WAG supporting a childs elite dreams

DON'T LURK... Join The Discussion!

Members see FEWER ads


Proud Parent
My DD was first introduced to elite gymnastics when she watched Nastia win gold. She has wanted that same thing ever since. Obviously being a little older now she knows how hard that would be and has even verbalized that she knows very few actually make the Olympics but she would like to be an elite and see where that takes her. My husband and I have always told her that we support her goals and dreams. Its easy to say that you support their goals and dreams when they are younger. What do I do now?

I don’t even know if this would be possible for her. I would say that she is moderately talented. She sometimes takes a little longer then her peers to learn new things. She is very strong. She actually has her own conditioning program separate from the other girls because the old one that everyone else does doesn’t fatigue her. She is very powerful. She is flexible too. She pushes herself daily in flexibility too. Some of the girls just do the requirement but she really pushes herself to go further. She sometimes ends up in tears after splits because she pushes so hard. She asks her coaches for extra shoulder stretches every day after practice too. What I think makes up for her moderate talent is her passion and hard working attitude. She gives 100% every day. She works till exhaustion most days. Her coaches sometimes tell her it time to quit because she won’t quit herself. Her coaches tell me constantly what a hard worker she is. I have watched her on beam and bars and she is constantly moving. She doesn’t talk to her peers much during gym because she says to wants to concentrate on what she has to do. She rarely chalks up so she avoids the social scene at the chalk bucket. When she is in line waiting for her turn on bars she will do drills on the floor in line. She probably does 2 or 3 times what everybody else does because she just keeps moving. She is like a machine on beam. When the beam assignment is to do a certain amount of each skill she finishes way ahead of everybody else and doesn’t understand why they may not finish their assignment that day. She gets up on the beam and just does skill after skill. Without wasting any time. This summer when she was learning her layout step out series on beam she was one of the last ones to get permission that is was good enough to work in on high beam. She told me that she was really frustrated that they were on high beam and she was on low beam. This really fueled her desire. Once she got permission she just attacked them on high beam because she told me she was anxious to catch up. She doesn’t seem to have that natural form that some of her teammates have. She sometimes struggles a little on the form of skills but she works real hard to clean them up.

When not at the gym she watches gymnastics on the internet and learns more about elites. She has read every biography about gymnasts that I think has ever been printed. She know so much about elite gymnastics in the US and about other elite in other countries that her coaches will ask her about gymnasts from Worlds or Olympics when they want to know more about them.

I am telling you all these details so that you can know more about her as a gymnast so you can help me figure some things out.

What do you do if you are limited by how far you can go based on your current gym? My DD is 11 years old and will be a second year level 8. The plan was for her to compete 9 this year but with some last minute injuries she is just not polished enough to do 9. I started looking around at some of the girls on her team and realize that most of them couldn’t make the leap in levels this year. Several were supposed to do 9 but will probably do 8 again and some were supposed to do 10 and will end up repeating level 9. This makes me wonder if her current gym pushes forward enough. I saw the same thing happen last year. We will have only one 10 this year. In the 4 years we have been at the gym the 9s and 10s have been a very small group. We graduated a very successful 10 two years ago who has a full ride to a top ten school so I know the coach is more then capable of teaching high skills. He is very technical and spends lots of time explaining the how and why of skills. The gym is great at basics. They spend a lot of time working on basics. When our girls have gone to clinics to other coaches have told our girls how good their basics are. He spends a lot of time on drills but he rarely spots on bars. I know that repeating the optional levels happens frequently so how do I know if her current gym is the best for her. She is at the best gym in our area and a better gym is over 200 miles away. My DD is so passionate about gymnastics that I would hate to see her not be able to pursue her dreams and full potential.

What do I do? As an 11 year old second year level 8 is now the right time to be thinking of making some major changes? My husband and I have discussed moving. It wouldn’t just be for gymnastics though. Hubby has thought about a more challenging job with bigger pay. However his field is somewhat limited and we can’t just pick a gym and find a job there. We would have to wait for a job to open up in an area that also has a great gym. Moving also presents some challenges. One of my children would be greatly impacted and really struggle with the loss of his grandparents. This is a big negative to moving. After reading the Gabby Douglas book she got for Christmas I asked her if she would be willing to leave her family and move in with another family to train. She jumped all over that more enthusiastically then I would have guessed. I know that this was more common in the 80’s and 90’s but not so common now. Obviously I assume she would have to be a national type caliber gymnast for a gym to be willing to work on this type of arrangement. I know its not a good choice now but I a looking down the line at options. Or we do nothing and keep letting her toil at her own gym. I feel really conflicted with this. Yes this is the best choice for our family but what about her needs. If she was an adult she would be able to go wherever she needed to be but as a child she is penalized in a sport that athletic choices have to be made so young. She hears lots of conversions from friends and family who are shocked at the time commitment and financial commitment that we as a family give this sport. When she hears this she gets a little stressed that one day we will decide that it is too much and tell her to quit (this happened to a teammate). I have always assured her that as long as she was passionate about it and works hard that we would do whatever we could to support her. I feel like she has kept up her end of the bargain but that I might be unable to keep mine up to do whatever I can.

