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Age category changes - Gymnastics Ontario and Gymnastics Canada

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Blythe24

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Aug 27, 2019
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I'm pretty new to the competitive gymnastics world. My son, born in Sept 2010, is having his first competitive season this year.

Last year, under Gymnastics Ontario rules, we was considered a 7 year old, since his age as of August 31st, 2018 was 7 (this was the cutoff date). Being considered 7, he couldn't compete, as you have to be considered at least the 8 years old to complete in P1.

A few days ago, I learned that the cutoff date for the 2019-2020 season has changed to December 31st, 2020!! Under the old rules, the cutoff date would have been August 31st, 2019. That's a 16 month difference!!!

The implication of this is that now my son, in his *first* year of eligibility, is considered a 10 year old for this competitive season. Under the old cutoff date, he would have been considered an 8 year old. We thought he was lucky, with a Sept birthdate, because it would make him one of the oldest in his cohort, unlike the other sports he has done where he was always on the younger end of things.

To make matters worse for DS1, his younger brother, born in 2012, is on pre-team this year, but now is technically considered an 8 year old and so is eligible to compete. I think DS2 is way too young, personally, for anything other than pre-team. But DS1 will be so frustrated to know he had to wait an extra two years to compete, and my boys are pretty competitive with each other.

I emailed GO, and they implied that this is because Gymnastics Canada has changed their age groupings.

It just seems like such a drastic change - bumping kids up by one or two "years", depending on their birthdate - especially given that our gym moved boys up from pre-team only when they were age eligible for competition. At this point, I didn't think my son was necessarily on the track to competing in the Elite levels, but any chance of that has evaporated since he is now, overnight, considered to be two years older.

Has this (changing how they calculate age groupings) happened before and, if so, is this something that happens often?
 

Bug's mom

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It happened a few years ago in the WAG program when they changed to an 'as of December 31st' in the year in which Championships were held. For those already in the competitive stream it meant a jump in two age groups like you're describing (unless maybe where age groups spanned a few years). That was my DD's first competitive season and it worked out for us, otherwise she would have had to wait another year even though some of her team mates would have competed. I guess there's no easy way to make that sort of sweeping change...one way or another someone is going to get the short straw.
 

Sourkey

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Aug 5, 2017
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My son is similarly impacted. He was too young to compete level 3 last year due to his fall birthday and now suddenly he’s considered to be two years older for competition purposes and will compete as a 12 year old rather than a 10 year old. It will impact him even more for level 4 the following year as he will be in the 13+ category rather than U13. Boys with fall birthdays are being pushed ahead two years but for the rest it’s just one year.

Another thing I don’t like about this change is that it’ll push younger boys to compete in higher levels. I kind of liked how they had to actually be be 8 before competing and that their little bodies were a bit more protected from some of the bigger skills.
 

Blythe24

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Aug 27, 2019
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My son is similarly impacted. He was too young to compete level 3 last year due to his fall birthday and now suddenly he’s considered to be two years older for competition purposes and will compete as a 12 year old rather than a 10 year old. It will impact him even more for level 4 the following year as he will be in the 13+ category rather than U13. Boys with fall birthdays are being pushed ahead two years but for the rest it’s just one year.

Another thing I don’t like about this change is that it’ll push younger boys to compete in higher levels. I kind of liked how they had to actually be be 8 before competing and that their little bodies were a bit more protected from some of the bigger skills.

Sorry to hear that it is impacting your son in such a significant way. I'm not really sure there was enough thought put into this decision. In the email I received from GymCan, when I inquired about the changes, I was told that the fall cut off was too confusing for clubs, and that while they recognized it would impact some athletes more than others, it would only be early in their careers.

I just couldn't figure out how they could claim it would really only impact the beginning of a career when they're pushing boys up the age ladder no matter what their current age. In Ontario, there are boys who thought they'd be able to compete P3 this year, but are now going to be told they have "aged out" of the category - even though under last year's rules, they could have competed this year and next. That doesn't seem right or fair.

With boys in particular I don't understand the rush. Male gymnasts can have very long careers - compared to the typical female athlete - so why try to get them to a higher level at a younger age? I can only see this increasing the wear and tear on their bodies, and opening the door to more injuries. That's what I liked about putting my kids in MAG - I didn't see the huge rush to push them forward at such a young age. It made me feel more comfortable as a parent.

Given your son is in the thick of things, making you an expert ;) , can you tell me how this impacts the road to the elite levels? There are several boys at my son's gym who look to be on that track - but with one now "two years older", we've been discussing amongst ourselves what that might mean in terms of his progression. Does he now need to be two years ahead of where he otherwise would have been?
 
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Sourkey

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Aug 5, 2017
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I'm very amused at the fact that I could potentially be an 'expert'.. hahahaha. I feel like I've been navigating in the dark for a couple years, but because of that, I've become very familiar with some GymCan and GO technical documents! I'm super impressed that you even emailed them to ask about the changes. When I learned of them, I emailed the program director for MAG but he had little to say beyond 'it impacts everyone'. This is all true, but I was sad for my son. Because of his age/skills, he would have definitely had a shot at Easterns for Level 4, and still potentially level 3. He had it all planned out.. he would have done one year at P3, two at P4, (he would have been too young for P5 still), then possibly one year at P5 before becoming age eligible to be a junior. All that will change now. While I don't think he will compete 'two years ahead', he will just move through the levels a bit quicker, and he may not place as high as he could have otherwise. The one fact though is that I've often seen the youngest age groups score the highest. The kids (including my son) in the youngest age groups are very talented, so I think they will still manage well despite suddenly being considered 'older'. They may suffer a bit when they're competing against boys who have gone through puberty and have more strngth, but they'll catch up.

Regarding elite levels, our gym does not compete elite 3 or 4. They've explained that they do not like some of compulsory skills, especially not in E3. Despite this, our gym has had lots of success with higher level boys. A boy from our gym was the senior national AA champion this year (he competes NCAA so only practices at our gym when he is home for holidays) and he was on the worlds team last year, and again this year. My son has the same coach that this other boy had, so I do trust that they know what they're doing. My son actually inquired about competing level 4 this year rather than 3 (I thought it was a terrible idea but didn't say anything) but I was relieved when his coach shot down the idea. They definitely do not want to push them ahead too quickly, even with the age changes.At least not yet as I'm sure the coaches don't even know how the age changes will play out.

I wish they had phased in this change, for example, going to Dec 31, 2019 as the age determination date, and then bumped it up again in a couple years. Like you, for once, my son was one of the older boys in his age cohort (Oct 2008) whereas those days are now done.

My other concern is that my son will likely end up training more hours soon. He has been doing 16 hours since he was 8, and I had been holding off 20 hours despite him wanting to do more. I feel that because he will need to do some harder skills a bit earlier (i.e. not spending two years at the same level and doing the harder skills the second year), he'll need to increase his hours sooner. I have a daughter in WAG as well (and one in trampoline) so I really liked how the boys groups were a bit more relaxed and there was less of a rush to do big things.

I'm happy to chat more in PM!
 
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