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13, level 5 -- JD?

Discussion in 'Men's Artistic Gymnastics (MAG)' started by lotsofhours, Jun 22, 2018.

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  1. Hi everyone,

    I'm new here. My son has been in gymnastics for a couple of years. He's 13 now, and loves it. Prior to this it was soccer, then karate, then football. He has quit everything in favor of focusing on gymnastics.

    He started late, and I think he's trying to figure out where he's going with this. He wants to be at the gym all the time, and is dedicated to the sport. His coach has mentioned that he may want to consider going to the JD team because of his age. I've done some research on what this means for him, but the one thing I'm still muddy on is: If he goes to JD, can he rejoin at level 8 (or whatever) at some point in the future, or is he in JD permanently?

    Trying to make the best decisions here, but the rules of the game seem to be dynamic and, at times, unclear.

    Madden3 likes this.
  2. JD is a lateral optional level, so yes, he can move out of JD into 8 or 9 or 10 at any time. He can even move BACK to JD from the other optional levels... and then move back over.

    As an older beginner, JD D1 is probably the most comfortable level for him to be in. It'll give him the free reign to achieve at his level, and won't constrain him to things that might be too simple after a couple of months, or stress him to push past what he's comfortable with just to "keep up".
    Madden3, sce and Mom2twingymnasts like this.
  3. I would totally have him do JD. He can use his strengths for routines while working on other things. He will be with kids his age/skill level as well, and not with little 8-10 year olds.

    He can move in and out of JD as needed. Odds are, the easiest thing to do woudl be to train JD with eyes on 9/10 later down the road.
    Madden3, sce, PinPin and 3 others like this.
  4. This is great information. Thank you for taking the time to respond! I'm going to let my son read these, but it sounds like JD may be the way to go until he's ready for higher levels of competition.
  5. I recently had an informative convo with my boy's coach about JD. How a gym approaches/uses/accommodates JD is up to the individual coach/gym, so you and your son are definitely going to want to discuss your son's goals and possible future with HIS head coach. But here is what our coach told me about his approach:

    First, he told me is that now that JD has been split in two divisions (JD1 and JD2) the whole thing makes much more sense. Before this split, the difference in skill level in JD at competitions was problematic. While kids competed in age groups, there were still kids with Level 5 skills competing against kids with Level 9 skills! Now, that should no longer happen.

    What they are doing at our gym with JD is that any boy who is old enough to be in JD, but has what basically amounts to compulsory level (Level 4-7) skills, has the choice to be in JD2 or whatever compulsory Level they have the skills to do. The older the boy, the more likely he will want to do JD2 rather than train and compete with kids much younger than he is. But ultimately it is up to the kid (and their parents.)

    As others have said, a gymnast can move in and out of JD/JO.

    But if getting into or back into JO optionals is a goal, it is important to understand the upper age restrictions in JO optional levels. If your son has so far competed in compulsory, you would not have experienced these restrictions yet as there are no upper age restrictions in compulsories.

    First, you need to know what your son's competition age is. The cut off age is May 31st. Whatever age the boy IS on May 31 of the "current" season is his competition age. So be aware of your son's competition age as you plan for the future. He is 13 now, but if he will turn 14 on or before May 31, 2019, he will be competing as a 14 year old this winter.

    Currently, a boy can only compete in JO Level 8 up to competition age 14. He can only compete JO Level 9 up to age 16. And while it is probably not anything worth worrying about at this point, at the older ages within JO 8 or JO 9 a boy cannot advance to Nationals, but that is the same as JD. Regionals is the furthest a JD can advance.

    So, if you son acquires the skills to be competitive at Level 8 but not 9, and is 15 or older, he is going to have to stick with JD instead. Or, if he has the skills to be a 9 but not 10, but is 17, again, he would stay in JD. But in THAT case (has solid 8 or 9 skills and but has "aged out" of those levels) he is most likely going to want to compete JD1 against other more skilled gymnasts.

    To simplify what I am saying, very generally, when it comes to competing, at our gym, JD2 is for JD boys with JO compulsory level skills, and JD1 is for boys with JO optional level skills. But who "should" be in JD 1 or 2 may vary according to state or region etc. and again, would be something your son's coach is going to know more about because he will know what the competition is like at the meets your gym goes to.

