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Advice Needed :)

Scream4IceCream

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Apr 19, 2018
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I’ve learned so much on this forum and am now in need of some advice from all of you wise gym parents. So, here’s our (loooong) story...

My DD became interested in gymnastics at 3yo when she saw the 2016 Olympics. So I signed her up for a rec class at the nearest gym (1 hour/week). She enjoyed it and seemed to pick things up quickly (got her pullover by 3.5yo, had good balance, could keep her body tight, no fears). She was asked to try out for team and placed on the “Mini Team” when she turned 4yo (2 hours/week). She got her BHC and bridge kick over and was moved up to Level 2 after a few months (5 hours/week). (I’ve since learned bridging before 5yo isn’t recommended, but I didn’t know back then.) At this point, she was 4.5yo and too young to compete Level 2, but they wanted her to start learning the routines for the following year (she was moved up about halfway through their season). The next season she turned 5yo and competed Level 2 (6 hours/week during the summer and 5 hours/week during the school year). She loved competing and did well placing 1st AA, bars, and beam in the “6 & under” category in her first meet and had similar success the rest of the season.

Our gym holds conferences between parent, coach, and gymnast at the end of the competition season to discuss the plan for the following season. At our meeting this past spring, I was told that she was physically ready for Level 3, but they were concerned about her ability to focus during the longer practices (our L3 is 4 hours 3x per week during the summer and then goes down to 10 hours during the school year). They really wanted her to try L3 though because they told me that skills-wise that was where she belonged and because they were dropping their L2 program. I was told that the alternative to L3 would be pre-team which was going to try to prepare girls for L3 the following year, but would only practice a total of 3 hours/week. The coach specifically told me she didn’t want my DD to have to do pre-team because the limited hours wouldn’t give her the opportunity to get the skills and conditioning she needs to continue to advance. We agreed to try L3 and let my DD know that she really needed to focus.

Between the end of last season and the start of this season, her coach (who had been at our gym for over 20 years) moved to a competing gym. A new coach was assigned to the L3 group and she seemed very nice and happy to have my DD in her group. My DD started the 12 hour/week schedule and loved it. I spoke with the coach after a few weeks and she said my DD was doing well behavior-wise and skills-wise, but that sometimes she didn’t remember what to do at certain stations (they did a lot of circuits) or that sometimes she had to be reminded that it was her turn to vault (or whatever). It seemed to generally be going well though. Then mid-July the coach asked to meet with me. She said that DD was still doing well with behavior and skills, but that her focus hadn’t improved that much. She said that she was concerned that DD would have trouble keeping up once they started learning routines and wanted me to be aware that if she didn’t have the routines down, she wouldn’t score well and may be disappointed after the success of last season. She also said that she (the coach) was kind of struggling with giving my DD what she needed while giving the other girls what they needed (like having my DD ask her what to do at a station while she was assisting another girl). She said she wasn’t saying my DD couldn’t continue with L3, but that she wanted me to be aware of the challenges and have in the back of my mind the other options for this season. The other options presented were pre-team (which by that time had apparently changed to 6 hours/week and was supposed to prepare girls for L3 and L4 and is coached by the L4/L5 coach) or (since I said my DD would be devastated not to compete) Xcel Silver (also 6 hours/week). It seemed like between the two options, the coach was encouraging pre-team because they see my daughter having a future in the JO program.

I came home and had a brief conversation about focus with my DD. When she heard pre-team was on the table, she ran into her closet sobbing “Noooooo, not pre-team!!” The coach said she had her best practice of the season that night and almost as good the next night. She told me to have her “keep it up.” The coach was on vacation the following week. The week after that the owner stopped me as I was dropping my DD off and asked to speak with me. She also called the coach in and then told me that they had held a coaches’ meeting the night before to finalize placement and that they had decided to form a “special small new group” that my DD would be placed in. My curiosity was slightly piqued until I found out that it was basically a step below pre-team. It’s only going to meet for 3 hours/week with an Xcel coach and it sounds like the other gymnasts will be “talented” girls who are being “demoted” (so to speak) from pre-team and Xcel Bronze. She said my DD (the only one moving down from L3) will be the “most advanced” and it will be “great for her confidence.” (My DD does not lack confidence and seeing those around her doing harder skills actually motivates her.) I should have asked more questions, but I didn’t really say much of anything. I had already received two other pieces of bad news earlier that day and I was kind of numb. They said they were going to let the girls finish the summer with their current level and then start this new “pre-pre-team” when school started.

