Starting a High Performance Team Track ("A" Team vs. "B" Team)

Discussion in 'Question & Answer' started by JBS, Nov 9, 2011.

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  1. JBS

    JBS Administrator CBBC Board Member Verified Coach Proud Parent Former Gymnast

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    Over the last few years we have never really deviated from our team structure...everyone that was on team was running through the same basic program. Now we are to the point of running two tracks within our JO women's program...an "A" team and a "B" team. I have a few questions for parents/coaches that currently have this structure in their gym.
    1. What are the differences in the two tracks? (Age, hours, body type, commitment level, tops, etc.)
    2. Does having two tracks cause issues in the gym or does everyone understand why it is done that way?
    We also have an Xcel (Prep-op) team...so we will actually be moving to a three tiered system if we run two tracks within the JO system.

  2. coachmolly

    coachmolly Verified Coach Verified Coach Former Gymnast

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    No. Just plain no.
    If you have a prep-op track and a JO track, I really think that should be sufficient. The kids/parents who don't want to commit to the hours, commitment, and money that is required in USAG can take the prep-op route. The kids who are dedicated and push their way through the USAG route at their own pace. Picking and choosing who goes into an "A" group or "B" group is nothing but damaging to any of the kids.
    I've written about my personal experience with this before but I will write about it again. I switched gyms as an 11 year old level 5. The HC did not see me do one skill, based on my age, level, and size he immediately put me in the "B" group. I didn't get the same coaching or opportunities as the other kids and it was miserable. I had no idea what I did wrong to be put in that group, and as someone who wanted nothing more than to be the best I could be in the gym, it was deeply hurtful to me. I still feel angry boiling over when I think about what this gym did to children and the impact it had on me, not only in terms of my gymnastics skills and ultimate progression, but also on the way I felt about myself as a person.
    All kids deserve the OPPORTUNITY to progress. Not all kids will take advantage of that opportunity, not all kids will be capable of reaching the optional levels, but they should at the very least be given the chance if they have the desire to work hard and improve and have a passion for gymnastics. Some kids will look like they have limited potential early on and surprise you, others will look like future elites only to see their rapid progress screech to a halt when they grow or face a mental block.
    Things like lack of commitment, unwillingness to commit to the required hours of the USAG program, and similar problems can, and should be addressed- and maybe in those cases the prep. op track could be recommended as a better fit. But in no way should a child be pushed onto a "B" team for body type, age, or because they are a TOPs superstar.
    Just my 2 cents for what it's worth.
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  3. mariposa

    mariposa Moderator/Proud Parent CBBC Board Member Proud Parent

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    I agree with CoachMolly. From a parent's perspective, my kid would have been one put on the "B" team likely, especially if they are chosen from a young age. But now, a few years later, she is doing just as well and sometimes better than the girls that were chosen for the "A" team (they are now on the same team and same coaches, they don't have an A and B team in her gym, but similar with how you get to team, either via the young talented/developmental program or just hope you get noticed somehow in regular recreational classes). I think that you could miss some hardworking and dedicated gymnasts if you get set in an A team, B team mode. And also think it creates division for no reason. If you have XCEL, you don't need 3 tracks, in my opinion.
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  4. JBS

    JBS Administrator CBBC Board Member Verified Coach Proud Parent Former Gymnast

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    What if you are on the other side of that...you are a 7 year old L5 with a perfect body type for gymnastics and both of your parents were gymnasts. Why should you be trained the same as an 11 year old L5 that struggles with kips and who's parents can't get them to practice on time?

    What you speak of already exists between the JO team and the Xcel team to a point. It also exists between rec. and team.

    Or are you telling me I should intensify my entire team to the "A" team standards? This would give me a smaller team. Far fewer children would have the chance to do team gymnastics.

  5. coachmolly

    coachmolly Verified Coach Verified Coach Former Gymnast

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    But you already have that separation. If kids who don't have the time, money, commitment, etc. to compete USAG still want to compete in some way- they have the Xcel option. Why is there a need to start another track? And why is there a need for coaches to select who goes where? I think kids and families involved in the sport do a pretty good job of sorting themselves out as the levels progress.
    And for the ultra-talented kids, there are programs like TOPs that you can do in addition to regular team training where they can work on TOPs specific skills. There are also plenty of opportunities in a reasonably sized level grouping with sufficient staff to cater to each gymnasts needs. If one gymnast finishes the assignment early, have them move on to uptraining. Not all kids in a given group/level need to be working on the exact same things at all times. I just have a problem when coaches try to pick and choose who gets the best resources and opportunities for advancement. All children should have the chance if they love gymnastics and can do so safely.
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  6. Sparky

    Sparky New Member

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    We also have an "unofficial" A & B stream in our club (although you would never get any of the higher ups to admit it) and I have always adamantly disagreed with it (even though my child was in the unofficial "A" stream). It drives me absolutely bonkers that all kids are not given the same opportunity to show what they can achieve (and no, not all coaches are created equal). I have many times witnessed an athlete who wasn't a clear "natural" work hard and give their all to their sport acheive great things, just as I have seen naturally talented "wonderkids" slack off and end up quitting when things get a bit tough.

