confused about daughters progress

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My dd Olivia is 4 1/2 years old. SHe'll be five in April. She started gymnastics at the age of three and since then has been progressing at a fairly rapid pace. The owner of the gym that she was at started an advance preschool class and invited her to be a part of it. Three months after starting she was now in this advance class where they taught cartwheels, backbends and handstands. After just 2 months in the advance class she acquired a cartwheel, backwards roll on floor...
This past April they sold the gym. The new owners got rid of the advance preschool class but since my daughter had some skills they placed her on development team with about 12 7-8year olds(my daughter had just turned 4 at the time). That summer while on development team she aquired more skills (front pullover, backwalkover, handstands, rolls, etc.) She absolutely enjoyed her summer learning what she calls her "tricks" Once school started the gym took her off development and into an "introductory team" basically an advance class for 4 and 5 year olds. Olivia became bored with that class and was losing interest in the sport. Every week was work to get her to class. From august to october she did nothing new or learned any new skills. My husband and I finally dedcided to look into other gyms. We found a great gym by our house that's a more competitive serious gym. We took her for an evaluation and they placed her in what that gym calls "special team" basically they work with her at whatever level she is at and properly place her at a level when she is ready to compete. My daughter LOVED this new gym. There was no doubt about it. She was excited about gym again. She is currently going 3 days a week for 3 hours a day. The head couach at this gym just moved my dd Olivia to level 4. she is not even five years old yet. I am confused about her body. Is she doing to much....? She does straight conditioning for 3 hours a week. They are working on her backhandspring. Also Olivia can do a straddle press from the floor with out a spot. Its part of her conditioning to do a certain number of them. She never complains about being sore but she does stretch all day long. (constantly stretching her back and shoulders) Is this a sign of over use or muscles just growing? Also how can I help from getting bored after learning a new skill?
wow. your daughter sounds a lot like my friend's DD. lots of natural talent, very strong and super young. i know that she is holding her back quite a bit, but i think that it is hard to go back once they taste moving quick. her gym wants to move her faster than her mom is ready. she won't be 5 until july.

i don't have much advice. just glad it isn't me. LOL. i stress about my DD moving to team at 5 1/2-6 years old and that is a whole year younger. i have basically stopped thinking about it so i won't freak myself out, so i am of no use. LOL

i would say to follow your gut and her as well. it is so hard. we want them to be happy, but they don't know all the potential consequences of what they are doing.

i got a lot of good information on my recent thread regarding similar topic. here it is.

good luck. sounds like you have quite the talented girl on your hands. but you wouldn't want her to burn out so young. she has lots of time. they can't compete till they are 6. and since she is already so advanced, it will probably seem even longer since she will be doing level 5 stuff early and have to wait till 7 to compete at level 5, but then she could progress more rapidly like she seems to like. hope you get some great answers soon.
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My feeling is what is the rush? Why does a 4.5 yo have to be in the gym for 9 hours/week doing strength for 1/3 of that time? She can't compete L4 until she's 6 which would be April 2009 and many states are done with their compulsory season by the spring, so she actually may not compete until early fall of 2009. At her age, her body is not ready for all the "tricks" she is being taught. Several coaches have posted on the danger of having a child under age 5 do any kind of back hyperextension(ie bridges, bridge kickovers, back walkovers etc)----their spine is just not strong enough to handle that yet.

You mentioned her stretching her back and shoulders quite a bit, so I'm guessing that concerns you. Thing is at your dd's age, she can't relate stiffness etc. in her back to something she might be doing in the gym. Very tough to get specific symptons out of a child that young, so you may have to really dig to find out why she does all the stretching.