My daughter is going to be absolutely devastated. She is now going to be out of competition (which she loves) for 22 months. She is going to go from practicing 12 hours/week (and loving it - never complains about going, always has fun, etc.) to practicing 3 hours/week with kids supposedly below her skill level. She got so muscular this summer with the increased training time and now she is going to go back to less hours than she practiced at age 4. My husband spoke to the coach briefly last week about our concerns with this plan and she was very nice, but was basically like “trust us” she’s going to be drilling skills the whole time, etc. I don’t doubt the gym cares about her and has her best interests in mind. I just think we (her parents) have a different opinion on what’s best.

Now my back is against the wall because school year practices start this week and I haven’t told my DD anything. She has already absorbed a huge blow in that we recently told her she is switching schools this year and she is adjusting to that news. Her old school (which her brother still attends) started last week and she has had a hard time seeing him and all her friends go back to school and carry on without her. Her school starts this week and I know it will be a big adjustment (though I’m confident it’s the best thing for her and she will ultimately love it). I just don’t know how I can break this kid’s heart again, especially when I don’t necessarily agree with the decision. I’ve thought about several different ways this could play out, but would love to get some advice here. DH is sick of discussing it and no one else understands the “gym world.” Thank you so much for reading this novel and for any thoughts you have!
 

Scream4IceCream

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Not to add to my painfully long message above, but I did want to say:

1. The L3 team she is/was on skews older. My DD turned 6 this summer. The next closest girl turns 7 in September and the next two closest after that turn 8 in October. The rest are 9 and 10. It’s a total of 9 girls including my DD. One is a repeat L3, the rest are new to L3.

2. I don’t care about what level my DD is on or how far she goes in gymnastics. If she wants to quit tomorrow, that is fine with me (and more than fine with DH). The reason I’m having a really hard time with this is because (1) I think it is going to have a big effect on her psychologically at a time she is already dealing with a lot of change, and (2) I feel like she is really starting to put things together with skills and coordination and I want to make sure I’m putting her in a good position to ultimately accomplish her goals in the sport (whatever they may be).
 

sce

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It soudsn like they expect a 6yo to act more like an 8yo. That, along with the back and forth decision making, would make me look elsewhere. She needs to be somwhere where they coach her to be the best kid she can be.
 

rd7

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I think I would be looking elsewhere, 12 hours down to 3 hours? For what reason? I think 12 hours is too much for a 5 year old in the first place but to then take them all away again. Is this a really good gym usually, producing multiple high level gymnasts? If not then definitely have a look about and find somewhere more suitable for her age.
 

GAgymmom

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I don’t understand how they can put a gymnast that already competed on a level team into a preteam. Pre-team is to get them ready for team. And being 6 on level 3 is fine, there are many 6 year olds on level 3. My dd’s Level three team was ages 6-13 last year, and they all trained together for 9 hours a week. There are a lot of red flags here. Are there other options within reasonable distance? Maybe it’s time for a second opinion.
 

Aussie_coach

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I think the first thing I would do is have a chat with the owner. Ask to schedule a meeting and let her know you are just not happy with the new arrangement. Your DD loves the lo her hours, in very keen to compete and that her specific personality means going into the lower group is not really going to be great for her confidence. Put the cards on the table and see what they have to say.

If they are not able to offer your something more, I would find another gym.

The comments of the coach to you about her focus, and not being able to coach her and the other kids the same way are of a concern. It sounds like this coach has got the idea into her head that your DD is not what she is looking for in the team. She may have been making the comments initially to set up the situation where she could remove her from the group.