    And there are further variations between JO and JD that your gym may or may not be doing that you will want to know about- some gyms train their JD team for less hours, for example. If there is a significant difference in training hours, it could matter if the goal is to get back to JO.

    According to my son's coach, another factor that makes JD attractive is that the competition requirements allow a kid who is particularly good at some events and lagging behind in others to more effectively "specialize" in his better events.

    Also, as far as changes. Each quad potentially brings changes in competition rules. The next quad will start in 2020 (quads go by Olympic years.)
    There were many MAJOR changes at the start of this quad in 2016. The competition age date changed from September to May, aging half the boys from their previous competition age by a year. The JO upper age limits were created. Divisions in compulsory levels were created, and JD was created (with no divisions at first.) The age date and limits in particular really messed with the plans of many optional and upper-level compulsory boys. It was all incredibly frustrating for many gymnasts, parents and coaches. While the addition of JD and compulsory divisions were less cataclysmic changes, they did change the game quite a bit and coaches are still experimenting with how to incorporate JD and the compulsory divisions into their team building, training and competition strategies.

    I HOPE that knowing the confusion and problems all those changes at once created will encourage TPTB to be less drastic with changes in 2020.
    PinPin, jenjean70, Coach Z and 3 others like this.
  6. That right there ^ was good spot on information and advice.

    Whoops. I meant to say JD D2.
    Madden3 likes this.
  7. My son was a late started too - didn't take a lesson until 8, and started Level 4 at 9. He did really well in Levels 4-6 (won state champ in at least one event every year, placed in top 3 in states each year, and placed in some events in regionals. Unfortunately, for him, he has a May birthday and even though he was only 12 would have to compete as a 13 year old. He was not ready for Level 8. The coach at our previous gym did not want to coach him anymore because he was "too old" before he was even 12. So we switched to another gym. Boy did we get lucky. The new gym has a big JD program and they treat it just as seriously as the JO program. They use the program to get kids in Levels 9/10 when they are in age, since many boys apparently lost a year and would not be able to qualify for nationals. The kids at our old gym who went from 6 to 8 did not do very well this season. But our new gym is more focused on skill development. This lets kids who are weak in certain events to still compete strongly in AA. After a year in JD, my son has pretty solid Level 8 skills, and is starting to work on some 9's. Our gym tends to put only the younger kids in Levels 7&8 who have all the skills and the other boys in JD. Since you can do JD until you are 14, this gives a chance for boys to go from Level 6 to Level 9 in 2 years.

    The one disadvantage for JD was that it was a bit disappointing to have lower scores than kids doing less difficult routines. It is entirely possible to do a Level 8 routine with some missteps and score lower than a kid doing a clean Level 6 routine. The other big difference is that they all have to work on the pommel with handles. PH is my son's best event, so he adapted pretty quickly, but some of the routines were hard to watch when the boys were falling off multiple times because their arms and legs aren't long enough.

    If you have a JD program where the coaches train the JD boys the same hours as the JO boys and teach them the same skills, your son will be fine. They can move within the season. to JO. I don't know what the next quad session will bring, Hoping they move the cutoff date back to one more reasonable, or adjust the maximum ages for JO to account for the approximately 50% of kids who suddenly found themselves a year older and their paths disrupted. The current age requirements pretty much mean you have to start by 7, and not have to repeat a level in order to be ready for Nationals at Level 8. Lots of kids find this discouraging and I think its one of the reasons you see such a drop off in male gymnasts as they head into their early teens.
    Madden3 and PinPin like this.
  8. Just a note...you can do JD from 11-18 :)
  9. To chime in with the others, I do think it depends on how your gym decides to handle JD on if they can go back to JO. That is definitely a conversation that you want to have with your son's coaches. For my son's gym they have the JDs practice with the optionals, same hours and coaches. So far we are doing only JD1. My son is one of those who just missed the cut off and competes as a year older than he really is. Add quite a few injuries along the way and he is "behind". For this coming season he will likely do JD1 is my assumption. He is real age 14; but competition age 15. This means that he can compete compulsory levels, L9 out of age (can't go to Nationals), L10, or JD (1 or 2). Skills wise he could definitely handle L8. He could probably handle L9. I don't see any chance of him being ready for L10 though. Our coaches don't like to have the boys compete optionals "out of age" because there is almost no competition in those age groups, so at a lot of meets DS would be the only kid at L9 15-16. So... assuming he isn't ready for L10 (a safe assumption) he will compete JD1 and try to work towards L10 for the next season. At first I questioned why not just let the boys compete out of age (a friend with a son at a different gym told me that their coaches insisted that her son compete L9 this year instead of L8 out of age and her reaction was, "he isn't going to make nationals as a L9 because he isn't going to score well, why not let him compete L8 out of age where he still won't make nationals; but at least could have a season where he wasn't getting killed?" When our coach said that he didn't want to compete boys "out of age" I asked this same question and that is when he explained that there just are no boys competing out of age in our state, so JD is the right path.
    Madden3 and Cheryl like this.
  10. Just a note...you can do JD from 11-18 :)

