The best age to start competing

DON'T LURK... Join The Discussion!

Members see FEWER ads

ChalkBucket may earn a commission through product links on the site.
the reason we want the kids to start so young, the old timers that is, is so that they spend most of their time falling. you get more fall training for things that will come up later. the kids get a sense of what's needed when they fall. and most of these falls are unplanned done in soft environments.

then, the coach can then practice planned falls with the kids. like over rotating a front on floor and learning how to pull the arms in, turn and fall. we can actually teach them this in real time for that time when it is unplanned and they know just what to do. not stick one or both arms out to the floor and break one or both arms. i could go on and on but i think you'll all grasp this concept. the more falls they take early on the less risk for injury later. 'cat sense' must be trained in to the human,:)
 
Sorry Dunno, this makes me giggle. I fully understand what you are saying. The reason it makes me giggle is... When we first moved, Kadee joined the gym she is at now (poor kid has been in 3 gyms in her short life due to moves), we went and watched, and just kinda got a feel for the gym. At this time she was very young (almost 4) so I was still pretty ignorant of what it was all about. (still am..lol) Anyway, there was a "big girl" (not weight..age) on the bars. She would do a giant around the high bar then release it..do her thing in the air..then when she went to grab the bar again..she would miss..and land in a belly flop style on the mat. She did this over and over again. Im thinking.."my lord..this poor child is having a hard time"..lol. Then I started paying attention the coach and what it was she was saying to her. "No..you land with your arms over your head." "Straight body".."Land flat out". Then I realized they were teaching her how to fall. I had never even processed that thought until I saw it being taught. They were teaching her the safe way to fall off the bars to lessen her risk over injury. You spread the impact out over the largest portion of your body you possibly can to reduce the impact on just one area. Im glad I didnt actually ask what was going on..I really would have felt dumb..lol
 
Every program has different ideas of what age gymnasts should start to compete, being from Canada I am used to every one having there own routine from the beginning, but talking to a parent from the states at a recent competition they were very confused by he fact we didn't start with compulsay routines then switch to optionals. They kind of even sounded offended that our program wasn't the same. Of course all of us thought it was wired that the states had set routines but we just went with the flow trying to understand what was happening.
 
Dunno, LOL at your analogy of cat sense - while my dd didn't start actually competing til age 8, she started her training at age 5, and most definitely was taught how to fall! and I can tell you it has saved her bacon a number of times :) = and she was quite aware that this was a "skill" that she was learning. I have seen her fall many many times and always marvel at how well she (generally) comes out of it.....
 
I think that a gymnast should start competing when they are mentally mature enough to understand what they are doing and why. Sure, it helps if a gymnast starts younger because of weighing less and having more time to go through the levels, but honestly, I think that 6/7 is pretty young.

Really, it depends on the gymnast. Some kids are really mature and full "get" what they are doing out there, and some eight year olds still have to look at their coach to ask what they have to do next.

Personally, I think that nine is a good age. While their still young but fully understand why they have to point their toes.
 
I prefer the kids to be at least 7 or 8 for USAG level 4 or 5. Are there some kids that are exceptions? I'm sure, but I'm also not sure there are thousands of them, which is what we're seeing.

I have no problem with informal competitions for the kids, but I think the focus on the routines and choreography is a lot, and it can be discouraging. If USAG is bent on pushing more and more kids into competitions at the lower levels and younger ages, then if you ask me they'd do well to come up with something else than what we have now. So far I have never worked at a gym that has kids competing under L4. Honestly it is hard for me to imagine trying to coordinate that without discouragement for a lot of kids.


Just curious on your opinion gymdog since I always find your opinions pretty spot on, what about a child makes you think they aren't ready at 6yo? I'm curious obviously because I have a 6 year old who was counting the days to be able to compete. Had she been allowed she would have competed as a 5 year old Level 4. You said there are some exceptions and what are those? I just wasn't sure what you meant. They aren't ready to compete physically, emotionally, both?
 
Just curious on your opinion gymdog since I always find your opinions pretty spot on, what about a child makes you think they aren't ready at 6yo? I'm curious obviously because I have a 6 year old who was counting the days to be able to compete. Had she been allowed she would have competed as a 5 year old Level 4. You said there are some exceptions and what are those? I just wasn't sure what you meant. They aren't ready to compete physically, emotionally, both?

Well, I think for most of them it's just discouraging with the standard of the detail expected in the routines. I would say the USAG compulsory routines are fairly complex now. I am not saying the kids aren't ready to learn those skills, necessarily, or even perform them in informal meets or exhibitions. Just that I have seen a lot of kids who are physically capable of the skills get discouraged because there is a lot more to the routines and developmentally it is a lot to expect. But I mean, like everything, I guess it can be done well and not well, you know? I just think the way the system is set up sort of encourages gyms to do things that perhaps aren't the best practices in the long run for most kids.

