Anon Gym building an elite program - would you stay if not on that path?

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Anonymous (f192)

My kid's gym has traditionally been an extremely strong JO/DP only program with the stated goal of getting girls to level 10 by freshman year and then on to a college team. They've been really successful at this and my child is most definitely still on this path. She is a 6th grade level 8 who, barring COVID season when she also had a broken arm, hasn't had to repeat a level along the way. I honestly attribute this to the amazing progression planning and coaching she received and had felt really good about her prospects.

However, about a year and a half ago, our owner retired and sold the gym. The new owners brought in all new coaches with the exception of one of our former coaches who has said that she will be leaving after this season. The new coaches are all very experienced and are kind, great people, but they are on a mission to build an elite program. Based on their track records, they were able to recruit many kids who were already HOPES/Jr Elite from the state to come. They have done a good job and will probably be very successful if last season is any indication of the future.

The concern is that the elite program seems to have taken complete priority over the optional DP levels. All optionals and elite-track kids practice during the day and share the same group of 4 coaches. The levels 6-8 kids seem to be getting the shaft as a result. They appear to have no plan to get them ready for the season other than to tell them what skills are required per gym policy. There are few planned progressions and no one seems to be trying to keep them on a paced out schedule to be ready for the season on time. The kids seem to be standing still for weeks and weeks and then rushing like crazy to move skills up to high beam or to bars setting etc to be ready on time. They frequently have different coaches filling in for them when their actual event coach is pulled to cover a higher level group if the elites/HOPES/TOPS kids are at a qualifier or testing or camp with a coach. If the main elite coach need help, they pull the level 6-8 coaches and have a lower level coach or rec coach fill in, meaning that the 6-8 girls are not allowed to do their "hard" skills since these fill-in coaches don't know how to coach them safely on these skills.

My child is not and will never be on the elite trajectory. Her goal is D1 college gym and this had previously seemed quite realistic given her scores. But for the first time since starting the sport, I am worried that she just doesn't look the same degree of "ready" for the season that she usually does by now. And that goes for ALL of her teammates as well. We plan to wait out the season and see how it goes, but for those of you in gyms that train both elite and JO/DP programs, what has been your opinion of it? Can this truly be successful and fruitful for both groups?
 
Where did your former coaches end up? Seems like they were doing a good job with your daughter. Any chance you could follow them to a different gym. Seems unlikely the new coaches will be giving your daughter or the other non elites the attention they deserve.
 
If you look at mymeetscores.com you will see that the good scoring optional teams are often the gyms that train elites too. I don't think a gym can financially survive of the few kids that are training elite. So a strong optional programm is mandatory for them and getting gymnasts into d1 colleges.
I dont have a child in one of these gyms, I'm not from the US. But I'm following usa gymnastics for many years and thats what i noticed...
 
Your situation sounds pretty extreme compared to ours, but I can share my experience.

My daughter is at a fairly new gym. It started with 2-3 elites/almost junior elites (they’ve since qualified) from other gyms. The focus, however, was on excellent college recruiting and a strong then-JO, now DP program. It was never on homegrown elites. It was very healthy and straightforward with a focus on transparency and doing things slowly and the “right” way.

The elites had surprising results and some of the transferred athletes had impressive recruiting results, and things suddenly shifted. Athlete parents from other area gyms were basically breaking down the doors trying to get their girls into the program. They brought with them their gyms’ cultures and expectations. That quickly bled into every level of the gym and as the gym scaled, the head coach couldn’t maintain the same transparency and carefulness about pacing and expectations. Suddenly they were bowing to parent demands for things like fast track, homeschool, TOPS, and weekly privates. Team slots are in very high demand from transfers so it’s hard on girls who started with this gym- they know that every new girl who joins will be one of the best in the state and the best from her gym. It warps athletes’ sense of where they stand and it’s hard to stick to a slow, considered pace when almost every workout group has a legit prodigy. We had multiple state champions who sincerely believed they were bad at gymnastics up until state champs because internal competition is so high.

It’s a little sad but I don’t know how most gyms can resist the shift if they have a chance to make elite happen. You can’t do enough daytime toddler classes to support team and you can’t grow a team with only evening workouts if it’s a relatively small physical space. It’s hard to hire coaches and easier for one to run 2 daily workouts vs. finding twice as many coaches and doubling up on evening workouts. And there’s no better advertising than getting athletes on to national competitions.

But do I regret the attention elite brought to our gym and the kinds of parents it attracted? YES.
 
Where did all the old coaches go? - Given where your child is at, I would be trying to reach out to them for advice and direction.

If what you say is happening - they will likely be a flash in the pan elite gym - because if you look at the gyms that continually produce quality elite athletes (even if it's just one or two) they have a strong program through all levels to continue to feed the top. Sounds like they are invested in the 'right now' with all the acquired athletes.
 
I think I would find another gym personally. My daughter is at a strong, DP only, college focused gym (well over 30 level 10s this season!). Fortunately, our head coaches don't have interest in training elites, but if they did start and were focusing all the attention on them to the detriment of the DP kids, I would have to leave and find another gym unless we were very close to graduation. Honestly it would just bother the heck out of me to see the loyal kids that have been there for years on a great path suddenly be ignored and not valued enough by the coaches/owners like that. It sounds like a really sucky situation and I'm sorry that you have to deal with it.
 
Where did all the old coaches go? - Given where your child is at, I would be trying to reach out to them for advice and direction.