    That's cool..... it gives boys who prioritize other sports a chance to stay in gym. Now that you mention it, I do remember at JD Nationals they had a ceremony to honor seniors who were graduating.
    Madden3 likes this.
  11. Reading the replies I am struck again how much Region/state matters when it comes to how these things shake out in competition. For example, unlike 2G1B's experience, my son who competed "out of age" as a level 8 14 year old last season had a great deal of competition in that age group. This is another reason why I think these changes will take at least a few more years of tweaking by coaches as they figure out what strategies they want to use when approaching these different options as much depends on what other coaches in their regions are doing.

    This is my personal opinion, but I think the pommel handle issue is something where coaches are going to have to be smart about figuring out routines that will work for their gymnasts. Overall, I think it is awesome that JD uses handles on the pommels and think it will help JD boys who stick it out (and are assisted in training with mushrooms and pommel-less horses and bucks) be stronger on pommel in the long run. I personally think the current approach with JO pommels - having the kids train/compete without any handles until level 9 has its own issues. When my kids were just starting out in 4-6 they competed circles on the mushroom (as now) but half the routine was swings, cuts and half scissors on the horse, using the handles. Yes it could be pretty funny when some of these tiny kids could not even get over the thing to dismount, but it started them out with a better understanding and familiarity of the challenges of the apparatus. It is such a progressive sport and falls in competition are inevitable as skills are developed. Girls fall off the beam and boys fall off the horse, it is all part of the process.

    Last season was only the second comp year for JD existing and the first year where JD was divided into divisions - which again I think will solve at least some of the problems relating to JD competitions. So I imagine this coming season, both JD 1 and 2 will be more popular options than previously.
  12. Our gym will definitely usually move boys from out of age 8 to JD so that they do get started on the pommels. I say usually because there is a boy staying 8 as a 13 yo this year. But the philosophy is to get them on the handles at 13!
    Madden3 and jenjean70 like this.
  13. The PH is a stickler for many boys, and I get their fears of the handle. My son says doing a handstand/pirouette dismount off the PH is way easier than doing the extra circle over the handles, which is a lesser score dismount
    Madden3 and jenjean70 like this.
  14. I have been reminded many times that it may seem easier, but they must swing up and not muscle themselves up. And it may work ok in regular meets to muscle yourself up, but at big meets the judges are really sticklers for it.
    Madden3 and jenjean70 like this.
  15. Thank you again to everyone for your replies and for the great information. After reading this, it has become way more clear why there's so few teenaged boys in gymnastics. It's a huge commitment, and the current system really favors kids that started when they were 6 years old.

    It's a double edged sword, because many (most?) kids that start anything that young will burn out and not want to continue after a few years.

    As I said, my son didn't start until he was 11, but he loves it and has a natural ability for it. He won state for his level this past year, and is progressing quickly. My challenge, as a parent, is to maintain perspective and allow gymnastics to remain fun and not a chore. Based on everything I'm reading here, there's no realistic chance that he goes on to do this in college, so we'll just let it be what it is -- an opportunity to have a great time and stay in shape.

    Thanks again for the great info!
    Madden3 likes this.
  16. This is clearly the healthiest way to think of things... but it may not be quite the full story.