    I totally agree with coachmolly - every child WHO WANTS TO TRY should be given at the very least a six month opportunity to show that they are willing to work hard. Saying and doing are definitely two different things, but I don't see how it is right that a single individual should be able to veto a child's chances of doing great things simply because they don't think the child can. It is just not right.

    So, to answer the OP's question, I think that two tracks is plenty - one for the kids who are truly competitive and willing to commit (regardless of body type, etc.), and those who want a lesser commitment.

    Just my two cents, I have to admit this one burns me up!
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  7. JBS

    JBS Administrator CBBC Board Member Verified Coach Proud Parent Former Gymnast

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    Just to be clear...our Xcel team is not yet able to serve as a "B" team for the JO program. It is not to that level yet. Eventually Xcel may be able to serve that purpose...but not right now. Most of our Xcel gymnasts are just learning RO-BHS.
  8. JBS

    JBS Administrator CBBC Board Member Verified Coach Proud Parent Former Gymnast

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    I never said they would have different resources...I said that would be grouped differently. Grouping by age, body type, and skill is not uncommon in athletics. Our local middle school still runs an A and B basketball team...on average...the A team is taller. Many sports...soccer...separate by age divisions. How about football?...lineman usually aren't the little kids.

    Due to the fact that we do put many kids on team...our most talented kids may not be getting what they deserve.

    I never said I was going to divide by coaches into A and B groups. I never said only B coaches would be coaching the B group.
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2011
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  9. 2gymmies

    2gymmies New Member CB Booster Club Coach Proud Parent

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    I feel like this answer is a bit rambling, but here goes...

    I have to say I'm leaning toward the A and B being acceptable depending on how children are chosen for that and if it is a seasonal thing (or permanent) or a tryout or how entry into it is handled - isn't that kinds of like Texas Dreams dream team? I agree that not all coaches are created equal but it seems like many of the top gyms have "groups" that train at different paces.

    We have a small group that trains on a different schedule, more hours, at our gym right now and if I had to guess, I'd say they are on a college prep/elite track. My dd's are not in that group - I wish they were good enough, but I'm realistic enough to know that my oldest for sure is just not at the level. Those girls are quick learners and correcters, always have outstanding shapes, and are just obviously very talented with lots of potential. I'm not saying my daughter doesn't have potential, but she is definitely not at that level. That's not to say in another year or two, if she makes that group her goal and works hard, she could be a candidate for that - and I love that she is exposed to it and can aspire to it, if she so desires... I think some people do get upset by the two groups, but it is usually the parents with unrealistic Olympic hopes.

    Good luck with your decisions!
  10. Empowered

    Empowered New Member Proud Parent

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    I am sorry but I completely disagree with the concept of placing a child in a set stream because of body type or what their parents did. What if someone had told Khorkina or Bouginskaya that they didn't have the right body type for gymnastics? We would have lost two world class gymnasts and pioneers in the sport. What if someone looked at Maroney's dad and said, nope, he's 6' 2" she'll be too tall, not the right genes for gymnastics.

    And why would you want to throw all your chips into just a few children who fit the "mold"? Who is to say that perfect 7 year old legacy even wants to do gymnastics. There was a girl at our gym who was the prototypical perfect gymnast. She had the body type, the skill, the flexibility, the strength and the drive at 6... and when she turned 11 she refused to ever step foot in the gym again. At a gym with your philosophy that would have been quite a loss, at our gym it was no biggie because no coach threw all their eggs into that girl's basket.

    Some kids excel in this sport in spite of their body types or lack of natural gifts. And some kids fail even with every gift imaginable. Some kids get the drive at 5, some at 12... Pigeon holing a child based on observations at such a young age may let a wonderful gymnast slip through your fingers.

    What I love at my daughter's gym is that you would never know who is the TOPs A Camp superstar who could go elite or the kid who's working their butt off just to keep up if you just watched the attention paid by the coaches. Every kid that is on team is given the same opportunity to succeed, not just those who are deemed worthy.