Developmentally we have a lot of information that in early childhood kids learn through play, sort of like experimentation. I think a lot of times we essentially have programs in place where we are like, do this over and over (drilling very specific patterns of movement, i.e. exactly what is in the routine) just so these little kids can learn them. Because overall many of the kids are not able to do it very well. That is just how it is. If you watch 9 out of 10 5 year olds try to do these USAG L3 routines to the music, they will be off the music, doing extra steps, looks awkward, etc. But there is a lot more to gymnastics and these may be the best years to develop overall physical abilities. Basically creating a lot of reference points in many different kinds of movement and doing different things. In terms of motor learning, having children do different variations of things has been shown to be more successful in creating memory patterns, than to have them do the same thing over and over. More parts of the brain are lighting up when they are doing new things because the brain is learning what NOT to do to produce a successful result. When the brain gets efficient at that, then less parts of the brain "light up" as the body efficiently does the skill.

But overall I'm getting kind of off my point. I do think most children are not ready to compete at 5 and 6. It is always possible there are exceptions. And of course it's kind of a hard point to really prove or disprove because that is the way our system is set up: if a child has USAG level [whatever] skills, there is generally only one training program a gym has for them, and that is the USAG level [whatever] competitive group. So if the child is not of the age to compete that, of course they are in a situation where they are essentially "left out" of a special thing the other children of their same caliber are doing, and that is frustrating. If we prioritized "pre-team" that developed skills past L3, and included more rigorous and differentiated kinds of training (not just routines, but all kinds of fun activities and movement patterns and conditioning work), then children would be motivated probably both by it intrinsically being fun and challenging, and by looking forward to the privilege of one day being one of the "big girls" who competes. But there is no real motivation for things to be set up this way.

In fact I think the next cycle will trend to even more competitions for younger and lower level gymnasts. So, I think if that is what we want to do, create routines that are more user-friendly for the coaches, create a different stream for kids under a certain age who aren't level 4 or 5 yet, or something, that features an experience more appropriate to those ages. For example, not using music in the floor routines, developmentally appropriate skills (no bridges under 5, etc), equipment at appropriate heights or adapted equipment, etc. Personally I don't think it is necessary in terms of developing gymnasts. BUT if USAG wants to push it as a moneymaker (let's be honest with ourselves) the way they are going about capitalizing on it doesn't seem entirely logical to me. I have no desire right now to get a group of 5 year olds and teach them the L3 routines to an appropriate competitive standard. They may have the skills down and be fabulous but it just doesn't seem right to me. I work with hundreds of 5 year olds and some are fabulous but I think there are other ways to motivate kids than just competition.
 
Well, I think for most of them it's just discouraging with the standard of the detail expected in the routines. I would say the USAG compulsory routines are fairly complex now. I am not saying the kids aren't ready to learn those skills, necessarily, or even perform them in informal meets or exhibitions. Just that I have seen a lot of kids who are physically capable of the skills get discouraged because there is a lot more to the routines and developmentally it is a lot to expect. But I mean, like everything, I guess it can be done well and not well, you know? I just think the way the system is set up sort of encourages gyms to do things that perhaps aren't the best practices in the long run for most kids.

I know what you mean about the standard of detail expected and that developmentally it's a lot to expect. It was hard for my 5yo to look good doing the routines and get all the details that would factor into a score, heck it was hard for the 8 and 9 year olds on her team because the coach never corrected those things. Two of her best friends that were 8 years old both quit gymnastics because they consistently scored 7's on beam and floor without falls and they felt discouraged. Kids and parents new to the sport understand that falling causes low scores, but it's harder for them to understand that all those details are more costly than falling. My DD would have been in the same boat had she started competing when she was 5, so I am glad she had to wait until she was 6yo. By the time she was 6yo she did have the details and scored pretty well I think. We would be thrilled on DD's old team if the best girl scored a 34 and to see DD get a 37 was beyond my expectation. I don't feel like she spent a lot of time just doing routines either and just drilling them over and over. I felt like she just grew up a little bit and started really "getting it" as she got a little more mature. Plus her new gym spends a lot of time on very basic things done really well and that helped her routines without really doing routines.
 
Well, I think for most of them it's just discouraging with the standard of the detail expected in the routines. I would say the USAG compulsory routines are fairly complex now. I am not saying the kids aren't ready to learn those skills, necessarily, or even perform them in informal meets or exhibitions. Just that I have seen a lot of kids who are physically capable of the skills get discouraged because there is a lot more to the routines and developmentally it is a lot to expect. But I mean, like everything, I guess it can be done well and not well, you know? I just think the way the system is set up sort of encourages gyms to do things that perhaps aren't the best practices in the long run for most kids.

Developmentally we have a lot of information that in early childhood kids learn through play, sort of like experimentation. I think a lot of times we essentially have programs in place where we are like, do this over and over (drilling very specific patterns of movement, i.e. exactly what is in the routine) just so these little kids can learn them. Because overall many of the kids are not able to do it very well. That is just how it is. If you watch 9 out of 10 5 year olds try to do these USAG L3 routines to the music, they will be off the music, doing extra steps, looks awkward, etc. But there is a lot more to gymnastics and these may be the best years to develop overall physical abilities. Basically creating a lot of reference points in many different kinds of movement and doing different things. In terms of motor learning, having children do different variations of things has been shown to be more successful in creating memory patterns, than to have them do the same thing over and over. More parts of the brain are lighting up when they are doing new things because the brain is learning what NOT to do to produce a successful result. When the brain gets efficient at that, then less parts of the brain "light up" as the body efficiently does the skill.

