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Changing gyms to advance levels?

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Billy

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Hi, everyone. I'm new to the site so if this question has been answered before, I apologize.

My 6 y.o. daughter is currently competing AAU level 2 and doing very well (she scored a 36.325 at her first meet). Her current coach requires that the girls spend a full year at level 3 and a full year at level 4. However, DD already knows most of the level 3 skills and I'm afraid she'll get well and truly bored spending an entire year at that level.

We recently took her for an evaluation at another gym (with a very well-respected coach/owner). He said she should be training USAG level 4 to compete this fall and then move right into level 5 for next fall and level 6 for the following spring. He wants her to be a level 7 by the time she turns 9. This is obviously a much faster progression than at our current gym but I think my daughter would rise to the challenge.

DD wants to be an Olympian and a Gym Dog (UGA) and she loves gymnastics (practices frequently at home in addition to 5 hours of team practice and another hour of tumbling class- that she wanted to take- at the gym). We're going to have to change gyms eventually because where we are is not a USAG gym (apparently they only compete AAU and then only up to about prep-op 2). The gym we're looking at has a TOPs program, HOPES, pre-Elite, and Elite and they've had a lot of success with those programs.

So, the question is, do we keep her where she is and hope she doesn't quit from boredom or change gyms to get her moving more quickly to the higher levels?

Sorry for the long-winded thread but I really could use some advice. We want to do what's best for her to help her achieve her goals.

Thanks!
 

Aussie_coach

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Different gyms have different goals. It sounds like your DD's old gym is more focussed on the recreational and enjoyment side of gymnastics. If they offer team but not the higher levels it sounds like they want their kids to compete for fun and for fulfillment and are not focussed on producing international level gymnasts or college level gymnasts. Often when gyms like this have very talented youngsters they will work with them up to a point and then reccomend another gym once the child has progressed past the capabilities of the program. But not always sometimes they will then hold onto the gymnasts to win awards for the gym and put more money into their pockets and this will stop the girls from reaching their full potential.

It sounds like the new gym has different goals and is more focussed on producing high level athletes. Gym's like this often have a different environment, there is often more pressure on the girls but many girl respond to this well while others don't. What gym suits your daughter may depend on her personality. She may go to this new gym and thrive on the higher pressure environment or she may find that one of the things that really pushed her in her old gym was the fact that she was one of the best and getting a lot of encouragement. She will find that she is far from one of the best at this new gym (for now anyway) and it may not help. I think in situations like this you need to be flexible. Be prepared to give it a try but have a back up plan just in case it does not work. Maybe talk to your old gym and explain that your daughter has these goals which is why you want to give the move a try but see if they will be willing to have her back in the program if it does not suit her.

Spending a full year at each level is failry normal and some kids will spend even longer, in fact it is quite common to spend 2 years on at least one level. However, the fact that they insist each girl spend at least a year on each level seems a little crazy to me. Some kids need a year, some need two, some need 6 months. Each child is an individual and you will want a gym that recognises this. It almost sems like they are delibratly trying to avoid the girls moving up too fast. I would be looking for a gym that is more focussed on the needs of each child as an individual.

Don't put too much stock in the new gyms evaluation of your daughters long term progress. At 6 it is impossible to tell what a child will be doing at 9. Some kids at 6 are very talented and shine above the rest of the group, but it is because they are early developers in a few years many of the other girls catch up and they often just become one of the bunch. Other kids at 6 may seem to have limited talent and by 9 be incredible. I do think it is good to have along term plan but be prepared to accept the fact that it may not happen.

What I would do if I were you is defnitaly consider the move to the gym that ofers USAG, TOPS, HOPES, and elite. These are your daughters goals and she will not achieve them at a gym that just offers limited AAU levels but be prepared for the possibility that she may not thrive in the environement and have back up plan ready if she doesn't like it, because it would be very sad to lose her from the sport altogether.

Also be careful about increasing her hours dramitacally at once. If say a child goes from training 2 days a week, straight to training 5 days a week it often causes burnout. The child finds they are often tired and sore because their bodies take a while to adjust to such training increases. Parents experience burn out too from having some free time to almost none at all. If she is coming home from gym wishing she could do it more days than she does then your proabably have it right, don't increase the days to the point where she wishes she didnt have to do it so much.

The ideal model is to increase training days by no more than one at a time. For example if she is currently training 2 days a week and the new gym want 4. Ask if she can train 3 for the first 6 months and then build it up to 4 to help her body and her mind adjust. No matter how keen you both are it is better to increase slowly at the age of 6.

The same for the length of her training sessions. If say for example her training sessions are now 2 hours long it will be very difficult if she is suddely expected to train 4 hours at a time. Increase training by about 1/2 an hour at a time. I would say at the age of 6 to avoid doing more than 4 days a week and avoid training sessions longer than 3 hours long.

The secret to getting a child to become an olympian or a college level gymnasts is to make sure they are still in the sport in 10 or 12 years time, not burn them out at the age of 6.
 

lannamavity

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Sep 13, 2007
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Just be aware that the easiest thing for a coach to do is tell a mom exactly what she wants to hear. How much does this coach care about your child's well-being, and how does he/she know what level your child will be next Fall? The truth is that they don't know.

As the previous poster has said, it is imposible for a six year old to become a great gymnast if she is being pushed so hard that she never gets a chance to enjoy success, and quits by age 9.

Thousands of kids fall to the wayside on the way to the Olympics. While your daughter is a special and unique individual, she is, perhaps, not that unique in the world of gymnastics.

Be careful.
 
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Billy

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Thanks very much for the comments. A couple of things really came into light.

First, the increase in training would not be a problem, I don't think. Right now she trains 2 1/2 hours, two days per week plus she's voluntarily taking another hour of tumbling. So, 6 hrs per week over two days. The new gym trains 3 hours at a time three days per week for a total of nine hours. When I consider how much time my daughter spends practicing at home, I don't think this increase is too much.

Another point was how my DD reacts to her training situation. She does like to be one of the best and win at the meets. But, she is also heavily influenced by watching the other girls. At our old gym (when she was still in the rec league), she would watch the level 9 and 10 girls and want to be like them. It gave her a goal. At our gym now, the only girls that practice when she does are the pre-team, the level 2s and the level 3s. She has no one to "look up to" at the gym. That was a great motivator for her before and she would have that again if we make this change.
 

Aussie_coach

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It does sound like she will cope fine with the increase in hours. She is only adding an extra day. I do think you should go for it.
 
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Billy

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Thank you so much for your advice. It is greatly appreciated.
 
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Billy

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I do actually have one more concern with changing gyms. My DD says she doesn't want to skip level 3. She is confident at her current gym and already knows most of the level 3 skills. I think she is nervous about moving to level 4 in that she does not already know it. I'm afraid if I let her stay at level 3, she'll be bored within six months (our current gym requires one year at each level so she'd be stuck there until next spring). But, I don't want her to quit because she's intimidated, either.

She usually rises to a challenge and wants to learn new skills (she's trying to teach herself the kip in our basement and is working on her cartwheel on the beam; she's also taught herself front and back handsprings and front and back flips on our trampoline) and she even told me last night that she'd rather advance levels and learn new skills than win lots of medals at the lower level. But in the very next breath she says she doesn't want to change gyms. She's only 6 so she obviously can't see the bigger picture and which path would help her reach her goals. I'm not sure what to do.
 
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