For Coaches Age old debate....

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Billy

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but I'd like to hear both sides of the argument. Is it better to train, perfect and compete the compulsory levels before moving into optionals? Or, is it better to move through the compulsories as quickly as possible in order to have more time at optionals? I have seen bits and pieces for both sides of the debate, including this quote from CB:

"If you or your child or your athlete has any desire, possibility, and inkling towards a college scholarship or Elite, don't waste too much time in compulsory. Especially if they are young."

I'd like to hear everyone's opinions and why you believe and/or train your gymnasts the way you do.
 
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Aussie_coach

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I don't believe rushing through compulsaries is wise. Kids need to develop these skills as they will be the basis for all the skills they do at an optional level. Especially level 5 and 6. Having good strong, solid technique and skill foundations when moving onto level 7-10 will give the athletes a very strong advantage. On the other hand you can see the opposite in Australia, kids spend a long, long time competing level 4,5 and 6 and many spend a few years at each level. The result is that there are very few optional athletes around. So not many kids get to really experience gymnastics before they move on.
 

gymdog

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I don't think they necessarily need to be perfect at it (some kids will never quite fit into the compulsory mold but will continue to progress). But I question the idea that you have to skip through them fast, if L10 or NCAA is the goal. If L10 and NCAA is the goal, and the athlete is able to progress at this speed, I have seen one year per level work fine for many athletes. Some can go faster, some will go slower - one of the girls in my old group (now doing NCAA) did four years of level 8 (obviously that's not compulsory). But you can still get to L10 if you do two years of level 5 and I do know L10s who repeated compulsory levels. I also know ones who skipped 5 or 6. But as a general rule that doesn't seem necessary to me and I think many athletes do benefit from a full competitive season at the compulsory levels, rather than going from zero to sixty in a short amount of time at a young age. Of course if the athlete was older, that would be a consideration and it might be better for them to move more quickly through beginning levels to catch up to the others their age.
 
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KBT

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What I think is most important in moving up is proper technique. If technique is good, then the next level skill can be safely and effectively learned. Form should absolutely be worked on, but if it's not perfect, I wouldn't keep a kid back for it.

The best examples I've seen is Shannon Miller's bar routine as a junior and a bar routine from Moceanu when she was 12 (unfortunately I can't find these on youtube). They were both so sloppy and had little amplitude, but the technique was there and a few years later those routines had cleaned up considerably.
 
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What I think is most important in moving up is proper technique. If technique is good, then the next level skill can be safely and effectively learned. Form should absolutely be worked on, but if it's not perfect, I wouldn't keep a kid back for it.

The best examples I've seen is Shannon Miller's bar routine as a junior and a bar routine from Moceanu when she was 12 (unfortunately I can't find these on youtube). They were both so sloppy and had little amplitude, but the technique was there and a few years later those routines had cleaned up considerably.
You definitely need to be near perfect at the lower levels because everything in gymnastics stacks. If you basics aren't good, then there is no way you will be able to learn more difficult skills at higher levels. Also if you keep good form at lower levels and don't do anything sloppy, being tight because a habit and you don't have to worry about form at higher levels.
 

Valentin

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Hi

My thought on this is that this are the technique and perfections should be always aimed for. However this is my preference. there are many coaches who feel that the best approach is the rush kids through basics and everything as fast as possible to get them doing the hard stuff before they get to heavy, and scared to work it.
There is merit to the approach, however this also leads a lot of drop out, and its hard to implement by most clubs. If you are Elite than perfection is necessary i think. If you are National level only, than you can try to push on when technique is adaquate to allow for smooth transition into the next skills/difficulty.

Hard question here really.
 

ACoach78

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While I refer to myself as a gymnastics coach, I really think that all of us are in the business of teaching movement - particularly complex movement(s), but movement nonetheless.

There are two dominating schools of thought relative to how we learn movement (motor learning). One school of thought is termed the schema theory while the other dominant belief is the dynamical systems approach. The schema theory essentially suggests that we develop motor programs that are tweaked throughout life depending upon the movement demands. The dynamical systems theory suggests that we continuously adapt to the demands of the environment and that's how we learn to move.

Personally, I believe that there's an interaction between the two. I believe that we build motor programs and that part of the "tweaking" of these programs relates to the demands of the movement relative to the environment. I don't think that one really dominates over the other.

With all of this said, I think that it's crucial to teach strong technique at the early stages of gymnastics development. If you do that through the compulsory system - great. If you opt to skip the compulsory system and run your own type of developmental system - great. The bottom line is that the end result should be teaching superb technique so as to develop athletes that have highly efficient biomechanics.

Here lies the problem. Some coaches are hellbent for great compulsories and truthfully most of the time their kids don't have superb technique. They often have good form, but the mechanics of many skills aren't very good at all. Unfortunately, judging is based pretty much on aesthetics with a limited amount of real biomechanics. As a result, a kid who's pretty tight and can keep their arms and legs straight can usually do well in compulsories even if they have mediocre mechanics.

On the other end of the spectrum, there's the coach who's focused on rushing kids through because they believe that it's important to get kids to big skills right away. And, while the talented kids will survive usually, it's the others who fall by the wayside. But, eventually, talent will only take you so far in this sport and then reality sets in. So, the latter half of the gymnast's career is spent on trying to work around technical deficiencies or their skill development somewhat plateaus depending upon the degree of their natural talent. The level of the pleateau is all relative and may be meaningless for a kid with the talent of say a Shawn Johnson. But, Shawn Johnson is one in a million. For most other "normal" gymnasts, even those who are talented, this is problematic for future skill development.

Whether you skip compulsories or work through them, the bottom line is that technique is imperative. Good skill development and training the correct motor patterns so that the right muscles turn off and on is what should be strived for.

Unfortunately, from my experience and observation, those who rush kids through often neglect this and although their kids can "chuck" some skills, their technique is atrocious and hell to try and fix.

I really believe that the key to successful gymnastics is patience. Think about it - in baseball, essentially you have to bat, field, run, and throw. Granted, each of these movements requires a great deal more fine detail, but those are the gross patterns. If only gymnastics were confined to 3 or 4 gross movements. Imagine how much time professional baseball players devote to just these 3 or 4 primary movements. So, just imagine how much time gymnasts need to devote to each basic movement. It all takes time.

Coaches need to think about long-term versus the immediate gratifications of chucking a new skill. In the long run, it will be far more effective for the gymnast.
 

Geoffrey Taucer

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I think ACoach78 summed it up perfectly.

The compulsory levels themselves are not at all necessary. But the technique that is (supposed to be) taught at those levels is absolutely crucial. Some coaches use the compulsory levels as a way to train proper basic technique. Some don't.

Some coaches who skip compulsories find other effective ways of teaching proper technique. Some don't.

Unfortunately, there are many ways to score high at compulsories without actually teaching proper technique.
 
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Billy

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Thank you all for your replies. You guys are very informative!

So here's another perspective/ question. USAG requires only a 31.00 AA score to advance to the next level (through level 7 anyway). But to me, this seems fairly low in demonstrating a mastery of the skills for that level. Does this mean that USAG encourages rapid progression through the compulsories or do they have relatively low standards for advancement?
 

gymdog

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They're trying to maintain a minimum standard while allowing coaches to make individual judgement calls. If a gymnast was moved out of level 5 scoring 31 AA at the highest by states here, I wouldn't think that unless the coach's judgement call was correct and that gymnast made huge bounds of improvement over the off-season, that she could make the minimum score by level 6, so basically the minimum score works in that sense. Unless it was a situation where they hadn't worked the 6 routines and were just trying to get the 31 out to go to level 7.
 
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