. She has neither the desire or funds for her daughter to go elite. Her daughter is very talented. She is strong, super flexible and very driven.

The question came up because she was talking to the mom of a girl on team and that girl is a young upper level gymnast. It made us wonder about why the rush if you aren't going elite. Kind of wondering what the ideal schedule of going through the levels would be, etc. She sometimes worries they are rushing her daughter and she doesn't understand the rush.
What's the Hurry?

My daughter started on a fast track at a very young age. TOPS gives young girls a huge advantage. However it doesn't mentally prepare them for what's ahead. By the time my daughter was 7, she was in the gym 22 hours a week - that does not include the travel time - we lived 50 minutes from the gym(one way). After a year, it all starting catching up to her tiny little body. It got worse when she started growing. There were lots of tears and prayers during those days. It soon became apparent that she had suffered an athletes worst injury - a broken spirit. We are blessed because our story has a happy ending but they don't all end that way. I couldn't count all of the former teammates who were burned out and crossed over to the darkside (cheerleading).
I see no harm in allowing girls to repeat levels and enjoy standing on that podium. What's the hurry? Lvl 6 is tough but more the reason to polish those skills. Every parent dreams of thier little gymmie as an Elite gymnast one day but reality dictates new dreams as they get older. A child with Confidence, Discipline, Perseverance and Compassion fills my dreams now.

i am so glad that your daughter is still doing gymnastics and had a happy ending.

i definitely can see how kids can get burned out. they are so young and with school, i just can't imagine. we homeschool and it isn't a factor. we rarely have to rush to the gym or anything, unless we have a field trip that was far away or something. i don't think my DD could do it. she doesn't do well when we are busy all day and then we have gym. they really are amazing little kids.

i have NO dreams of elite. i have hopes that my DD has fun doing what she loves and learns about being a part of a team, working towards goals, etc. winning would be fun, but doing her best and reaching her goals is what i want her to strive for. :D
I am glad you started this thead. I have a 4.5 year old who other tell me is very talented. She has her BHS, back hip on the bar, shoot thru etc. She is very dedicated and works very hard. She is a perfectionist and strives to make everything perfect. If she desires it I would LOVE for her to train for elite. Does that mean she can make that decision now. Nope she is 4.5. Do I want to give her every opportunity to achieve that goal if it is one she has. Yes I do. Our current gym doesn't have a tops program which i so wish it did. Our coach has already been talking to us and more than likely DD will train her level 4's next year with out being able to compete because she just wont be old enough. HUGE bummer for her. I can't see her doing another year on pre-team though because she already has most of her L-4 skills so it would not be a challange for her.

I know Elite dreams are huge but I want our DD to know if that is what she desires and if she has the talent for it we will support her. I won't want to hold her back now just in case that is what she does want latter in life.
my 2 cents is that if a gymnast has a strong foundation, the coach follows the proper progression & the child continues to advance, then let him/her go as far as they want as fast as they want... This is different then pushing a child through the levels. If a child is doing well at their current level and ready for the next it is sometimes worse ( especially for the other competitors) to hold them back.

Advancing quickly through the levels rarely has anything to do with a gymnast turning elite someday. Most gymnasts do not ultimately choose this route... gymnasts should progress for their own personal satisfaction and the desire to do more as well as their love of the sport- not because they (or their parents) want to reach L10 or elite. I personally (based solely on my own child) think that gymnastics becomes an addiction for the gymnast. No different then say a skier that can't wait to try the next slope or the swimmer that wants to beat their time, or even a basketball player that just can't wait to get to the court:D. On that note, progressing through L4, 5 & 6 is much easier then moving quickly through optional levels. Things will eventually slow down for most at some point anyway.
specific answers

To answer your ?'s specifically - this is just my opinion...

"We were discussing how both gyms have some really young upper level gymnasts and wondering if their goal is elite or not, etc. It led us to question at what pace you would move through the levels ideally and if it is different if you are going towards elite or does it not matter?"

As long as a coach can educate/train strong basics the child should progress just fine at the lower levels. If a gymnasts decides they want to take the elite route later on, it could matter at some point. Not all coaches can train to or at the elite level.

"I am wondering, if your child has dreams of being an elite gymnast and is working towards that, then should they work through the levels as quick as they can?"

How quickly a child moves depends on each child. They are all different, but moving quickly early on is by no means an indicator of where a gymnast will "be" someday. Starting young does seem to give a child an advantage (not always, of course it always depends on the child) just because of the fear issues that seem to arise as they get older.

Just wondering the pros and cons of moving through the levels. What if there is a really talented kid that doesn't want to compete as an elite or parents can't afford elite track? What happens after level 10?

There are sooooo many skills a gymnast can enjoy learning, or heck maybe they will even create their own LOL. Gymnastics should not be all about the levels - they are really only guidelines for progression. Unfortunately for some, gymnastics can be a very expensive sport and not all can afford it... making an elite decision can affect the entire family in many ways.

I can see the compulsories being a bit boring since the routines are all the same, but if a child that didn't want to/couldn't go elite, would it be challenging for them to do 2 years at each optional level?

