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GymMama4

New Member
May 30, 2022
15
28
Hello! So when we started, we knew nothing about gymnastics. Our 3 year old daughter seemed to be naturally inclined, so we signed her up for gymnastics and she began on preteam. In the next year she excelled and became incredibly passionate about gym. It was obviously exciting watching her rapidly learn new skills. What was more intriguing to us was her ability to watch, understand, and then teach herself how to do skills, choreography, and conditioning that the older girls were doing in the gym. It was and still is incredible to watch her little mind try to work out these skills and to see her completely light up for gymnastics. We felt like, as I'm sure many parents do, that we were watching our daughter find her passion and that she was exceptionally talented. So after doing lots of research, most of it here on CB, we learned about the TOPs program and elite track. We learned that our state does not really produce elite level gymnasts. But after a couple conversations with our gym owner about possibly initiating a TOPS program, our daughter was evaluated by the head coach and moved to the homeschool program to start training TOPS. We were already homeschooling our children, so this worked out great for us. That was a year and a half ago, so she is now 5, and since then she has competed level 2 and is loving gymnastics more every day. She continues to rapidly excel in skill, strength and flexibility. Her coaches have commented more than once on her focus and ability to take corrections. They have told us that she often outworks the entire homeschool group, which includes girls up to level 9. Our head coach is a previous national team coach, and he seems very knowledgeable. But he is the only coach with that level of experience, and there is only 1 other optional coach. I have checked in with the head coach and owner a few times about TOPS and I always get a very vague, let's wait and see response. I am a big planner, so this is driving me crazy. I worry that when we all look up and she's finally TOPs eligible, she won't be competitive. Since our very small gym has no history of elite or TOPS gymnasts, I am having trouble trusting that we are giving her the best opportunity. There are no other gyms in our state that have an elite program though, so there are not any other reasonable options.

So is there anything I can do? A way to communicate with the coaches about this concern without sounding crazy? At what point/age/level would you expect there to be some sort of concrete plan or timeline for her to succeed or even qualify to TOPS, HOPES, Elite? If a coach does not have any recent experience getting gymnasts to the elite level, is that a concern? Am I just completely off my rocker for worrying about these things?

*Disclaimer that obviously the most important thing to our family is that our daughter is happy. If she ever decides that gymnastics does not make her happy, we would wholeheartedly support her trying any other CHEAPER sport out there :) My mindset is that if she wants to go elite or be on an NCAA team, I want to make sure I am doing everything in my power to make that possible, so all she has to do is work hard at what she loves and achieve her dreams!
 

WV Gym Mom

New Member
Mar 7, 2022
35
48
At this point, I would sit back and enjoy the ride. Your daughter is 5 years old. Time is on your side. Early burnout is a very real thing. From your post she is happy, she is progressing. If she continues to be happy and progress, I'd step back and let her coaches coach. I come from a very small gym with no TOPS program which has still produced a World Vault Champion and many great gymnasts.
 

gym_dad32608

Proud Parent
Aug 7, 2018
319
53
You asked so I am telling you, You are completely off your rocker for worrying about these things. I would say you have at least 2 more years before I would let things like TOPs and elite cross your mind. Honestly, if you polled all the folks here that have girls elite or training elite, most would say they never planned for their child to go elite as you are suggesting. Sometimes I think a little bit of knowledge (especially from a message board) is a bad thing. Just let things progress and develop now. If you have a coach that was a national team coach, they know what needs to be done, and if your daughter is talented enough, they have the appropriate connections to get her plugged into the elite/national program. But even then, that is not going to come till she is 7/8 yo.
 

GymMama4

New Member
May 30, 2022
15
28
You asked so I am telling you, You are completely off your rocker for worrying about these things. I would say you have at least 2 more years before I would let things like TOPs and elite cross your mind. Honestly, if you polled all the folks here that have girls elite or training elite, most would say they never planned for their child to go elite as you are suggesting. Sometimes I think a little bit of knowledge (especially from a message board) is a bad thing. Just let things progress and develop now. If you have a coach that was a national team coach, they know what needs to be done, and if your daughter is talented enough, they have the appropriate connections to get her plugged into the elite/national program. But even then, that is not going to come till she is 7/8 yo.
I appreciate your honesty and perspective! I had a feeling I was overthinking it.