To me, I would rather see quality in skills she can do safely at her age rather than try and push for alot of other skills that her body is not ready to do. As many say about this sport, its a marathon and not a sprint.
i was thinking about this today some more as i have talked a lot about it with my friend about her daughter. do you think she would enjoy something else for awhile? 9 hours a week seems to be a lot for a 4 year old. especially so much strength training. i still haven't made my decision about letting my daughter move up to team and she will be almost 6 by then. it still seems like soo much to me, especially for kids that are also in school.

would she like dance or some other sport/hobby for awhile? i see girls all the time that come into the sport at age 5-6 and pick up the skills just as easily as the girls that have been doing gym since they were 3 or 4.

hard decision. especially when they are so happy doing it, but i do think they are overdoing it for such a young child. my friend's DD is only training 2 hours a week right now and will continue that until she is 5- 5 1/2. the coaches want to move her faster, but her mom is holding her back for now.

good luck making your decision either way.

you also might want to post a link to this in the parents forum. first you need to join the parents group to post there. i think you might get more responses there. i always read there the most.
Thank You both

After I posted this yesterday I realized the minimum age requirements for competition. I don't think Olivia's coach realizes she won't be able to compete this coming Fall. I believe she is under the assumption that 5 is the age requirement. My dd loves gym. She loves the girls she trains with and the attention she gets too. Imagine, she is the only 4 year old in a group of 8-12yrs olds. She is also a funny little girl. She makes them all laugh even the coach turns around to keep herself from laughing with her. She is proud to be a L4 and "work hard mama" She thinks conditioning is FUN because she loves to count and keep track. Her only complain is that on gym days she gets home after 7:30pm and its dark and that means no time to play(with her 3.5 year old sister). I don't think she feels 9 hours is too much. I am going to be more lenient about taking days off and holidays. I am also concerned because I don't think she'll be able to do two more years of L4 without getting bored.
I read about the mom keeping her child from advancing but dd would not be very happy.
It might be the head coach was confused as to her age thinking she was 5.5 and not 4.5. I'd be a little worried if a head coach didn't know the age minimums since they are a national standard and not something set locally or by state. Sounds like you need to discuss what the best plan in the long term would be for your dd. Moving her to the L4 team and just having her there for 18 mos doesn't make alot of sense. She'll see the others getting ready for meets and won't understand why she can't go.

Is there a L4 pre-team or is that what she is in now? Just me, but I would cut her hours in the gym to 6/week, encourage her to try another activity(not to replace the gym) and not get too concerned about competitive teams or anything else. She only gets to be 4.5 for a brief period in her life and also only has this one body that is still developing/growing and changing. She can have gymnastics and the healthy life of a pre-schooler at the same time, but the adults have to make the big decisions as hard as it may be to do what is best physically, emotionally and psychologically for her.

If she does continue with the stretching of the back/shoulders and she can't explain why, then take her in to see the family MD. She is way too young to start down the path of overuse injuries.
Wow, you daughter sounds like she has real talent and most of all an icredible love for the sport. She could go very far with it but it is important to make sure there is a good balance between keeping her interested in training and not causing her any kind of damage.

The key to watch is her enjoyment, if she is eager to go to practise and excited for it, if she comes home and talks about it. Then it is a good sign. Each child is different and what their bodies can cope with is different. Regular check ups with the doctor are a good idea, just to make sure she is staying healthy.

A good gym will not let her get bored by having her stuck in level 4 for several years. When she is old enough to compete level 4 she can still be advancing and learning the level 5 and 6 skills and so on.

It is true that a lot of these skills are not taught to 4 year olds because their bodies are very young, but there are some 4 year olds who will do them anyway. Your daughter sounds like one of them. If she isn't in class learning to do the skills safely, they she will be trying to learn them at home.

The best way is to keep a close contact with her coach and gym. Ask for certain exersizes to be modified if there are any concerns for her safety.
You may want to slow down a bit...

There has been research done that shows that girls under 6 should never do any type of hyperextension of the back, or it can cause lasting damage.