Once a coach/gym loses faith in a kid, it’s not easy to get it back.
 

kendo348

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So she had a couple great practices, and in response they are now moving her to a group below preteam? Why have they now also taken away the previous option of at least moving to the preteam training for 3/4? Six is old enough for L3. It sounds like they either don’t know how to effectively coach her age at this level/aren’t willing, or there’s something else going on that they aren’t being straightforward about. I would look for another gym.
 

Flyaway

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I think the first thing I would do is have a chat with the owner. Ask to schedule a meeting and let her know you are just not happy with the new arrangement. Your DD loves the lo her hours, in very keen to compete and that her specific personality means going into the lower group is not really going to be great for her confidence. Put the cards on the table and see what they have to say.

If they are not able to offer your something more, I would find another gym.

The comments of the coach to you about her focus, and not being able to coach her and the other kids the same way are of a concern. It sounds like this coach has got the idea into her head that your DD is not what she is looking for in the team. She may have been making the comments initially to set up the situation where she could remove her from the group.

Once a coach/gym loses faith in a kid, it’s not easy to get it back.
I agree. At this point you really have nothing to lose. I would not stay at a gym that is going to bump her down essentially 2 levels for perceived "lack of focus" especially at age 6!
 

NutterButter

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Have you observed practices? Do you feel your DD has the appropriate focus for a 6 yr old? I would not be happy with what seems like a demotion for what is likely normal 6 yr old behavior. At the same time though, you've gotten consistent feedback that her lack of focus is a concern (going back to her original coach who is no longer there). It's hard to know from what you've shared if her lack of focus is problematic for this gym in particular or your DD falls outside of normal limits for what is to be expected of 6 yr olds. Either way - the gym may not be equipped to work with her. Have you observed practices?
 
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Scream4IceCream

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It soudsn like they expect a 6yo to act more like an 8yo. That, along with the back and forth decision making, would make me look elsewhere. She needs to be somwhere where they coach her to be the best kid she can be.
Thanks for your input. Yes, the back and forth has been stressful. Even though L3 was never promised, the alternative has been so unclear this whole time. It feels like more of a unique situation than just repeating last year's level if they don't think you're ready to advance (especially not getting to complete). I do feel like she's being penalized for being young. I realize it's not the gym's fault that the group is skewing old this year, but it's not my DD's fault either.
 
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Scream4IceCream

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I think I would be looking elsewhere, 12 hours down to 3 hours? For what reason? I think 12 hours is too much for a 5 year old in the first place but to then take them all away again. Is this a really good gym usually, producing multiple high level gymnasts? If not then definitely have a look about and find somewhere more suitable for her age.
I agree that 12 hours seems excessive for age 5/6. It's 10 hours for the school year, but that is still a lot IMO. We agreed to try it for the summer and for the most part DD seemed to handle it well. I wouldn't mind going down to 6 hours (aside from lack of opportunity to compete), but 3 just seems like too few for her. They were off last week (break between summer and school year practice schedules) and she's been bouncing off the walls, doing portions of her L3 routines everywhere and begging me to take her to any open gyms I can find.

The gym has been around a long time, but they don't seem to produce high level gymnasts at the same rate as the other two gyms that are nearby. For example, I think there have been about 5 girls who have competed L10 for them in the last 10 years. The entire time we have been there they have only had one L10 and she wasn't homegrown (was already a L10 when she came). She's competing for a DIII school now and we won't have any L10 this season. However, they seem to have a lot of talented girls coming up right now and I like the HC, so I don't really know what to think.
 

Scream4IceCream

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I don’t understand how they can put a gymnast that already competed on a level team into a preteam. Pre-team is to get them ready for team. And being 6 on level 3 is fine, there are many 6 year olds on level 3. My dd’s Level three team was ages 6-13 last year, and they all trained together for 9 hours a week. There are a lot of red flags here. Are there other options within reasonable distance? Maybe it’s time for a second opinion.
My thoughts exactly!! I'm not positive about this because I don't know the names of all the girls on pre-team, but I'm pretty sure my DD is the only one not being offered the opportunity to compete this year after competing the previous year. She is definitely the only JO girl who this is happening to.