But overall I'm getting kind of off my point. I do think most children are not ready to compete at 5 and 6. It is always possible there are exceptions. And of course it's kind of a hard point to really prove or disprove because that is the way our system is set up: if a child has USAG level [whatever] skills, there is generally only one training program a gym has for them, and that is the USAG level [whatever] competitive group. So if the child is not of the age to compete that, of course they are in a situation where they are essentially "left out" of a special thing the other children of their same caliber are doing, and that is frustrating. If we prioritized "pre-team" that developed skills past L3, and included more rigorous and differentiated kinds of training (not just routines, but all kinds of fun activities and movement patterns and conditioning work), then children would be motivated probably both by it intrinsically being fun and challenging, and by looking forward to the privilege of one day being one of the "big girls" who competes. But there is no real motivation for things to be set up this way.

In fact I think the next cycle will trend to even more competitions for younger and lower level gymnasts. So, I think if that is what we want to do, create routines that are more user-friendly for the coaches, create a different stream for kids under a certain age who aren't level 4 or 5 yet, or something, that features an experience more appropriate to those ages. For example, not using music in the floor routines, developmentally appropriate skills (no bridges under 5, etc), equipment at appropriate heights or adapted equipment, etc. Personally I don't think it is necessary in terms of developing gymnasts. BUT if USAG wants to push it as a moneymaker (let's be honest with ourselves) the way they are going about capitalizing on it doesn't seem entirely logical to me. I have no desire right now to get a group of 5 year olds and teach them the L3 routines to an appropriate competitive standard. They may have the skills down and be fabulous but it just doesn't seem right to me. I work with hundreds of 5 year olds and some are fabulous but I think there are other ways to motivate kids than just competition.

I agree with you gym dog. My DD was placed on the level 5 team far before she was age eligible to compete. That meant that she was practicing the same routine for two years before she could compete. I really think that is in part what led to her beginning to get bored at her old gym. That and the factor that there she would always be the baby on her team. She was never able to ecape that 'status' . It took switching her to a new gym to 'spark' her desire to improve/polish her level 5 routines. At her new gym they do so much, and she feels as though everything is 'new' again. Had I known then what I know now, I may not have allowed her to be moved up so early as she was at the old gym. Thank goodness her new gym knows what to 'do' with this child in order to allow her to excel and improve!!
 
Well, my daughter was one who started competing at 6 on level 4 (she turned 7 after her state meet). Was I hesitant about her competing? Believe me, I asked her coaches several times last summer if they thought it was a good idea. Through it all, her coaches were confident that she could handle it so I trusted their judgement. And honestly, she far exceeded what I thought she would accomplish. They were patient with her and towards midseason to the end she began showing some big improvements. Now that being said, I am glad that she will be staying on level 4 for another year. There is no rush at her gym to move kids through the levels as quickly as possible. I think she will gain more by repeating level 4 than rushing to get the skills for level 5 (that kip alone will take this year and next to get anyway).
 
Thank you to all who have replied to this thread as it has been very enlightening. Some points brought up were those that I may not have considered and others have showed me that there are two sides to every decision made.

For me I do not take part in the progression of my daughter's gymnastic career; as I do not have the knowledge to make an informed decision and I do trust that the coaches of our gym will know what is best.


As I am trying to learn this complex world of gymnastics I seem to find there are pros and cons to very decision made along the way.

I think one thing different where we are from in Manitoba is there really is a lack of numbers - so to speak as I think at best there are maybe two competitions - if your are lucky - where my daughter will be able to compete when eligible. Thus leading to my question that by the time she is able to compete for the first time it will have to be in a large setting in front of "strangers" or judges in a different city.

From what I have seen and read gymnastics is just as much a mental sport as a physical sport; so not having the chance to really do routines etc. in a more familiar setting first may be over whelming. On the flip side; having to spend years in and out never learning routines and how to preform to music etc. would maybe put your child at a dis-advantage.

I know in my DD's case there was a good friend of hers (older though) that is in pre-novice also in a different gym that is competing, but her coach is coming onto the floor to spot her tumbling lines. I did not know this would even be allowed and in that case it does make me wonder if she was/is ready to be in this level. Then I wonder - I guess that maybe it is getting her the exposure to be in a environment in a larger stage - and in the long run she will get used to it.

As I have read and seen videos on CB of kids younger doing "controlled" routines at the level 3/4 I thought what a great way for a child to progress and compete against her peers. I am sure there is no wrong or right, but rather what works best for you. I really appreciate all of the comments as I have found it gives me comfort in knowing there are those in the same situation (maybe more knowledgeable than I) to offer opinion and advice.

Having said that what are your thoughts on how much of a mental sport gymnastics really is.

.....

Learning every day!
 

DON'T LURK... Join The Discussion!

Members see FEWER ads

Gymnaverse :: Recent Activity

College Gym News

Such a cool transition! 🤩

2024 Gymnastics For All GymFest

Back