I find your point about knowledge being a bad thing really interesting. I wanted to learn as much as possible about this sport when our daughter started, but I can definitely see where consuming information but lacking any real experience has just led to more confusion.
 
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LPmom

Proud Parent
Feb 19, 2019
46
42
She’s so young! This is a good time to add in activities that will be more difficult to do later but are important life skills or to that will help her gymnastics if she does stay with it. It’s 3 years until she can do TOPS testing, right? Swim lessons, ballet, other dance, or a low-key rec sport would complement what she’s doing now and wouldn’t hurt her gymnastics progress at all and will give her an opportunity to build friendships outside of the gym.
 

GymMama4

New Member
May 30, 2022
15
28
Thanks for the input so far!

I want to assure everyone that she does not feel the slightest bit of pressure. These are not conversations we are having in front of her. As far as she's concerned, she gets to do what she loves in the gym with her friends, while also living a very full life outside of the gym. We limit any gymnastics at home to dancing around the living room to make sure she is being a little girl and exploring many other interests outside of gym. I do appreciate you all pointing this out though. It's because of reading many past posts on here about burn out and putting too much pressure on these kids that we are very intentional to avoid that.

I wanted honest answers from experienced parents and coaches, so please keep the words of advice coming! I appreciate the reality check and am relieved to hear that we do not need to be worrying about the prospect of elite just yet. She does have 3 more years I believe until she is TOPS eligible anyways.
 

gymjunkie

Coach
Proud Parent
Judge
Sep 9, 2013
740
My thoughts on this subject... I have honestly never seen TOPS benefit a kid any more than good coaching at their own gym does. I've seen many affected negatively and coached 4 TOPS team members over the years who agreed to stay in gymnastics only if they did not have to continue with TOPS. If they are at a small gym with novice coaches, TOPS may benefit the coaches (mostly on your dime). I will also say that TOPS has not been that much of a predictor of success in the sport in the many gyms I have been a part of that used the TOPS program. As a matter of fact, at one very large, highly competitive gym I coached at (one with both national team members and a medalling olympian), we watched many of the TOPS kids go on to the Xcel program. I am not talking about the TOPS qualifiers, I am talking about the kids who were invited to the gym's TOPS program because they were strong enough to do legless rope climbs, L-leg lifts, etc. at a young age and were deemed to be kids on the fast track. I will also say that while you can spot high-level potential at your daughter's age, that is very different from knowing which kid is actually going to make it to the top (whether that be L10, NCAA or elite). After being in this sport as long as I have, if I had to bet on which kid was going to accomplish the most, I would bet on the kid-in-the-middle at that age. The kids who show the most talent at the youngest age are often the ones who fizzle out early or have the wrong temperament for the long haul. It's very often the kids in the middle of the pack who manage to peak at the right time to achieve the most success. When I was a coach in my 20s, I did successfully predicted a full-ride scholarship for a 4 YO who was about the most talented 4 YO gymnast I had ever seen (learned a straight arm back extension roll in a few minutes). I was correct. She did earn a full-ride scholarship... in track and field, lol.
 