So what do we do? How do we know if she even has the potential to make it as an elite? Do you think staying at her gym long term or even the next few years will negatively effect her ability to pursue elite? What do you think of her gyms inability to make leaps in level in the higher optionals. How do we handle her passion and drive if we are in a situation that she will probably be unable to achieve it?
Realistically, if the current gym does not train elites, then she is not going to be able to go elite at her current gym. I do know that there are coaches capable of training level 10 skills, but if there are not other elite gymnasts at the gym, then you need to get your mind set onto level 10 JO gymnastics and looking forward to college gymnastics. The two goals are just so radically different, that, as a parent, I think you need to come to terms with the type of focus that the gym has.

If you look on USA gymnastics website at the elite section, you'll see what I mean. There is a whole section for coaches interested in training elite gymnasts, and it is incredibly detailed. I think you'd be hard pressed to find a gym to switch over like Chow's did for Shawn Johnson.

On the other hand... If you could talk your DD's coaches into training her elite... That's what HOPES is for. So you wouldn't have to move. Or have her live away from home. And level 8 training level 9, she could maybe do HOPES at 11. ( it would prob. Be better if she were training level 10, I think).

Good luck to your daughter. Let us know if she makes it to VISA classic!
Also, I wanted to say, I wouldn't worry about girls repeating level 8 and 9 in your gym. That's the main reason for the restructuring of the levels coming up, the skill difference between 8 and 9 was so big that girls would do 2 or even 3 years as level 8!
You have the chance to teach her an amazing life lesson...If she wants something she should be willing to put it all on the line. The beauty of her age is that if she puts it all out there and fails, she still has her parents there to help pick up the pieces. If she tries it and it isn't what she hoped it would be, then she changes the plan. The experience of gymnastics is what its all about, not just the destination. The world loves to tell us no, and she is saying yes. If you have it in you to support her dream, put it all on the line. The results are just details but the thrill of the ride is lifetime. There is no safer time in her life to take a plunge:) Many may disagree with me but that is my 2 cents. PM me if you want more information about my point of view.
Ok deep breath here...she's 11 yrs old and repeating Level 8 ,which in and of itself isn't a bad thing, but definitely doesn't put her on an "elite" track...I would hold off on any family moves until a few things fell into place because at the timetable currently as is, she won't even be a Level 10 until she's 13 or 14 ..and that's barring injury or a repeat of level 9. I certainly wouldn't have her boarding with another family in another city for levels 8, 9 or 10 because as you say , your gym has been able to train capable gymnasts to compete in a top tier college program.

You say her dream is to "do elite" but does she even realize what that entails? or could she be happy as a great level 10 or collegiate competitor?

I know I sound like Debbie Downer and I don't mean to imply that you shouldn't support your child's dreams, but at some point, as the parent of the "moderately talented gymnast" I think you need to assess whether or not this is realistic, given that you are thinking of uprooting your family from their home base , and all the sacrifice that will entail for all. It 's something to consider...
I think the first critical step is to talk with her coach. See what the coach has to say, what he is thinking...what his goals for her are. Is HOPES on his radar for her? If so, the training plan would be/should be different for her. Maybe if he knows what she wants to achieve, what you support, etc., he will work towards a different goal for her. He may not do that if you don't open that discussion with him...not all parents/gymnasts want that for their gymmie.

Good luck!
My fear would be the pressure that would put on your DD. If you uproot your entire family and move them away from your support system so that your DD can follow her dreams, and she falls short, becomes injured, or whatever, that's a lot of weight on her shoulders. Heck, it's a lot of weight for her to bear, even if she succeeds. Of course, there are girls who do it, and do it successfully, and I'm not telling you that you shouldn't do it... Just that that's what I would be concerned about, in addition to how it would affect the other children.
Why not approach her coaches, tell them what your daughter's goals are, and see what they say? Let them know that you're willing to do what it takes, within reason, to support her dreams and ask them if they are open to training an elite gymnast and what they think your daughter should do if she wants to have a realistic shot at achieving her goals.

Also, have you researched other gyms in your area and do you know for sure that none of them have trained elites? A lot more gyms do elite these days than used and girls do not necessarily have to be at a WOGA or a Chow's to be in the elite program. If there are any gyms that do elite nearby, you could arrange a meeting with the coaches.