If what you say is happening - they will likely be a flash in the pan elite gym - because if you look at the gyms that continually produce quality elite athletes (even if it's just one or two) they have a strong program through all levels to continue to feed the top. Sounds like they are invested in the 'right now' with all the acquired athletes.
So I guess I only accounted for the lower optional groups as they seem to be the most affected. It looks like the coaches are paying more attention to the little one in compulsory levels to do what you’re sayin and ultimately free the program. And the 9/10s are experiencing some of the same behavior but to a lesser degree since the coaches need them to get into solid college programs. It seems to be the level 6-8 group most affected because they are too “old” to develop into tops/hopes and too far from collegiate stuff. So they are overlooked.

It’s tough to follow our old coaches - I wish we could. Only two are at the same place and it’s a gym we currently could not make work for our family - but maybe down the line. A few no longer coach at all and a few moved out of state.

The owners are the two main elite coaches. Not sure how to bring it up with them…any ideas?
 
So I guess I only accounted for the lower optional groups as they seem to be the most affected. It looks like the coaches are paying more attention to the little one in compulsory levels to do what you’re sayin and ultimately free the program. And the 9/10s are experiencing some of the same behavior but to a lesser degree since the coaches need them to get into solid college programs. It seems to be the level 6-8 group most affected because they are too “old” to develop into tops/hopes and too far from collegiate stuff. So they are overlooked.

It’s tough to follow our old coaches - I wish we could. Only two are at the same place and it’s a gym we currently could not make work for our family - but maybe down the line. A few no longer coach at all and a few moved out of state.

The owners are the two main elite coaches. Not sure how to bring it up with them…any ideas?
How big is your training group of level 6-8 JO girls compared to other training groups? Did things change this off season compared to last training season? Did your daughter progress faster last season when she, I'm assuming did Level 7, under the same coaching?
 
It’s tough to follow our old coaches - I wish we could. Only two are at the same place and it’s a gym we currently could not make work for our family - but maybe down the line. A few no longer coach at all and a few moved out of state.

The owners are the two main elite coaches. Not sure how to bring it up with them…any ideas?
I didn't necessarily mean to follow - more that they will be able to tell you honestly if your child is valued or not under the new gym structure/management.

You could just bring up your daughters feelings about her preparedness/progress and coaching. Try to be as factual as possible without adding your own emotions.
 
I didn't necessarily mean to follow - more that they will be able to tell you honestly if your child is valued or not under the new gym structure/management.

You could just bring up your daughters feelings about her preparedness/progress and coaching. Try to be as factual as possible without adding your own emotions.
How big is your training group of level 6-8 JO girls compared to other training groups? Did things change this off season compared to last training season? Did your daughter progress faster last season when she, I'm assuming did Level 7, under the same coaching?
Ah, I understand @Pineapple_Lump. That is a great thought. TBH, my kid seems happy still, but she is clearly noticing that she doesn't feel "ready" for the season yet - she mentioned that this is the first time that she is nervous for it.

The L6 group is about 8 kids and the combination 7/8 group has about 12. They combine and divide and mix the groups up a good bit based on coaching availability, which is why I say "about" but in total 20 girls.

This is the first full season without most of our old coaches. When her former coaches left, she was already very ready for level 7 because the gym focused a lot on uptraining throughout the season and then hard hitting uptraining after regionals. She had her level 7 skills competition ready by July prior to the season last year. It's already November and neither she nor any of her teammates look confident or secure in many of the level 8 skills. They definitely did not uptrain throughout the season and then after regionals, there were many group shifts and schedule shifts and coaching subs. The main coaches are excellent and very kind, but do not seem to to have a consistent gym-wide plan for skill progressions. It seems very coach dependent which is not working given the frequent coaching swaps, which now that I'm thinking about it, seemed more frequent over the summer (vacations, elite qualifiers/classics/etc, camps...?).
 
I’d talk to the owners. They may be distracted and oblivious. They may be willing to change if you are polite and constructive in how you approach them. And if they don’t care, then you will know that it is time to find a new gym.
 
I will echo what others have said, find a gym that fits your daughters goals. You can wait it out or talk to the coaches but, I will share with you what I have observed in similar situations after having 2 kids and 16 years of gym mom experience spanning all levels including a gym with an already established elite development program and one that developed one while DD was there.

Elite gyms train elite..the kids that do not have “elite potential “ no matter what the reason, do get the shaft, do end up feeling less then and eventually seek other gyms or quit. If your daughter was young and just starting she could absolutely benefit from that training or if she was already in the elite path . The fact they are attracting elites, elite potential and they are focused on that path likely does mean those that do not fit that culture will likely get less than they deserve. I don’t think it’s to be hateful or hurtful (though I am sure it can feel that way) it’s just the nature of the beast with elite training. Elite season, meets, camps, qualifiers all have their own time line/schedule and it’s not the same as JO and often in direct conflict so that alone can divide coaches ability to focus and attend both. Not to mention if that’s the direction these new coaches already have going, no amount of meetings will likely change the situation enough to make those not in the elite track feel seen and heard.
 
I would still think training at a gym with Elite gymnasts and Elite coaching would have numerous benefits to anyone pursing college gymnastics. You might not be elite, but you would reap all the benefits of being at an elite gym.

Pros:
1) College recruiters from all the big D1 colleges will be watching your gym and visiting your gym. 2) Even SOME attention and occasional coaching from an Elite coach is better than none right?
3)Your gymnast should only improve being surrounded and modeling after more talented Elites.

Cons:
1) If your gymnast needs to be the best and wants to stand out at her gym, otherwise they get discouraged or lose interest.... a less competitive gym might make sense.
2) If Elite coaches never interact with your gymnast and she doesn't have friends due bullying in the environment and she's treated lesser than and it's affecting her mental health.

Otherwise, I feel the pros, if a gymnast can mentally deal with "not being the best"at their own gym, far outweigh the cons.
 
How's the season going for you optional level 6-8 gymnasts? Were your fears about the coaches focusing too much on elites to the detriment of the college gymnastic path optionals becoming a reality?
 

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