It seems like the gym is revamping their competitive program to resemble others in the area. The trend here seems to be to drop L2 and L3 programs and either use Xcel or pre-team to build skills and prepare for L4 instead of spending time having little ones learn tedious JO routines. The gym has been under the same ownership for many years. As I understand it, the owner used to coach optionals, but then had some health issues and has been out of the gym for several years. She returned this spring to oversee day-to-day management of the gym and the team program. There have been a few unexpected shake ups in coaching (and obviously in the structure of the team program). I'm not saying any of those things are good or bad, but it sure feels like we're caught in the crossfire. And how do I know they aren't going to turn around and drop their L3 program next year?

Our current gym is the most convenient, but there are two other gyms in the area I would be willing to drive to. I don't think either of them compete L3, though I think they're both considered "more competitive" than our current gym. I'm generally happy at our gym and if DD sticks with it we might have a need to switch later (for whatever reason that might come up), so I hate to leave over this. At this point, I don't know whether a gym change would be worse mentally/emotionally for DD than being (double) demoted. I'm just really sad for her.
 

Scream4IceCream

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I think the first thing I would do is have a chat with the owner. Ask to schedule a meeting and let her know you are just not happy with the new arrangement. Your DD loves the lo her hours, in very keen to compete and that her specific personality means going into the lower group is not really going to be great for her confidence. Put the cards on the table and see what they have to say.

If they are not able to offer your something more, I would find another gym.

The comments of the coach to you about her focus, and not being able to coach her and the other kids the same way are of a concern. It sounds like this coach has got the idea into her head that your DD is not what she is looking for in the team. She may have been making the comments initially to set up the situation where she could remove her from the group.

Once a coach/gym loses faith in a kid, it’s not easy to get it back.
Thanks for your input! The funny thing is I got an e-mail from the owner tonight. Either it was a pre-planned communication or someone alerted her to my post on here. (I knew this before I posted, but if you happen to go to our gym, it is very obvious who I am.) I appreciate her communication. After reading some stories on here, I am thankful that my gym seems to communicate well!

She said she knew my husband spoke with the coach about our concerns and that she's very excited to be adding this pre-pre-team level to their program, that it will allow for individual attention and for gymnasts to progress at their own ability, that it is similar to pre-team, but that the kids are a little younger and the group is smaller. She said "the sky's the limit" because they will be focused on shaping, strength, flexibility, and skills and that my DD's focus issues can be more efficiently addressed in this group. I truly believe that they put time and thought into this decision, but knowing my DD's personality and expectations, I just don't think this is the best thing for her and I don't see how she'll progress that much with 3 hours/week.

At this point, I don't even know what I would ask for. I believe my daughter can learn the L3 routines, but I'm pretty sure that L3 is not on the table anymore. It is not so much that I want her to compete L3 as it is that I want her to have the opportunity to compete something (but still train JO). I guess at this point my ideal would be for her to train 6 hours per week with the pre-team and then possibly pay for some privates for her to learn some basic Xcel Bronze routines that she could compete this season (our Bronze team does three local, low key meets). I don't know if they would even entertain something like that as I know gym owners don't want to open the floodgates to parents asking for all kinds of special arrangements, but I really feel like we're in a unique (bad) situation here. For lack of a better term, it just kind of feels like a mind screw for a 6yo and that breaks my heart.
 