It is really hard to say whether your daughter has a decent shot at elite or not, only coaches are really going to be able to make that call. 11 years old at L8 isn't bad AT ALL, but a lot of girls on the elite track are L10 by that point too. It is possible that had your daughter been at a more intense program she would have been pushed through the levels at a faster pace, but it is also possible that she would have gotten burnt out. It is possible that she could switch to an intense program now and they would push her to do L9 this year and L10/Hopes next year, but it is also possible that they'd still decide she has the makings of an excellent collegiate gymnast but isn't really elite material. Also, what would your daughter want out of the elite program? There are lots of girls that test elite but never see international competition. Would she be happy just getting that qualifying score, being able to say she's an elite gymnast, or does she want to make the national team? Even within elite, there's a huge difference between the top elites and elites who barely qualified.

I don't think you need to crush her dreams right now -- she's 11, it is fine to dream! But the first step is to talk to coaches who have trained high level gymnasts and get an honest assessment of your daughter's potential, starting with her own coaches. Keep in mind that if your daughter's coaches don't know her goals, there's no way they can help her train for them.

Your daughter sounds like a very determined girl, good luck to her!
I have tried to get her interested in college gymnastics and she just isn't that interested. I too think this is a more realistic goal but its not her goal right now. No I am definitely not considering her moving away from home right now or even in the next several years. I was just wanting to explore other options and get some feed back as what to do in what I consider a tough parenting decision.
Of course she doesn't know exactly what it takes to be an elite she has had no exposure. But she has researched and read quite a bit and I am sure that provides some what of a base as what to expect.

She has told me that she wants to make the national team and wants to compete internationally.
My fear would be the pressure that would put on your DD. If you uproot your entire family and move them away from your support system so that your DD can follow her dreams, and she falls short, becomes injured, or whatever, that's a lot of weight on her shoulders. Heck, it's a lot of weight for her to bear, even if she succeeds. Of course, there are girls who do it, and do it successfully, and I'm not telling you that you shouldn't do it... Just that that's what I would be concerned about, in addition to how it would affect the other children.

Totally agree with you on this one MaryA...and I speak from experience as my daughter did elite for a few years but when she decided she didn't want to do it anymore and wanted to drop back to level 10, it was HER FATHER who never (to this day) came to terms with it...he saw it as her "wasting her time and talent by just doing level 10" (and she was a mighty fine 10) to the point that she didn't want him at meets (and I don't blame her) . She went on to get a full ride gymnastics scholarship but he would still ruminate about the "what ifs" ..I say tread lightly into the elite waters and if you think for a second that there will be any resentment or second guessing, don't go there because it's just not worth it...
I agree with Mary A about the pressure. We had a similar experience when after 10 years of gymnastics, my level 10 daughter decided not to do gymnastics on a college scholarship. She spent time in therapy trying to deal with the guilt issues over the fact that we sacrificed so much to help her with her dream of a college scholarship and then she wanted to quit. It was very difficult for all of us. My advice is to tread carefully and with your eyes wide open. Best of luck:)
Ok first every gymnast has that Olympic dream and desire its all part of being in the sport. At 11 yo she really doesn't have enough life experiences to really know what is out there for her or what it takes to accomplish that dream. At 11yo she isn't even thinking about High School yet never mind College. When she gets to her teen years and High School everything can and does change. that is when they are really figuring out who they are and what they really want.

With that said I would just encourage her to keep doing what she is doing and give 110% all the time. I would talk to her coaches to see what their opinion is on her making elite. It's a gruling path and only a hand full of gymnasts can go down that path. If she is really instant and you honestly think that she could be that one in a million to make elite then consider first visiting a gym with an elite program to see just what is involved. Have that gym evaluate your DD and see what they have to say about her ability. Then see if you really want to make that move to the Elite gym. When I hear the interviews of these olympic girls spending their preteen and teen years basicly being raised by the coaches and host families I know that no matter how talented my DD is that isn't something I want for her. There are alot of sacrafices that will need to be made to go down the elite road and I know that isn't the life I want for my children no matter how good they are.

Doing elite is all consuming and will effect not just your daughter but your whole family in all aspects of time, money and any thing else you can think off. My DD is 15 competing L8 training L9 (hoping to compete L9 this season) and just the time, money and travel we do at this level is so consuming.