    **Just a quick edit to say my daughter's old gym, after we left went to an A track / B track and the biggest issue from what parents have told me is that parents of the B track don't even want to send their kids to meets because they feel they are automatically at a disadvantage to kids who are given 8 extra hours of training weekly to compete the same levels. That gym has lost 8 compulsory gymnasts since the change, all from the "B" track.
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  11. MaryA

    MaryA Proud Parent/Moderator CBBC Board Member CB Booster Club Proud Parent

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    Yes, what would you plan to do at meets? If you have the "A" and "B" track competing at the same meets, the "B" team is already going to feel like they don't have a shot, since they will go into it expecting to be beaten by all of the "A" track kids... especially if they practice more hours and/or with the more experienced coaches. Unless you plan on sending each track to different meets, I would think long and hard about this. Maybe your time and energy would be better served building and promoting your prep-op/xcell program. With the new changes coming up in that program, this would be a good time to try to establish it as a respectable option for kids who love gymnsatics but want a life outside the gym.
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  12. JBS

    JBS Administrator CBBC Board Member Verified Coach Proud Parent Former Gymnast

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    Nobody said it was "set". I have no problem bringing an awesome B kid to the A group or putting a lazy A kid in the B group.

    From Wikipedia about Khorkina: At 1.65 m (5'5"), Khorkina was unusually tall for her sport.
    From Wikipedia about Boginskaya: She was called the "Belarusian Swan" and the "Goddess of Gymnastics" because of her height (5'2"), balletic grace, and long lines.

    We currently have kids taller than this on team. I am not saying we don't have room on the team for a 110 lbs. 7 year old. I'm saying they are not going to be on the A team initially.

    You are really making some big assumptions about our program. We lost our best gymnast last year because she wanted to play soccer...I encouraged her to do so because that is what she wanted to do. I don't remember saying "golden child".

    Sure...I agree. Point? A and B means room for more...more kids that have a chance to prove themselves onto the A team.

    I would be willing to bet that many of the kids on our team would not even be given an opportunity on many teams around the nation. Especially since some of them couldn't make the teams at other local clubs around us.

    Haha...if my B wanted to work out that same amount of hours...I would be more than willing to let them. That will not be the case initially. We have some that don't even want to do our current hours.
  13. DND

    DND New Member Proud Parent

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    I think there may be some assumptions being made based on what people have experienced in the past. From the original post I do not see it stated that the "A or B" will being training different hours or with different coaches.

    One thing to consider is that splitting up the children reduces the size of the group(s) and in turn allows the coaches to spend a lot more time with each child as an individual and their particular needs. In that case it may be very beneficial to have two groups.

    Not being from the US the whole team and A and B system are quite different for me. In my region for instance in my DD's case she is an 8yo training in what is referred to the Pre Novice Program. As you can compete in that level for three years (I believe) in all reality she could compete this year against girls who are 11yo and have been training in this level already for at least 2 more years than her. In that case if there were a number of girls at one club in this situation I would prefer that the groups were separated as I would think my DD's needs would be different than those of the girls more experienced. Having a bigger group and them all together would spread the coach to thin in order to really work with each gymnast in the amount of time given. It seems to me that the progression in gymnastic levels is that you come in learning and maybe get your butt kicked for the first year, then the following year you are more refined and polished where you hold your own better. And once you are at the top of your game in that level you move up and the roller coaster ride begins again.

    I guess it really boils down to the reasoning behind the A versus B and what the differences are in regards to the gymnasts and what they get out of it at the end of the day. As long as no one is made to feel belittled then it can be a good thing to create groups more focused on whether you are "new" to a level and just starting it or "experienced" and on your way up.

    I would think that no gymnast or parent would really care about the title (for that matter does there need to be one) as long as the results would be beneficial to their child in the end. We all just want what is best for our kids and to see them happy!
  14. agymmom

    agymmom Guest

    I'm sure there are gyms out there with A & B teams that work smoothly, but I for one (as a parent with a solidly B team child) would never put my daughter in that sort of situation where she is second class. If you are going to go ahead and do it, you might think more about how you would want to group it and how those groupings will be perceived by parents.

    As for body type, I'm going to link this thread where everyone was saying that body type doesn't matter. http://www.chalkbucket.com/forums/e...ody-type-future-current-elite-gymnastics.html So does it or does it not matter? I am now confused.

    Next, about grouping based on age, I ask you to read post #16 of this thread. http://www.chalkbucket.com/forums/parent-forum/33608-not-sure-what-do-about-gym-coaching-issues.html I've read a lot of threads on this forum, but this was one post that really stood out to me.