Some gymnasts spend 3 or 4 (or more) years at each optional level. There are many requred difficult skills - especially after L8 - that may take years to learn.

thanks for your replies! i can definitely understand better now after posting this question.

i actually hope that my DD at least makes it out of compulsories so she can have her own music, etc. not sure if she will want to continue that long or be able to make it out of L6, but it would be nice if she could. she currently says she wants to use high school musical for her floor routine. LOL. or hannah montana. or jonas brothers.
Mariposamama, I hope your dd wants to stick with it. We are taking it one season at a time. My dd started out saying she wanted to go to the Olympics, but I think she now realizes more fully just how difficult that would be and she's downscaled her goals - now she thinks she'd like to get to Level 7! :) I totally agree that a gymnast should move at her own pace. I think that pushing is probably what causes many to quit the sport. Having watched the upper level girls at our gym and their struggles, I know that my dd will be lucky to make it to Level 8 or 9. The number of girls drops off quickly after Level 7 due to the difficulty of the skills and the amount of time required to train, not to mention the whole mental aspect of the sport. I've been watching a 9yo level 7 at our gym struggle with her bhs bhs connection on beam and her giants, not because she is physically not capable of doing them but because she is suddenly afraid. She will probably quit after this season. She was the state champion in her age group at Levels 4 and 5. So who knows what the future holds. You can only take it one season at a time, find the best gym you can that is reasonably close and be supportive of what your daughter wants to do.

I look forward to hearing all about your dd's Level 4 season next year! At Level 4 I know she will have fun.


She really can't wait to compete. After going to the L4 meet our gym hosted, she is really excited to move to team. They are being evaluated at the end of March and if they have all the skills on the start chart, they will move up. If not, they said by summer for sure. I would prefer waiting till summer, but if she is ready and the other girls move, I won't hold her back.

Going to that meet helped me a lot to see how much fun they have and the no pressure atmosphere her team had. They were all playing around while waiting in line for their turn on vault and cheering each other on. I feel much better about her moving up now.

Thanks for your support! September used to seem so far away, but now the time is just flying by. Their first competition is the end of September.
whether to go elite

My daughter was almost eight years old when she started recreational gynastics. She was invited to train with the level five team after 8 months and did level five as a nine year old. Although I have two nieces who were high level gymnasts, one elite and one level ten, we really had no aspirations to make it to level ten, much less elite.

Three years later, my daughter is in level eight and training for the Hopes program. But we did not arrive at this level with any preconceptions or plans to skip any skill level. My dd started gymnastics simply to have fun. But the programs in place at our gym helped to identify her talent in an objective way. We were still in recreational gymnastics when we first participated in the national TOPs test at our local gym at the age of eight. The TOPs exam attempts to identify basic physical abilities which are essential to perfom gymnastics skills,such as speed, strength, jumping ability and so on. Each girl was tested and given her score. She was also given the average scores for girls who had reached regional competition and national competition. These statistics gave the gymnast and her parents an assessment of where the gymnast stood at that moment and provided a goal or motivational tool for the gymnast to improve.

Girls who made regionals would again test and a certain percentage of those would reach nationals. At this point, TOPs begins to test the gymast's actual gymnastic skills as well as her physical abilities. We found that the skills demanded by TOPs were far higher than the skill level in which my daughter found herself. At that point, our family realized that our daughter had to obtain additional higher level training(which we got through privates)and her coach decided that dd had to skip level six and train and compete at level seven at the age of 10. This decision was made only after my daughter's entry into the TOPs competition, identification of her physical talent and after much hard work. We did not just decide to train for elite and skip levels when dd started recreational gymnastics.

At age ten my daughter broke her hand but recovered and went to Nationals and missed being selected to the training camp by .1 of a point. At age 11 she suffered a hairline fracture in her foot but made Nationals and qualified for the B camp. We thought TOPs was over(as it ends at age eleven) and that we would just continue in the JO program. But the coaches at the training camp encouraged our coach to have my daughter train for Hopes, which we are now doing. We are doing an additional 4 hours training in higher level skills to train for Hopes, so we are doing a combined 27 hours and train 6X a week. We are hoping to qualify in the next six months or so. But even if she doesn't, she will be that much farther along on the gymnastics skills curve and ready for levels 9 and 10.

But, again, our plans have evolved year by year as dd has achieved one goal after another. I think it would be counterproductive to tell one's daughter at the earliest age that she is going to train to be elite. I think this risks burnout and takes away the spontaneous fun that our dd's should experience in gymnastics. It's good to have long term goals. But maybe it's better to concentrate on intermediate goals on the way to elite. Only a fraction of girls will ever make elite. And just because they don't make it, they should not be placed in a postition where they feel they have failed if they don't make the elite level. Concentrate on each level of success and be ready to move on. Let the coaches decide if and when dd should move up. Don't stress your daughter, but be sure she is in a good gym with the right coaches and programs in place to go higher if the circumstances dictate. There is nothing wrong or surprising for us parents to want their daughter to do great things. But we have to let them be happy and have fun in the process.

Your girls are precious!! Your dd looks like she is well on her way. She's very talented. The little one dancing could not be sweeter!!! Keep us posted on her progress.

thanks for sharing your daughters story. that is awesome that she is doing so well after starting pretty late by gymnastics standards, LOL. those old 8 year olds. at our old gym they were so into getting them in early and seemed to avoid letting older ones start competing which is ridiculous. our new gym, though maybe not the best scoring gym, seems to have a more relaxed attitude.

i just wanted to clarify that i have no dreams of my DD being an elite and am not pushing her at all. frankly, if i could push her AWAY from gymnastics i would. it is so expensive and i have more than freaked myself out reading about injury, burnout, overuse injuries, body image, etc, etc. she loves gymnastics right now, so i support her in it 100%. she is so happy when doing gymnastics and that makes me happy.
Not open for further replies.