GymMama4

New Member
May 30, 2022
15
28
My thoughts on this subject... I have honestly never seen TOPS benefit a kid any more than good coaching at their own gym does. I've seen many affected negatively and coached 4 TOPS team members over the years who agreed to stay in gymnastics only if they did not have to continue with TOPS. If they are at a small gym with novice coaches, TOPS may benefit the coaches (mostly on your dime). I will also say that TOPS has not been that much of a predictor of success in the sport in the many gyms I have been a part of that used the TOPS program. As a matter of fact, at one very large, highly competitive gym I coached at (one with both national team members and a medalling olympian), we watched many of the TOPS kids go on to the Xcel program. I am not talking about the TOPS qualifiers, I am talking about the kids who were invited to the gym's TOPS program because they were strong enough to do legless rope climbs, L-leg lifts, etc. at a young age and were deemed to be kids on the fast track. I will also say that while you can spot high-level potential at your daughter's age, that is very different from knowing which kid is actually going to make it to the top (whether that be L10, NCAA or elite). After being in this sport as long as I have, if I had to bet on which kid was going to accomplish the most, I would bet on the kid-in-the-middle at that age. The kids who show the most talent at the youngest age are often the ones who fizzle out early or have the wrong temperament for the long haul. It's very often the kids in the middle of the pack who manage to peak at the right time to achieve the most success. When I was a coach in my 20s, I did successfully predicted a full-ride scholarship for a 4 YO who was about the most talented 4 YO gymnast I had ever seen (learned a straight arm back extension roll in a few minutes). I was correct. She did earn a full-ride scholarship... in track and field, lol.
This is really interesting. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences!
That last part is hysterical!
 

GYM0M

Proud Parent
Jul 23, 2013
1,398
I can completely relate to what you’re experiencing. My dd has a similar background. Started a brand new TOPS team at the only competitive gym in our area at 5 years old. I believe we had a few more girls in our start up group though. At first it didn’t seem like much more than preteam in the earlier days. She tested at 7 and 8 years old and then she moved on into the Developmental program and this is what I feel like helped her more bc it gave her coaches time to learn and train with the national team staff. It is a red flag if her gym hasn’t produced elites, but there are a few times when it could happen. It all depends on the coach’s dedication to building their program. However, the best thing you can do for her is to continue to let her grow to love the sport. It’s the love she builds now that will get her through the workouts she doesn’t love so much when she’s older.
 
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Jenny

Coach
Proud Parent
Sep 17, 2012
3,435
While she is young and training lower hours try and get her a good grounding in dance both ballet (for posture and extension) and some kind of free dance like jazz, street, hip hop etc (for performance and expression). This will make all the difference to to quality of her lines and routines.
 

GymDadWA

Proud Parent
Dec 30, 2017
290
43
The only time our DD has asked not to go to gym is for TOPS, she hated the tops training as it felt more like cross fit then gymnastics (press handstands, rope climbs, etc.) When our gym stopped the TOPS program it was a relief to everyone doing it, didn't realize all the families disliked it as much as we did.
 
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bookworm

Gold Membership
Proud Parent
I am stunned that a 3 yo would even "be evaluated and put in the homeschool training program for TOPS" 2 years ago (because she is now 5) ...can you say burnout 100 times? As many have mentioned, the TOPS skills are misery in a bottle ...rope climbs, press handstands, leg lifts...I can't imagine putting a 3 yo in this type of training and thinking she would like it.

I agree with gymdad32608 that you are off your rocker (you asked..) to even be worrying about TOPS and elite at 5 years old...I don't care what anyone tells you at this point, you are years away from any of this. You can train the daylights out of her and she will just burn out faster....most kids with schedules like this never make it for the long haul.....
 

GymMama4

New Member
May 30, 2022
15
28
I am stunned that a 3 yo would even "be evaluated and put in the homeschool training program for TOPS" 2 years ago (because she is now 5) ...can you say burnout 100 times? As many have mentioned, the TOPS skills are misery in a bottle ...rope climbs, press handstands, leg lifts...I can't imagine putting a 3 yo in this type of training and thinking she would like it.

I agree with gymdad32608 that you are off your rocker (you asked..) to even be worrying about TOPS and elite at 5 years old...I don't care what anyone tells you at this point, you are years away from any of this. You can train the daylights out of her and she will just burn out faster....most kids with schedules like this never make it for the long haul.....
I appreciate your honest feedback and will take it to heart. I have been pleased to hear from everyone that any possible elite aspirations do not need to be on our radar at this time. And I will continue to stay vigilant to avoid a burnout situation.