Just because she "can" do a lot of stuff doesn't mean she "should".
I totally agree with the previous poster

gymnastics training at that age should be about fun, it should also be about learning the very very basics correctly and being to perform the perfectly. Your daughter should be learning the basic body preparations and body conditioning to be able to perform these skills later in life. There really is no rush. At my gym we once had a girl who walked in at 8 and was placed in a recreational team, she had very little talent and was very weak, however she was so determined and worked so hard that she got onto the elite team and is now one of the best for her age in our gym. Your daughter reminds me of this girl, so determined and so strong minded, and only 4 years old! There is no need to push her onto hard skills so quickly, overstretching and performing skills such as backhandsprings at that ages DOES cause lasting damage to the joints, and it also can do damage mentally, gymnastics should be fun, not tough at this age, even if she does enjoy it at the moment, when she starts learning harder skills and the frustration of not being able to do them straight away like she's used to kicks in, she will be very angry and dissapointed at herself.

I can tell that your daughter is very talented and has a great passion for the sport, but you must be careful and slow it down abit, she can still be an extremely good gymnast by going at a slow pace, theres no rush, but if you do rush too much she probably will damage her health.

Hope to hear from you soon
I agree with everyone on here. She is way too young to do 9 hours a week at the gym. Not only is the possibility of damage to her body, but there is also a chance she could burn out by 7 years old if she keeps going at this rate. My advice, cut her down, if she "feels the need" to be in the gym, to 4h/ week. In a year when she's almost ready to compete move her to 6 hours as a level 4. 9hours at level 5 and so on.
How many hours does a level 4 usually train in the USA? 6 hours a week sounds to be very little to be competitive at this level. Our country reccomends 8-16 hours a week at level 4 and our levels are almost identical. 9 hours at level 5 also sounds to be very little.
How many hours does a level 4 usually train in the USA? 6 hours a week sounds to be very little to be competitive at this level. Our country reccomends 8-16 hours a week at level 4 and our levels are almost identical. 9 hours at level 5 also sounds to be very little.

What I mean is at her age. By the time she will be ready to compete level 4( in a year) she will still be VERY young to practice 9 hours/ week...5 1/2 years old??? It's not really a healthy thing to have a young child like that practicing like that and overstretching her body like that. 6 1/2- 7 years old is, however, a more appropriate age.

I have level 4's that practice 9-12 hours/ wk but they are 8-10 years old. Usually a level 5 is about 9-12 hours/ wk and 6's 12-16 hrs/wk.... but I am only speaking for my state, I have no idea about other states in the US.
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our level 4s practice 11 hours a week. the level 5s practice about 14.5 and i think the level 6s are there around 18 hours a week. i don't know about the optional girls. i imagine 20 hours or so.

my DD will be moving to team in march and she turns 6 in july. she has the option of going less hours a week since she is so young. we will be starting with 7 hours a week (2 days a week instead of 3). she currently goes 3 hours a week. i was thinking of trying that for a month, but might do it until summer. i think 7 hours a week will be quite enough at first. then we can go from there. their first competition is in september, so hopefully she can learn everything by then. :D and if not, no biggie. she has plenty of time. elite isn't even in our vocabulary or dreams. :D

to the OP: if you are still reading this thread. i hope you don't feel like we are picking on you. i can totally understand how taking hours away from your DD would be hard because she will be upset with you, but she isn't old enough to make those decisions.

i also understand how hard it is to hold them back. i know my DD LOVES gym and would be there more if she could, but right now, i am glad she only goes 3 hours a week. i try to keep her busy the rest of the time because she is super active and she does practice at home, but it is not as intense as at the gym, mostly because her little sister is always in the way. LOL.

no one is saying to stop letting her go to gym, but really consider her age and the fact that it can be dangerous to train so much so young, especially since she can't compete for a LONG time.
How many hours does a level 4 usually train in the USA? 6 hours a week sounds to be very little to be competitive at this level. Our country reccomends 8-16 hours a week at level 4 and our levels are almost identical. 9 hours at level 5 also sounds to be very little.