Scream4IceCream

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So she had a couple great practices, and in response they are now moving her to a group below preteam? Why have they now also taken away the previous option of at least moving to the preteam training for 3/4? Six is old enough for L3. It sounds like they either don’t know how to effectively coach her age at this level/aren’t willing, or there’s something else going on that they aren’t being straightforward about. I would look for another gym.
Yep, those were my questions exactly! I'm not sure exactly how the practices went the week the coach was gone. My DD said they were good, but she's not the most objective source of information here! The coach said that the substitute coaches just told her that practices went fine and they didn't have anything negative to say about any of the girls. The coach was back for one practice, then the next day they had this coaches' meeting where they determined levels, and then the day after that the owner pulled me in and told me about the change. In the meeting with the owner, the coach did say that during her vacation she was really trying to think of some ways that she could do more things with the girls as a group instead of stations (thinking it would keep the younger ones more focused). So apparently she tried some different things that first practice back and it seemed to confuse my DD (whom I'd been lecturing before every practice about how to focus on the circuits and what to do if she forgot the drill, etc.). I sincerely believe the coach was trying to help, but it was just kind of unfortunate timing to try something new.

I'm not sure why pre-team is no longer on the table. They kind of glossed over that at the meeting, but said something like those girls are pushing for L4 and L5 next season. They did move two 9yo up to L3 from pre-team earlier in the summer. Maybe they are pushing the stragglers down to this pre-pre-team and they are going to try to push the remaining girls to L4/L5 next year. I'm not a gymnastics expert by any means, but I've watched the pre-team practice a bit and they seem to range in age from about 5-7, maybe 8. I overheard one girl say she was 6. None of them were on L2 or L3 last year, so they're either coming from possibly Xcel or old pre-team or rec. I would love to see bars because that would be very telling, but on floor they are doing very basic things (forward roll to stand, backwards roll to stand, handstands, cartwheels, straddle rolls) and that's about it. I understand how important basics and shaping are to the foundation of gymnastics and maybe they will start moving more quickly at some point, but it is hard to imagine these girls all having ROBHSBHS or ROBHSBT in a year's time let alone kips and flyaways. The same with vaulting over the table. The only vaulting I saw them do was to practice running and then they did a few turns running and jumping from a springboard to a low mat. Again, I completely understand how necessary these steps are, but how quickly can you go from that to vaulting over the table doing 6 hours/week as a young kid with little prior training? I would love for my DD to train with this group (even if she's not aiming for L4 or L5 next year). The past two years she has done a gymnastics camp where they've gotten to train higher level skills and she loves it! (It's at our gym, but run by traveling coaches.) This year she was doing kip drills, squat ons, and (low) beam cartwheels and was so excited. Don't get me wrong, she's not the easiest kid to coach, but I feel like she would fit in well with this group (if she could get past the disappointment/embarrassment of not competing L3 this year).
 

Scream4IceCream

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I agree. At this point you really have nothing to lose. I would not stay at a gym that is going to bump her down essentially 2 levels for perceived "lack of focus" especially at age 6!
Thanks for your input! I don't know if it is just "perceived" lack of focus. She truly is less focused than the other girls - though the other young ones have their moments as well. She also has her share of strong moments. I guess I just feel like she's being penalized for acting like a 6yo during a 4 hour practice. I kind of feel like they think she's young, what's the rush, let's move her down so we don't have to deal with her this year when we have an older L3 team. I know they have to make decisions for the good of the group, but it's hard when you're the casualty.
 

Scream4IceCream

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Do you have any other options nearby?
Yes. While our current gym is the most convenient, there are two other good gyms in the area that I would be willing to drive to. I'm hesitant to go down that path right now because of the following:

My DD is not in the best state of mind right now. She and I have had a rough summer relationship wise and I know she's feeling disconnected right now and taking it out other places (though not necessarily the gym). She was recently diagnosed with mild sleep apnea and the process was a little traumatic for her. She's heard the doctor mention surgery so I know that is in the back of her mind as well. No matter how hard I try, she only sleeps about 8.5 hours per night (and apparently the quality of the sleep isn't great). She's probably exhausted which often presents in kids as lack of focus. We're working on improving this, but it's a process. I've tried to keep all discussion about gymnastics low key, but she knows we've been talking to the coach and I think she's anxious that she's going to be removed from L3. Finally, as I mentioned, she is switching schools this year. I think the new school will be a great fit for her and she will love it. However, her brother is staying at her old school for a few more years and he started last week, so she's been in this terrible position of having to see him and her old friends start the new school year without her. I didn't want the change hanging over her head all summer, so we only told her a few weeks ago. Therefore, it is still all very new and raw to her and she has been acting out those feelings at times. The gym knows all this, but I think they think that will make doing L3 even harder for her while I feel like keeping gym status quo and letting it be her safe haven/happy place where nothing is changing would be less stressful for her.