To clarify, she was not evaluated and moved to the homeschool group until she was 4. At 4 she could kip, had powerful tap swings, had a robhs, back tuck and loads of confidence on beam. She was the most intense kid out of her group and really wanted to learn. The afternoon classes were chaotic with inexperienced coaches, so we all thought she could benefit from the daytime practice. Tops testing starts as early as 7 years old. That kind of strength takes time to build up, so the coach thought it was a perfect time to begin introducing the tops conditioning at that time. He was very adamant about making it fun to keep the littles interested. She started only going 2 days a week. She now goes 3 days. The homeschool group seems a lot more enjoyable too. She gets to really spend time with her friends, the older girls are like big sisters, and they are more self paced, which she thrives on. She is very happy and legitimately enjoys the conditioning, especially presses, because it’s what the big girls do!
 

GymMama4

New Member
May 30, 2022
15
28
I can completely relate to what you’re experiencing. My dd has a similar background. Started a brand new TOPS team at the only competitive gym in our area at 5 years old. I believe we had a few more girls in our start up group though. At first it didn’t seem like much more than preteam in the earlier days. She tested at 7 and 8 years old and then she moved on into the Developmental program and this is what I feel like helped her more bc it gave her coaches time to learn and train with the national team staff. It is a red flag if her gym hasn’t produced elites, but there are a few times when it could happen. It all depends on the coach’s dedication to building their program. However, the best thing you can do for her is to continue to let her grow to love the sport. It’s the love she builds now that will get her through the workouts she doesn’t love so much when she’s older.
Thank you so much for sharing your experience! This is encouraging!
I am really appreciative of the many different perspectives I have received here from very experienced parents. This is such a great resource.
 

LJL07

Proud Parent
Jan 27, 2014
1,844
I appreciate your honest feedback and will take it to heart. I have been pleased to hear from everyone that any possible elite aspirations do not need to be on our radar at this time. And I will continue to stay vigilant to avoid a burnout situation.

To clarify, she was not evaluated and moved to the homeschool group until she was 4. At 4 she could kip, had powerful tap swings, had a robhs, back tuck and loads of confidence on beam. She was the most intense kid out of her group and really wanted to learn. The afternoon classes were chaotic with inexperienced coaches, so we all thought she could benefit from the daytime practice. Tops testing starts as early as 7 years old. That kind of strength takes time to build up, so the coach thought it was a perfect time to begin introducing the tops conditioning at that time. He was very adamant about making it fun to keep the littles interested. She started only going 2 days a week. She now goes 3 days. The homeschool group seems a lot more enjoyable too. She gets to really spend time with her friends, the older girls are like big sisters, and they are more self paced, which she thrives on. She is very happy and legitimately enjoys the conditioning, especially presses, because it’s what the big girls do!
I’m kind of wondering why a coach would be encouraging robhs and back tucks at 4 years old. Just because they can throw it doesn’t mean they should.

I could see starting tops training at 5 or 6 yrs old. Not 4. I even think 5 is too young for a gymnastics homeschool training group, but I say this based off of my own personal observation. I just haven’t seen a single kid last in the sport who was doing intense training at 5. She might be having fun now but I agree with others that this sounds like a recipe for burn out by age 8.
 
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GymMama4

New Member
May 30, 2022
15
28
Oh wow! I am genuinely surprised to hear such blanketed judgement without knowing enough about my daughter, her gym environment or our family to draw such harsh conclusions.

We have a child that is passionate, talented and driven, and all we want to do is provide her the best opportunities possible, while still honoring her childhood. I wished to receive information from experienced members on whether or not I needed to be concerned about a lack of communication for tops training. You have all made it abundantly clear that this does not need to be a concern at this time. I have taken this to heart. Thanks!
 

GymMama4

New Member
May 30, 2022
15
28
I realize I am being defensive, so I want to apologize. I am appreciative of everyone that has taken the time to offer a response. The implication that homeschool practices are setting our daughter up for failure were specifically frustrating. Our decision to homeschool is extremely personal and has nothing to do with gymnastics. We are grateful that we are able to take advantage of day time practice and free up our evenings for family time. Without knowing us personally or our gym environment, I realize it would be a fair assumption that maybe this is not a set up conductive to a long, happy career in gymnastics. I recognize that most of you are speaking from your own experiences, so that is valuable. Thanks again!
 
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