Just to get an idea of what you may have in front of you here is a link to a typical day for Mckayla Maroney I'm sure it's not the whole picture either.
Bekah's "Get A Grip" Gym Blog: A Day in the Life of World Champion McKayla Maroney

In the end no matter what route she takes it should be about FUN first. If they aren't having FUN doing this then why do it.
I don't think being an 11 year old level 8 puts her "off" the elite track, and if this is seriously what she wants, I think I would do what was within reason to help her at least give it a shot. I think the first step is to talk with her coaches, they would be able to provide the most accurate responses to your questions based on what they feel is reasonable for their program and for your daughter. Your daughter is at the level where HOPEs is a possibility and a way to get her feet wet in the elite world. She could find out she loves it and wants to keep going on that path or that it's just not her thing after all and she wants to stick with the JO plan. But it's a good place to start, especially if it's something your current coaches are willing to navigate with her. But if they don't know she has elite intentions, they probably aren't going to stress themselves to get her there. That attitude could very well change when they know her intentions and that she is willing to work for it.
Some great JO gyms who have never had elites are perfectly capable and willing to coach an elite if the situation arises. Others choose to stick with JO only. You won't know what your current situation is like until you and your DD let the coaches know what she wants. There are currently elites from gyms that aren't producers of huge elite teams who are doing just fine. And while they aren't Olympic contenders for the most part, they get an assignment every once in a while.
So I would say cross moving or sending your DD away, at least for right now, but don't stomp on her goal and force her to change her focus to level 10 and NCAA gym if that's not what she wants to do. Let her go for it, but start small and where you are, you can make those changes if needed later when elite is more of a reality than a dream and her coaches have done all they can do. But that's in the future. For now, let them know what she wants and let them work out a plan for her.
I'm assuming your gym doesn't have elites. Most don't, and many don't plan to, no matter how talented the kids who come along are. You would have to get her evaluated by a national training center (i.e. a gym with national team members) to know what her potential was. Hard to tell from your post because you say probably level 8 but describe an anecdote about a level 9/10 beam series. She can do a back layout step out on the high beam with no pads on it?
Many say "hard work will beat talent anytime". I have no experience in elite but I've read enough and just doing the math (out of approx. 60,000+ registered USAG gymnast, maybe 30 make it to the elite level), I've deduced it takes more than just extraordinary hard work and a lot of talent to get to that level. You need an elite level coach, limited injuries, money, she has to give up vacations, may need to be homeschooled, have the right personality, to name a few. In spite of all that, if I were in your shoes, I'd still try to support my daughter's aspirations. But I would first try to get a qualified elite coach or two to take a look at my daughter to see if she even has enough talent or have the "elite" personality to go the distance. Even college gymnastics is becoming unattainable. To compete Div. I, colleges look for elite gymnasts and/or multi-year level 10. Also, to the OP, kids' aspirations, interests, goals change constantly. I would just support her goals at the moment. I'd get her in the best gym in my area without sacrificing too much.

Lastly, although your daughter seems enthusiastic about moving on her own right now, thinking it and actually being able to do it, are two different things. But just for your info, I think there are many elite gyms, including Chow's, that will let you practice with their team if you submit a video. I also know USAG holds developmental camps year round (4 a year) to aspiring elites. All you need to do is make a video and submit it to them.
I don't understand why so many people are poo pooing her dreams. It kind of reminds me of when I was a kid and for my birthday I got to go to the store and pick out a Barbie doll. I took my "best friend" with me. I got a big suprise when we got there as my parents said I could have 2 Barbies! My friend tried her very best to convince me I should only get one in the end the truth came out that she only had one. She was jealous that I might have something she didn't. Obviously trying to go elite is not for most families but just because you can't have it or don't wish to doesn't mean that the OP's child should automatically squash her dream because other people say she should not bother even trying.

Truthfully OP you do need to do all the research and decide what is best for you and your family and no one can tell you what that is going to be. If you have the money and resources to make it happen then you may have that option to go for it.

I would suggest you talk to her coaches and maybe even get the opinions of some elite coaches. Good luck in your decision!
I don' t know that everyone is poo-pooing her DD's dreams. My DD's gym does TOPs, and sends girls to camp regularly, but does not train elites. Why? The head coach told me that girls on the elite track are "more likely to get burned out and injured".

It's just more of a commitment in time and more of a sacrifice than he, as a coach, is willing to ask, of his athletes. He wants to train girls through level 10 and get them ready for college gymnastics. He thinks this makes happier and healthier gymnasts.

So, is your DD's coach like my DD's coach? That's the million dollar question.

Because the easiest solution is for her to pursue her elite dreams at her current gym. Theoretically, USAG has a program in place (HOPES), so that a talented athlete and her coach can train at home, and go to training camps at the ranch periodically throughout the year, so that she doesnt have to move away from home. The program was designed so that girls like your daughter and families like your family wouldn't have to move across the country. The only poo-pooing I saw was some very wise words of warning that bookworm had about pulling up roots and moving your whole family, and her husband's unexpected disappointment in her daughter's decision to quit.

I think that you need to not be so defensive. I know it is hard on message boards, where you can't read body language and hear tone of voice. Also, your daughter is being realistic... It's not like she's 13 and a level 4 thinking she's going to the Olympics. That's just a logistical problem if nothing else , you know?

Good luck to you and your daughter.

DON'T LURK... Join The Discussion!

Members see FEWER ads

Gymnaverse :: Recent Activity

College Gym News