For Coaches Why move through levels fast if not going elite (mirrored from parents section)

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

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

Geoffrey Taucer

Staff member
Gold Membership
Jan 21, 2007
Baltimore, MD
From the parents' section:

mariposamama said:
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.


Staff member
Gold Membership
Proud Parent
Club Owner / Manager
Jan 4, 2008
There are a number of beneifits to moving the girls up faster if they are ready, but I want to establish the difference between moving girls up quickly and 'rushing' them. I don't believe there is any point in holding girls back just to mark time, or just to slow down their progress. But rushing can be dangerous too. If girls are moved up too fast they may be performing skills that are unsafe and competing in an environment they are not ready for. But if they are ready we move them up.

There are many clubs around here who keep girls in level 4 for 3 or 4 years. This is because in Australia we have a different system and the kids can do many bonus skills, so the skills are getting harder but they are in the same level. Why do they stay in the same level? So they can win as many competitions as possible. But there are thousands of level 4's and not many level 7-10's at all.

The fact is that gymnastics is a sport dominated by young kids. It is hard to keep kids in sport from about the age of 12. The start to want to spend more time with friends and less time in the gym. If those kids have spent 2 years at every level and don't feel like they are progressing we are going to lose them. If kids are being held back for no good reason they will get bored and they will not stick to the sport.

Every child should be allowed to move at their own pace, for some that pace is fast. You really can't say that a child isn't aiming for elite. Not many kids do, but that doesn't mean they won't change their minds.

This child may decide now that she doesn't want to go elite, what if they slow her progress down and she reaches an age where she changes her mind and wants to go elite, she will be regretting having her progress slowed down. Elite feels like a crazy unrealistic goal to many parents at the lower levels but when their kids hit level 10 things may change. The child will be older and have stronger goals and desires. AGain it isn;t eveb fair to say, what if the parents can't afford the elite track. Financial situations can change, but whats more priorities can change. Perhaps one day that child will reach level 10 and win the nationals, the family may decide that they are going to sacrifice many things for their daughter to continue on to elite.

Please let me STRESS that there is a lot more to gymnastics after level 10. I have noticed that many in the USA have a mind set that level 10 is it and then there is elite and thats all. But here in Australia it would be very, very rare for a child to reach level 10 and then stop being involved in the gymnastics world.

Going elite is one option, college gymnastics is another option. But there are many more, many kids can turn their gymnastics into life long careers as coaches. Their high level training as a child makes a huge difference. Others may choose to move into the world of professional performing in places like the circus, acrobatic display groups. Both these careers are unbelievably rewarding. The first to make a huge difference in many, many kids lives and the second to entertain so many and make them happy.

Many level 10 gymnasts then go onto other gymsports, cheerleading for example which can also lead to college scholarships and careers. Many turn to trampoline sports, power tumbling, sports acrobatics and many of those with level 10 gymnastics skills could go on to compete internationally.

Many of our ex elites also find new sporting careers as divers and in other sports that require acrobatic ability.


Nov 12, 2007
My view on this topic is probably idealistic. Sadly things don’t work like that and if i have to be realistic i know it won't until you run things your own way. None the less these are the facts.

There is a HUGE! emphasis in sports (any sport, especially individual sports) to succeed at an early age, which does not necessarily fit with the science behind creating long term athletes. Herbert Simon (a nobel laureate) quoted by wikipedia as one of the most influential social scientists of the 20th century said (through research) "it takes 10years of extensive practice to excel in anything", this has been further worked by Ericsson and associates to = the 10000hrs rule which = "slightly more then 3hrs of deliberate practice daily for 10years". Just that should make you start thinking about where you can get to with most gymnasts.

The truth is that in most countries (aside from possible some old Russian states and Russian itself, and china... communist countries in general) athletes are pushed HARD and fast to get to get to a high as fast as possible, with a desire of for quick results and an emphasis on competitive performance and winning. As a result athletes undergo hard sports specific training without ever really grasping the basic skill and fitness development. I mean look at the gymnast on the world circuit whose form is far from perfect...why?!.

This is a general rule for the western world.. Look at all the miracle wonder drugs for weights loss, the quick money making schemes, credit cards...people just want to get to the final product HARD and fast without really spending the time to master the basics..Kids are taught this from an early age, not just through the sports, but through all most everything.

