Parents Questions about training elite…

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Proud Parent
Hi everyone,

First post here, but a longtime gym dad. And apologies for a rather long one...

My 13 year old is about to enter her L10 season. She’s talented and dedicated, putting in extra hours every day and some on the weekends with the goal of being an elite gymnast. In fact, she started training elite in August of last year and competed in two Hopes qualifiers this past season. She didn’t do so hot in her first one, but came really close in her second try even though she didn’t have all the skills that she needed. She left that competition determined to give it a go again next year.

The problem we’re having is her current gym doesn’t normally train elite. They do have former national team members as coaches and other experiences in the elite world, and they do have a good reputation training JO. They're incredibly supportive of my daughter’s goals and are willing to train her again this year because they believe she has the talent.

That said, some questions…

Is it detrimental for her to train elite at a gym like this, at least at the Hopes stage? We all know the big gyms where the seniors train, but some of the younger ones tend to come from a wider variety of lesser known gyms that don’t appear to specialize in elite (as far as I can tell anyway). My daughter’s current gym is teaching her the right skills and she’ll have routines that are in line with the other girls. So if she's getting the skills that she needs and has a willing gym, is that good enough for now? Or does she need to move gyms as soon as possible in order to compete?

Eventually, of course, we will have to move her to an elite program provided that she does well in Hopes and still wants to do it. But it’ll have to be one that's out of state. The closest elite gym near us of any worth is over an hour away, and apparently the head coach is retiring soon. So what is the process for making the move? Does she need to establish herself more before the bigger schools would even consider her? Does she need to try out? The one advantage with our current gym is that they’ve known her for years. That’s why they're willing to go down the elite path with her. So not sure how to go about getting a WCC or Pacific Reign or Buckeye to consider her as an elite without spending a couple of weeks trying out, which is extremely difficult to do right now. Is it better for her to make some noise in Hopes first before making that move? Or do they not even care about that?

Again, sorry for the long post. Maybe I’m overthinking this, but I do believe she has the ability to get a foothold in the elite world and just want to make sure she has the best chance at doing so.

Thank you all!
I am not an expert but here is a POV for what it's worth. No, you don't need to "establish yourself" before joining an elite gym, but having a bit of a record doesn't hurt. While moving across the country to chase an elite dream for a six year old is generally not wise, your daughter is at an age and level that many would make such a move. In other words, it's not uncommon for a kid to do a year of HOPES, perform in a somewhat mediocre way, and then move to a more established elite program to see if it helps get her to the next level. Yes, you do need to try out, and you'd want to for your sake as well to see if it's a fit. But I've never heard of a two week try out. I think it's more like you try out for one practice. My guess (and I could be wrong) is that WCC is at a different level than just about any other program in terms of getting onto that team, though perhaps that's not the case currently with Cecile moving to Georgia and Laurent moving on in a year. I think that other programs (even those with a recognizable name) would be pretty open to taking a new kid as long as the kid shows promise and drive, which it sounds like yours does, and is a fit/is coachable, and the parents are not annoying.

Bear in mind that some gyms with less established elite programs, or no elite program, have been known to do very well with one talented kid (Simone Biles is just one example), so don't rule that out. @Ty’s Dad has some experience moving for elite so can likely speak to this with more direct expertise.
Adding one thing to the above...

On the question of whether it's "detrimental" to train at a gym like yours at the HOPES stage. I'd say generally speaking, no. But with that said, if your daughter is 13 I'm guessing she's in 8th or 9th grade and the years go FAST, so think about that. What is the plan, really? If you're going to make a move eventually, do you want to just go now? Or at least decide on a timeline now or when the decision points will be?

As a somewhat longtime observer of this, for those who decide to stay around this stage, I've seen things go in two different ways:

1. She trains hopes then elite and has a great, positive experience with supportive coaches and teammates. Eventually maybe she drops back to L10 but all in all, it's a positive experience and on balance, the decision to stay was the right one for the gymnast and family.

2. She eventually gets frustrated (as do you) putting in all those hours and not getting the same results as others at the "established" elite gyms. Or she gets injured, and you question whether your coaches are as good as the other elite coaches, or whether the equipment is as safe, or whether she's doing the right number of reps. So you decide to move gyms at that point. When you invest so much into elite, what you expect in return gets really really high and your tolerance for things that go wrong goes down. And so many things can go wrong in gymnastics, especially elite gymnastics. Note that girls in the most established elite gyms get injured of course, and the same things go wrong, but they don't have as many things to point to/blame as you do in a non-elite gym.
I sincerely do not intend to come across as callous, just being direct with my opinion. At this age and results, the only reason to be doing elite is as a personal goal, which is a perfectly valid reason. I would just advise that the family considers and realistically understands what the goals are, how realistic they are, and how far everyone is willing to go to support those goals. I have never seen your daughter compete, so maybe she has outstanding potential and just needs that extra bit of special coaching, but based on what you have said, and the fact that she is at the upper age band of HOPES, it is highly unlikely she will make a national team, from which all the perks of being an elite start to show. Again, if she has a strong personal dream to reach the elite mountain and she knows she probably is not going to make a national team or olympic trial, there is nothing wrong with that.

If you have evaluated the above paragraph and are still committed to elite, then I would advise you to start looking at moving gyms. Elite training is not something that is done on the side. She needs to be in a gym where her coaches are primarily focused on coaching elite. It is detrimental to her development as an elite if she is the "exception" in the gym, even if her coaches are supportive and caring. Our gym has/had elites and national team members, most girls that have looked at coming to the gym did a one day try-out during a tour of several different gyms. These girls (parents) will reach out to the coach and explain they are looking to move and would like to visit, and then a training session is coordinated. I haven't seen a "try-out" in the traditional sense of the word. They come during regular practice and train with the team to see how they fit.

Otherwise, it sounds like she is in a great environment to excel as a gymnast. Supporting and engaged coaching staff, positive gym environment. There are a lot of positives and things to accomplish in the DP as a L10. College is most certainly on the table (as with elite) with less wear and possibility of injury. And L10 is fun. HOPES and Elite meets, as I am sure you are aware are pretty staid affairs, not a lot of action and team vibes and only a few competitions a year with greater cost both $$, logistically and emotionally to the family. She can still train at a high level where she is at. Good luck in making a decision, but I think you are at the right time/crossroads to ask these hard questions of what are we doing here?
I agree with gym-dad 32608 above … your daughter is on the “old” end of HOPES , and by your description , didn’t do so well at the last 2 competitions so i would advise against a move across the country to a WCC or Buckeye etc … if they’d even take her on as an elite hopeful … I don’t think time is on her side for achieving “elite goals “ like National team , international assignments, Olympic trials etc . If her current gym can coach her decently as a 10 , I’d stay there and not disrupt my family for what will probably be a frustrating and expensive venture. She could pursue kicking butt as a 10 and NCAA gymnastics staying home.

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