Averages 10-15 in my experience, but it's extremely unusual to train a 4.5 year old in a L4 team group. There are probably less than 10 6 yo L4s in my state in a given year, compared to hundreds at older ages. I think the original poster is right to be concerned, as far as the course of action, I am unsure as it's highly specific to the individual situation obviously. I would look at the gym and the program, and see what it will be like down the road. Do they have many high schoolers, or none at all by that point? Personally, while I understand that kids can be excited about gymnastics and like it at the time, starting with 9 hours a week before kindergarten in one activity seems like too much to me, especially with a MUCH older group. The attention might be fun, and she sounds very mature, but I would be concerned about her growing up too fast and not feeling comfortable to just be a wild preschooler. Even the 6 yo groups I teach are pretty wacky and they go at an individual pace skill wise but are grouped by age in our program, both within the entire class session and the smaller working groups. It's highly individual and maybe not everyone needs to hit every developmental milestone with peers...but I would still be concerned.
To the person who started this thread. I am in the same boat as you. My DD started gymnastics right after her second Bday. She did one year in the req program and was moved to a select class that she practiced 3 hours a week total over 2 days. She LOVES gymnastics. She this past summer right after her 4th bday was moved to Pre-team. She did the team/preteam camp on a modified work out due to vacation but participated 12 hours and was selected as one of the campers of the week. She currently trains twice a week for a total of 4 hours this is not counting the hours on end she is flipping around our home. I talk to her booty more than her head. Any how She is the youngest in our gym on pre-team. THe ages range from 12-4. We have 5 5year olds on the pre-team that all will be moving up to L4 in the summer. Our coach tends to forget DD's age she know it but it slips her mind. DD can do most of the skills and more than some of the older girls and she is taler than most of the 5 year olds. That being said if your child has the passion I say just monitor it and work with the coaches. Right now DD was the frist on PT to get her back handspring on the tumble track. She is working round off back handsprings. She will be very much ready for her level 4's next year even though she wont be competitng. I figure she will train her L4 next year and do the 12 hours a week. We have discussed it and DD would be ticked off not moving her her peers. Everyone knows her age at the gym and she fits in with the group so to speak. Many of the team older gymnastis have taken her under their arms and have been so supportive of her.

That being said some days I question if this is normal but I have learned that DD is not the norm. She pushes her self to the limit and wont settle for slopy gymnastics. She works so hard I would hate for her not to achieve her own goals.

i think that 4 hours is probably safe for your DD. the OP's DD is doing more than double that and a third of that is strength and conditioning. that is a huge difference.

your DD sounds like she is very talented, but it also seems like they are not rushing her. it is important to keep them challenged, but also to remember that they are still LITTLE girls and their bodies are not as ready for that much physical stress. i still struggle with my DD moving to team and she will be 6 in july. i know she loves it, but i don't want her to over do it. (we will not be doing the 11 hours at first, which is my compromise and how i rationalize letting her move to team. we are starting with 7 and will go from there.)

good luck to your little gymnast! it is amazing to watch them work so hard and what they accomplish and how proud of themselves they are.

I have read everyone thoughts on this subject matter and although I agree with most of what is being said...there are exceptions.
My dd considers the first hour of class as straight up FUN!
She is not in a class. she is with a couple older girls going around the gym conditioning. My daughter loves Conditioning. as far as overstreching....impossible! DD is a rubberband! in fact she doesn't understand the point of streching...(mama why do we have to strech for so long!) she has both splits, straddle, backbends, etc.
My plans for my dd is to keep her at 3 hours a day 3 days a week until she is about 6 years old no matter what level she is training. After 7 I might up her schedule to 4 or 5 days a week. But for now we are good with 3 days a week.
She has her first competition ever this weekend. she will be competing L2 because of her age. We are very excited!
that is great that she is competing L2! i so wish that we competed the lower levels here. i think it helps their confidence so much when they get that opportunity. i hope you guys both have fun! (is is AAU?)

i hope you keep posting here starmaker. i was thinking we had scared you off, which wasn't anyone's intent i am sure. you sounded concerned when you posted, which is what i was definitely addressing. but we all know our kids better than anyone else and i am sure you are watching to make sure everything is safe for her.
Um I practice 9.5 and im a level 8. Level 4s practice 3 hours and then 5-9 all do 9.5. It stinks but those of us more dedicated do go to open gym at least once a week........

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