Like Johann Friedrich Von Schiller said "Only those who have the patience to do simple things perfectly will acquire the skill to do difficult things easily". Every coach should know that basics are KEY! to gymnastics, but how much do we realllllly dedicate to basics? ... think about in comparison to the 10,000 hr rule... where does that time go in your sessions. Just today i was reading a fantastic article on this topic by Istvan Balyi (a leading expert on planning and periodization and on short- and long-term training and performance programming. if you google him you will get heaps of what i am read a lot on what i am talking about), and he points out that Western countries have adopted a 5 point generic model on athlete development
1. Talent Identification
2. Recruitment
3. Training
4. Competition
5. Retirement
However current administrative and coaching practice focus predominantly on 2 - Training and Competition. (guilty as charged. defense to come). However unfortunately for most sports participation = involvement with emphasis on competition, without really considering 1,2,5. For most parents sadly that is what they want to see..they kid out there on the field competing. Training suffers as a result of all the competition and rushing kids to competition readiness that actually it becomes a hindrance to development. Why do kids from communist countries who don't focus on early competition produce young athletes that are just phenomenal? 1. of the reasons is just that... they take the time to develop the athlete rather then competing them.
Unfortunately the way things work is that parents pay for their kids to be a competitive gymnast and that means they want to see them compete, and fair enough i suppose (that is my defense, i as a coach has to provide a service for a club), however as a results these gymnasts get to 12 and they are L4-5, maybe 6-7 and find they are hitting puberty, things being to change mentally, socialy etc.., sport gets harder, and as a result they get frustrated and most just quit. So retention in our sport is just not really focused on..people talk about it, but they search for magic cures, and the favorite one is to subsidized losses by getting LOTS AND LOTS more younger kids out of whom maybe a few might have that talent and ability to stick with the sport.

As aussie_coach pointed out there is SOOOO much more that a well trained gymnast can do after elite or high level gymnastic training. Sadly the capitalist way of running things does come into play, and quality usually comes secondhand to quantity.

What aussie_coach said
"Every child should be allowed to move at their own pace, for some that pace is fast. You really can't say that a child isn't aiming for elite. Not many kids do, but that doesn't mean they won't change their minds."
is soooo true, and i think that competitive gymnastics should be trained in that fashion, train everyone for elite regardless, at some stage they will figure out which path they want to take, regardless of that time it wont be time wasted. Because they will have those options available to them (which aussie_coach suggested such as collage gymnastics, circus, display, performer etc..). If they leave young...lots of time to find something else, if they leave in the middle its not to late to find another passion, if they leave late (high leve) than i alternative routes described by aussie_coach.
I for one am a great support of specializing a kids from a young age, train them like they are going to stay in the sport forever. let them choose, don’t choose for them. These are safe choices... the decision is not life altering for most. In the wild the primal way to teach younglings is usually the adult guiding them, and supporting them as they experiment, test.
  • Like
Reactions: 3 people


Wow! Can I hit the like button multiple times for Valentin's post. So many of his comments hit so home as a professional in this field. Like, like, like, like. It is a caveat of this and other sports, balancing true athletic program with a business that must provide a service to it's customers (demand & supply). Now a days we cave to the the demand of competition so we can stay in business to do what we love to do as coaches. If the customer isn't happy with how we supply for their demand, they leave, we don't have customers to pay our pay check, stike three we're outa here!

As to the original post... I would say there are so many philosophies out there that you kind of need to form your own thought process and find a program that works best with what you want to get from the sport. Some programs believe younger, faster progression to the top is ideal... other's believe in pacing... the key to longevity is to make sure the need of FUN and ENJOYMENT are being met and balanced with the desire to ACHIEVE. Desire is very personal, not everyone desires the same results. Find what works to meet your needs and desires.
Sep 19, 2008
Valentin's post was awesome, very spot on. At my gym we watch closely and recruit young. Their pre team training is not a mini-level 4 program. We look at positions and movements and really expand on them. Ok, so they can do a pike stretch, can they do it with straight legs hanging from a bar? Can they finish a backwards roll in a tight pike? Can they do a straight leg forward roll proficiently? Sure they can do a straight leg standing still, but can they tap their foot and maintain it along with a pointed toe? Can they do it sideways, backwards? I could expand plenty more, but the jist is positions done still can be surprisingly tricky when movement is added, or when applied directly to a skill. Time spent on these things at a young age develops confidence, balance, and teaches girls when they're using flexibility vs strength, or both together. Through this I believe they do also develop a personal aesthetic they can bring to competition later. When you're not on a competitive timetable it's amazing what the girls come armed with once routine and large(r) skill training begins. Starting young removes pressure from the situation...generally speaking.

The reason I mention it is that my experience with training this way, is I get a lot of concern from the parents. Why isn't my 4, 5, 6yr old not doing a robh when clearly she could? I mentioned in another thread about one mine going to other gyms, 4yrs old, and being put through multiple full L4 workouts "just to see if she could". My answer is because they don't have to, they don't need to, and I don't care how amazing it looked elsewhere, it's not happening here. Drills, a full catalog of familiarity with different movements and the apparatus, strength, and flexibility is age appropriate and will serve to help L4 skills come faster and cleaner. The proof is not only in our current 4's but also the recreational program. I have to really emphasize that this is how things are done here, and it's not going to change so learn to love it.

When it comes to upward mobility in the levels, the girls go as far as they can safely, period end of story. We do uptrain a lot in the off season. I honestly believe a slow, thorough start translates to a more consistent competitive experience, uptraining, and the safest "speedy" progression through levels.
  • Like
Reactions: 3 people

Deleted member D3987

Valentin, that was a great post. very astute. and i recommend Bompa's book on periodization. if you liked Balyi i'm certain you'll like Bompa.
Not open for further replies.