Best level to start competing

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As Sally mentioned, In Australia pretty much all gyms start competing at Level 1. If you don;t start at level 1 it is very hard for your kids, if you wait till level 4 all the kids your kids are competing against have had 3-4 years of serious competition up their sleeves already.

We don't have an every body wins situation either. Level 1 is often the biggest levels, not uncommon to have 50 or more kids in a division and they only give out 3-6 places.

Many states even have state championships for level 1-3.
This prizes for placing ad infinitum is odd to us too. We have various levels of competition, Novice, Intermediate, County etc but these are outside any "national Plan". The Grades are in the National Plan but are not really a competition, just marked against set criteria and then placed as not passed, pass, highy commended or distinction. In our competitions there are medals for first second and third and that it !

DD's gym starts competing at L4. They have a preteam that is L2 and L3. They also have 3 levels of preschool gymnastics and 4 levels of recreational classes. The highest level rec class is equivalent (skill-wise) to preteam, the main difference is that preteam does alot of conditioning and works harder on form. From what I have seen, some kids go to preteam straight from the preschool classes at age 4 or 5 and others go through the rec classes. I think most kids stay on preteam for 1 to 2 years, depending on their age and ability. DD went through the rec classes and was invited to preteam last December, she turned 9 about a week ago. I find it interesting to see the different ways that different gyms do things.
I don't know about the distant past, but as long as I've known our gym we have competed from Level 3 and up. Level 2 is so basic - our rec kids are doing that stuff - so I guess when a kid gets on team they start doing the harder things. We don't have enough team coaches or gym size to pull rec kids from that early and train them as competitive Level 2s. A couple of years ago we did start training some level 2s, but that was mainly because they had potential but weren't quite ready for level 3. I don't think it was intended for them to actually compete that level, so I guess they were in pre-team for an eventual level 3. I think our HC would actually prefer not to even compete level 3, but realistically a lot of our girls won't reach level 4 or won't go too far past it, so level 3 is their real opportunity to be competitive. Our level 5 and up team is very small, because most kids/parents just don't want to (or can't) make the commitment to the training hours and cost. Plus, we don't have a huge rec intake to begin with, so we end up with only a few girls with the talent and determination (and parents who can support them) to advance past level 4. If we only competed level 4 and up, we'd have a tiny team.
I think L4 for younger girls (ages under 10), L5 for ages 10 and up to start competing. DD competed L3 last year and it was fun for 5,6,7 year olds- but I think older girls could use more challenge. This is just my opinion.
My gym begins competing at Level 2. That said, I'd prefer to see kids on preteam or a developmental squad until they are ready to go compete level 5. I think that while some of the skills in the lower level routines are beneficial, some of them are either pointless (stride circle) or even a hinderance (level 2 & 3 vault).

If the gymnasts were not competing these levels, we could teach the skills and drills that are productive and skip over the skills/drills that are "time wasters".

I also feel that the skills in these levels (1-4) come relatively quickly and kids will progress much more quickly through those levels if less time was spent working on perfecting the compulsory routines and more time was spent working on body shaping and skills.

If kids are expected to compete beginning at level 2, they have 5 YEARS of compulsories. and that's if they don't repeat a level. That's a lot of time to get bored with compulsories.

If they begin competing as level 5s, they should only have 2-3 years of compulsories, then they get their own optional routines.

And as far as competing the low levels because many kids won't ever gt their kip or their flyaway... well, that's kind of what I view prep opt as being designed for. I think that the prep opt program is a program to enable kids to compete in gymnastics that don't have the time/dedication/financial means/etc. to succeed in the JO program. Or even as a stepping stone for those who are unsure as to whether they want to dedicate that much of their time and other resources to gymnastics just yet.
It is the same in Quebec. You can compete when you are in grade three turning 9. The other difference between Canada and the USAG systems is that you can begin to compete at just about any level. Our pre novice national is a strong L7 and our beginner provincial comp level is about a L3/4.

Before that we have Defi which trains basics and conditioning on five apparatus, they have evaluations, but not competitions.

In Ontario it's a little different still as we are the only province which has it's own provincial system. You can compete Invitational starting at age 7. There are 9 levels in our system and at 7 you can compete Invitational competitions up to level 7, at 8 up to level 8 and then 9 up to level 9 and at that point (9 years) you can compete in the Provincial stream which is 3 qualifiers and then the Ontario Championships if you qualify.

You can also be in the National program here, which you can compete Pre Novice National from age 8.

Adding: At age 7 and 8 Invitational, there are no scores flashed. Each girl is essentially competing against herself. She will get a certificate at the end of the meet and a sticker for each apparatus and one for AA. The judges score each routine and will either be gold, silver, bronze or merit.

For example for gold, a score would be between 8.5 and 10, silver, between 7 and 8.4, bronze between 6.5 and 7 and then merit anything below that.
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I personally agree with not competing before age 7, of course some exceptions are there as always. But that is my personal opinion.

My gym has a rec. league that competes AAU which starts at level 4. And a USAG team which starts at level 3. This is slightly difficult as we have both a pre-team (made up of only 5/6 year olds.) And an EI which is a rec invitational that is the level of pre-team but has girls older than 5/6 years old. A lot of times the EI go into competing on the Rec team level 4. And then if/when they are invited to the USAG team a lot of them are moved back to level 3 (mainly because they are a lot more strict about form and what skills are needed to move up on USAG team) so then the kid is all the sudden working on skills they thought they had down-pat and it is confusing for the child.
Our gym competes L4 on up and we have girls from ages 6-14 in level 4 and ages 8-12 in L5. We don't see much of a drop between L4 and L5. We do see a lot more drop out once they reach optionals and the work load becomes a lot more.
I think it varies.

If I have a kid who could be collegiate/elite material that would be different versus a girl who might only be able to compete L4 or be an ok L6 or L7.

For a kid on an elite track, you might forego the USAG JO system as much as possible to focus on training. However, that may just burn out a kid. And of course, how many kids like that are you going to have in a gym. You could train them and test out of the lower levels besides focusing on TOPS.

L1-3 as they are now should be in gym or local meets of say just the gyms in the same city. If your gym doesn't have spring/summer/winter demos/shows, then sure having them compete L1-3 is fine. Many gyms hold a few meets like this inhouse or perhaps they have a recreational compulsory team that only competes at home meets 2-3x/year.

One of the coaches I worked said in his college sports psychology courses it was recommended that children would not be able to handle and should not compete till around the age of 7. I think this varies on the kids and level of competition. Some kids might be able to handle the intensity at a young age whereas others might not.

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Such a cool transition! 🤩

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