So now, on top of the above, I have to break her heart and tell her that not only is L3 not happening, she's not competing this year, and she's going to be on an even lower level than pre-team (not that I'd phrase it like that, but the kid isn't stupid). I feel like that is going to just put her over the edge and she is not going to be in the right frame of mind to try out at another gym. To my knowledge, neither of the other gyms are competing L3, so in her mind even if she made their pre-team equivalents, it would still be a big disappointment and another big change. Plus, if she really messed up the try out behavior-wise, I feel like those doors could be permanently closed (which is scary when you only have a few gyms and potentially many years in this sport).

I'm generally happy with our gym, so at age 6 do I really want to go for what seems like the nuclear option? Maybe this works out better than I anticipate. I'm just guessing at what will happen based on my knowledge of my DD, but who knows how it will really play out. Plus, if she's not competing this year, then it may be possible to move to another gym's pre-team mid-year if things aren't going well in a few months. I'm just concerned about her getting on a new team now and then blowing it either behavior-wise or focus-wise because she's so upset with all the change in her life and her lack of control over it all.

She could have many more years in this sport and have unforeseen circumstances come up where she needs to change gyms down the road. I'd hate to limit those options because of a difference of opinion at age 6. I guess what I'm trying to figure out is whether this situation warrants that risk.
 

gymmomtotwo

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Let me say first that she really doesn't need to compete at age 6. I know it feels like she does right now, I totally understand where you are coming from. I can feel your worry and concern, and 8 years into this, believe me, I have had my sleepless nights. What she does need is a new gym that can meet her where she is and has a plan for her going forward. Your current gym has written her off. I would not say that at all if she was being placed on preteam this year and practicing at least 6 hours per week and getting ready for Level 3 next year. It can take years to be properly ready for JO gymnastics. My DDs progression was preteam at age 5 for 6 hours, 9 hours at age 6 and 12 at 7. She began current Level 4 competition shortly before her 8th birthday. Our gym doesn't even do Level 3. She was always in a very small 8 and under age group at meets. Most JO 4s are 9 and 10. Your DD could easily do a year of preteam at a new gym, and be ready for Level 3 at age 7 and be completely on track age wise in JO. Right now she is being placed in with rejected XCEL Bronzes st recreational hours. She is not on the track for anything at that gym. In my honest opinion, she needs a year of preteam at a new gym with new fresh coaches and kids her own age. Kids really adjust quickly if the situation is right for them. I hope I am not being too blunt but time is a terrible thing to waste, and this situation is not a good one for your DD.
 

GAgymmom

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Don’t overthink this! Again, my dd’s Level 3 team was ages 6-13, so her age is not a big deal. All this lack of focus you’re talking about is just being 6 years old and completely normal, so don’t worry about that. I would seriously consider a tryout or at least an evaluation at another gym since you do have options—ask them to be discreet, but know that word may get back to your current gym. You say switching mid season if its not working out, but some gyms won’t allow that, so better to get that second opinion now vs later.

But most importantly, don’t fret too much over this. Either accept the new placement and determine to smile and be positive, or rip off that band aid and get evaluated someplace else. Also, 9 hours is the average practice time for level 3, so don’t jump into a new place with excessive hours because she is still 6. And if you’re worried about her feelings about leaving her friends, she’s already been slated to be separated from them as they are moving to level 3 and she is not, so it’s also a good time to make new friends if you choose to go someplace else.
 
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