Is TOPS necessary?!?

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txgymmom

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Jan 12, 2007
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Tx
My daughter is 10 yrs. old and a level 8. Her coach recently decided to take some girls to TOPS testing. She was under the impression that she was going, but was told she was not (without any reasons why!) She is upset because she thought it would be a great experience. We pretty much stay out of the gym and do not bother the coaches, but I needed to find out what was going on. I mean, she does spend 5 hours a day there. He just said it wasn't for her; with no other reasons. We think it is possibly becuse of her upper body strength. She has a very muscular build and is 4'9". My husband thinks that might cause her to have some issues pulling up her body when doing bars such as cast handstands. She did say she can only do 5 press handstands instead of 10, which is apparently what is needed. She is an incredible gymnast. She can tumble all over the two that are going. Is TOPS the true way to elite gymnastics. She may never be an elite (she's barely 10 right now), but she is required to spend many hours at the gym (and LOVES it). We don't know if there is something she can do to build more upper body or if we should just encourage her to go to the gym and continue to work hard and show all she can do. We kind of questioned if this is the right sport for her or not. She has a true passion for gmnastics!
 
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MdGymMom01

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Mar 5, 2008
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I am thinking that if your dd is 10 and already a level 8, then there is NO NEED for the TOPS testing. I was under the impression that the reason for TOPS in the first place is to identify young talent early so that they can be introduced to the higher levels of gymnastics if they are not involved with it already. Since she spends so much time in the gym already training Level 8, they already recognize her as having high potential.

I wouldn't worry too much about it.
 
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KBT

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If she's already a level 8, I don't see why she would need TOPs. I'm not completely familiar with the program, but it seems very developmental to me. Your daughter is probably already past that stage of development.

Why don't you just ask her coach why she's not going? It's not an unreasonable question and if it's bothering your daughter, you should be communicating this to the coach. As a coach I would much rather a parent come to me with questions and concerns rather than speculating on why I made a decision. I want the parents to be involved in their daughter's gymnastics.
 

txgymmom

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Jan 12, 2007
9
Tx
We usually don't question any of their decisions, but this one, I actually did. His response was, "I just don't feel it is for her." The other two girls going are the same age and same level. I just never got a complete answer, so I was wondering exactly what it lead to. To my own knowledge of the program (just from my own research, not the coach informing us), its a path that leads to elite gymnastics.
 

Tumblequeensmom

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Feb 19, 2007
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As many others have noted, TOPS is not the only way to elite programs. We have several elite gyms in the area who do NOT use TOPS.... one of the girls is at the "ranch" right now! Since she's only 10 and already a level 8, she's well on her way to either the elite track or the college scholarship route (or both!).

-Lynn
 

txgymmom

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Jan 12, 2007
9
Tx
Thanks! That is encouraging. We spend so much $$$ and she spends so much time, I just want to be sure she has the same opportunity as the others. We ask her at the end of every season if she still loves it and wants to continue. Her answer is always "ABSOLUTELY!" We never get too caught up in the whole gym thing, but this time we did. It just took us by surprise. I think I'll tell her to forget about the TOPS thing and just do her very best at all times. THANKS!
 

Tumblequeensmom

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Just out of curiosity, have you watched that YOUTUBE video showing some of the tops testing? I can't remember the name (I'm sure someone else will remember it and post a link). It showed that little girl with the broken ankle and her parents pushing her to complete the testing. It was actually kind of scary. I'll play the "devil's advocate here": I just wonder what the statistics show re: these little girls, the hours they put in and what the burnout rate truly is. Granted, some of the girls go all the way, but I wonder if that's true w/the vast majority? Just wondering . . .

-Lynn
 

txgymmom

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Jan 12, 2007
9
Tx
I don't know. We never push her and would never make her do anything she didn't want. In fact, we wouldn't mind it if she decided she didn't want to do gymnastics. She is also a dancer and a softball player. Gym is her passion. And we told her as long as she truly loved it, we would support her. That is why we don't really know about any of this TOPS stuff. We just don't get into the whole gym stuff, but when she was upset about something she thought she should have an opportunity to do, it really bothered me. She is a gifted athlete, and we sometimes wonder if she should be spending less time on gym and more time on a sport that would benefit her, but she LOVES going to gym (regardless of the hours). So, we continue to pay and drive her there.
 

MdGymMom01

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Mar 5, 2008
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Pursuing the Perfect 10-CNN Parkettes Documentary

Just out of curiosity, have you watched that YOUTUBE video showing some of the tops testing? I can't remember the name (I'm sure someone else will remember it and post a link). It showed that little girl with the broken ankle and her parents pushing her to complete the testing. It was actually kind of scary. I'll play the "devil's advocate here": I just wonder what the statistics show re: these little girls, the hours they put in and what the burnout rate truly is. Granted, some of the girls go all the way, but I wonder if that's true w/the vast majority? Just wondering . . .