    He's still pre testosterone fairy. I once heard Donnell Whittenburg talk about his history, saying that he was a crap gymnast until he was 16, and that's when he took off. Granted, his 10-ish years of prior experience certainly did not hurt with him eventually developing into a top dude (he didn't do NCAA instead choosing to train at the OTC)... but I'd say it's not a huge impossibility for your pre-teen to end up good enough to compete in college. Especially if he seems to have natural ability.

    There was a guy who joined our club a few years ago. He started as a teen-aged Level 6, i believe and jumped straight to Level 9 after that, I think. He was on the path of positioning himself for NCAA consideration, when he pulled back, and then out, as he got into his Junior year and realized he needed to focus on school. He now competes on a club team and coaches.

    That said, the "let it be what it will be" mindset is a just fine place to be.
    Madden3 and M2Abi like this.
  17. There are more ways a male gymnast can continue to do gym in college than is obvious. Yes currently there are only 16 NCAA college teams and 15 of them are Division 1 and thus exceedingly competitive.

    But there are two other competitive options after HS. There are many individual college club teams. These vary greatly in quality, but they are typically open to just about anyone.

    There is also a small but growing movement to create competitive teams out of the many young men in college or grad school who did optional team gymnastics throughout HS and want to continue. These teams aim to compete not only against each other but also against the NCAA college teams even at nationals. I am sure there is a list somewhere, but examples are Arizona, Washington, NorCal united, SoCal united... And often these teams are very happy to take specialists who can do very well in one or two events. In my opinion the future of the sport depends on the development of these types of teams.

    And of course former gymnasts may want to consider becoming rec or team gymnastics coaches.
    txgymfan likes this.
  18. I think you have the right attitude about this, but if he is progressing quickly and loves the sport, then I would say he is right on track to do this in college. Nobody knows what these kids will really do until they start to go through puberty and they continue to accelerate and develop well in to their 20s. College coaches know that. The reality is, if you are competing Level 10 at age 16-18, and can qualify for JO Nationals, whether that is JE or JO, you are on track to do this sport in college.

    Despite the fact that there are only 15-19 schools doing gymnastics (depending on whether you count some of the club teams -- ASU, Washington, Temple, NoCal, SoCal United), each school needs on average 4-5 gymnasts a year to refresh a lineup of 14-20 kids. The numbers I've seen show that if you're doing L10 as a senior in HS, there is room for about 30% of those folks to be doing it in college. Way better odds than any other sport....of course, the big "if" there is if you can fight off the injury bug, keep from burning out, but continue to progress and compete at L10 in a sport that is "up or out." It really is a self select process.

    Clearly your son's advantage is that he has a passion, doesn't suffer from burnout, probably didn't beat up his body young, and is progressing quickly. When I've been at JO Nationals there are huge college coach turnouts for two particular session. L10 15-16 JE, because that is typically Frosh/Sophs that can't officially be recruited/committed yet, and the L10 17-18 JO sessions. The 15-16 JE is where they are looking to make a run on their All-Arounders and big names. And those coaches really don't need JE kids who are decent AAs (not top 10 in age), unless they have a few specific events where they shine. The L10 17-18 JO session is where they really round out their teams and find the guys who have big skills in a few events....you don't need to be good at all 6 events in college....just two or three events with big "D" values and an athletic ability to show you have potential to progress.

    The down side to all of this....its just a few colleges, so at some point you really have to decide if the gym passion is compatible with the academic future. Good luck and so glad to hear about late bloomers. All of those success stories need to be highlighted again and again to keep MAG alive.
    jenjean70, Madden3, Pigeon and 2 others like this.
  19. JD was designed for kids like your son. His routines can be more personalized than in compulsories.
    Madden3 likes this.
  20. I agree with sce. As I have learned more about it and seen how it "works" my opinion on JD has reversed from being very skeptical to thinking it is a great idea.

    At our gym late starters (and slower developers, like my kids) have always been embraced, and our HC seems excited now that he has someplace to perfectly "fit" them for training and competition.

    I think our coaches particularly appreciate the older start boys because they really want to be there and are always willing to work hard. They are also mature/cognizant enough to understand and apply corrections quickly and are strong enough to start doing some bigger skills faster. This is why being able to design their own routines is important.
    Outlast and sce like this.
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