    Those of us with kids who are not going to be superstars (and know it) still want to feel like our kids are valued just as much and treated equally to everyone else (who presumably pay the same amount of money to the gym). Why do you need to entirely different streams? If your program is that large, why can't you just sort them into different groups at practice and maybe the advanced group moves on to harder skills once they've mastered the current skills. Sorting them by age and body type leads me to believe that you've given up on one group of girls without a fair shot. I know you have said you wouldn't have different resources, but offering a different (presumably greater) number of hours to the A group IS offering different (presumably better) resources.
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  15. maryRS

    maryRS New Member Proud Parent

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    The difference though with soccer and basketball etc., are that generally you will have different divisions. So in a U11 age group in just one league you may have 5 divisions - you want to group teams by ability accordingly otherwise the games are so lopsided and parents get annoyed, kids get frustrated etc. No team wants to get blown out all the time, nor does a team want to blow all the other teams out game in and game out, they want competition. In gymnastics, they will all be competing USAG right? Same league, in essence they will be competing "against" each other. The other thing is, on a soccer team, a B team player can fairly easily (Well with hard work, ability etc) move to A team in another year - it is a little more dynamic. I know someone whose daughter came later to a gym that has this kind of program. She is ineligible for that A program just because of her age, it doesn't even matter that she started gym young, and excelled, just at another gym. She is trained by different coaches, and the expectation is that the level 7s on this A team will do better than the "B" team (they don't call it A and B, they call it something else). From what she tells me, there are lots of hard feelings and a lot of the A teamers who are now tween, pre-teens, it seems like they have not all reached the potential that was expected when they were 7, and they have dropped out. Doesn't sound like a good system to me, and I don't think it can be compared to soccer or basketball.
  16. JBS

    JBS Administrator CBBC Board Member Verified Coach Proud Parent Former Gymnast

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    Wow...now I see why.

    Maybe I should have said Team Apple and Team Banana instead of A and B.
  17. Empowered

    Empowered New Member Proud Parent

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    I don't want you to think I am attacking you JBS, I was just stating my reasons for why I don't think it's right. Not saying your track would be like that, I am saying what the idea of tracks says to me, as a parent.

    There is another gym around here who runs a A/B training track (they don't call it that though) for levels 5 and 6. For the 5 team though, the "A Track" girls compete at different meets than the "B" girls. There was one meet this year where they both attended, but they were in separate sessions so they did not compete head to head.

    They don't have a lot of sixes so they all compete together, but it's known that the "A Track" girls will do 6/7 back to back, while the other group will train the year in between.

    I don't know many parents from this gym, but I do know that though they seem to make it work at the compulsory levels, they have a pretty high attrition rate as the levels climb. They have 1 or 2 mediocre optional kids (all the rest are superstars), and you can see from the names still competing they lose a lot of the "B Track" kids to other gyms and many leave the sport entirely.

    I just think you should be prepared for these potential outcomes, because even with the best intentions, a perceived segregation tends to piss people off.
  18. JBS

    JBS Administrator CBBC Board Member Verified Coach Proud Parent Former Gymnast

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    You totally lost me. An 11 year old can compete in L3-L10 and Xcel in USAG. I do not want my gymnastics team getting blown out of the water. Also...I am a team coach...we compete against other teams. The A and B teams are all on the same team.

    If soccer doesn't put 7 year olds with 12 year olds...why should we?

    I actually think it is identical to soccer and basketball and baseball. I just had a boy from my team not make the travel baseball team...he was not happy. The boys all know that the travel team is made up of the best kids and it is coached by a former pro baseball player. It is expected that the travel team will be better than the regular town little league team.
  19. JBS

    JBS Administrator CBBC Board Member Verified Coach Proud Parent Former Gymnast

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    The system I speak of would only be a compulsory system. Both A and B would lead to the same optional team. One would just be designed to get their faster. As I stated...I have no issue shuffling kids back and forth between teams if need be. The B team would not be getting lower quality coaching.

    Right now I have kids that are not keeping up and they are not happy. I have kids that could excel...they are not happy. As a director...I have two different groups...they need different coaching to make them progress.
  20. JBS

    JBS Administrator CBBC Board Member Verified Coach Proud Parent Former Gymnast

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    By the bold above...I would say their designed system is working perfectly. The B track kid that overcomes the challenge could be one of the best. The kids that leave or quit are not the ones that I am looking for. If the program is done correctly...it should lose more B track kids as the levels increase. If the A kids are leaving...it is not working.

    I'm very good at pissing people off already.
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