-Lynn
Here is that video, "Pursuing the Perfect 10" CNN Parkettes documentary. It had a segment in there about TOPS and this little girl who was competing on a BROKEN ANKLE and the PARENTS AND COACHES HAD NO IDEA!!! Hmmm-pretty scary, huh???:eek:

YouTube - Pursuing the Perfect 10 - Parkettes Documentary (Part 1)
 
K

KBT

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We usually don't question any of their decisions, but this one, I actually did. His response was, "I just don't feel it is for her." The other two girls going are the same age and same level. I just never got a complete answer, so I was wondering exactly what it lead to. To my own knowledge of the program (just from my own research, not the coach informing us), its a path that leads to elite gymnastics.
That's odd - you're certainly not questioning his decision, just asking to be privy to the decision making process. Sounds like a communication problem to me... I guess if you've never had issues with this coach before I wouldn't worry, but it does sound strange.

In general, most elite gymnasts are very good at gymnastics beginning at a young age and would therefore be the kind of kids who would naturally be selected for the TOPs program. I suspect TOPs leads to elite simply because of the kids the program attracts, not because TOPs is the only way to get to elite. These kids would likely be successful even without TOPs. I do think it gives a more structured, intense focus at an early age; weeding out the "serious" girls to train together and push each other.

Would love to see some stats on how many elites currently on the national team did TOPs. If you watch the AT&T Behind the Teams, there's a few shots of Sam Peszek and Shayla Worley as baby gymnasts meeting for the first time at a TOPs camp.
 

gym law mom

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Dec 23, 2006
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Remember TOPs changes once the girls are over age 9. From 7-9 the testing is all about strength and flexibility. After that it is doing certain advanced skills the way the program dictates. The gym my gymmie started at trains elites and does not do TOPs. The one we're at now, does have TOPs, but only up to age 9. It is extra hours and extra $ plus more wear and tear on those young bodies. We had 2 girls that did make it to the national testing for 9 year olds---1 made the national team and 1 did not have a good test at all although just getting to the national test is a huge accomplishment. The girl that didn't make the national team then switched gyms ended up getting hurt before her 1st L8 meet and then quit completely. I think she was very close to your dd's age. She said that when she was out with the injury, she found she loved not being in the gym for all the practice and had burned out some with TOPs. So, at age 10 she walked away.

Sounds like your dd is already on the fast track---keep her happy and healthy and if she wants to try the elite track, I'll bet she'll be "fresher" than many who did TOPs.
 

Ingymmom

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Jul 12, 2007
981
First off, it sounds like your gymmie is doing wonderful and enjoying gymnastics. Testing TOPS or not should never value her love of gymnastics. If she loves it then she is right where she needs to be. I like the idea that you would just encourage her to continue to work hard & continue to give her all :D Do they train TOPS in your gym, or did they just decide to test a couple of girls kind of last minute?

TOPS is not necessary for a gymnast to reach the elite level, however it can be beneficial. Shawn Johnson was not a TOPS girl and it seems she has done just fine for herself;). Ivan Hong's gym (GAGE) also uses their own progression system and does not use TOPS. A strong elite track coach will know the proper progressions to train to that level with or without this specific program if this is what the gymmies goal is.

She turned 10 this year then? 10 & 11 yr old tend to be the most experienced of the bunch at TOPS testing. You mentioned that she was short on a few of her phys ability skills, this could be a big reason why she would not get chosen by her gym... Most 10 & 11 yr olds that train and test for TOPS do very well in the physical abilities portion. 10 presses, 60 second handstand hold, 10 cast handstands, 20 leg lifts, strong oversplits in both legs, quick no leg rope climb, good shoulder flexibility, high vertical jump & fast sprint.

Here is a video of a 10 yr old testing the phys ability portion, this gymnast is exceptional and made it to national testing & was also invited to participate in the A camp:

YouTube - Nica Hults USA Gymnastics TOPs Testing July 15, 2007


After they test phys abilities if they hit a certain goal they may be invited to the national testing (scheduled for Oct.) where they will test phys abilities again after they do the skills portion of TOPS (for a 10 yr old this portion is worth 70%) . The skills are not necessarily the same as a typical L8 would have (some gyms may train them, some not) & these skills vary by age.

Here is the link to the skill portion of the TOPS test with a by age explanation:

http://www.usa-gymnastics.org/Portals/0/PDFs/Women/TOPs/Testing/07TOPskills.pdf

Have to run real quick, but hope this info helps.
 
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Tumblequeensmom

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midwestgymmom

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Aug 27, 2006
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Very interesting thread. I think your dd is doing so well without TOPS as GLM said. I wonder what the injury and burnout ratio is for the TOPS gymnasts, now that would be interesting to know
 

Ingymmom

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Jul 12, 2007
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The coach just decided to test a couple of girls. No, they do not specifically train TOPS.
This is where it starts to make it unfair and feelings really get hurt... They should have given warning that TOPS testing would be an option rather then just up and deciding to test only a couple of girls - or perhaps they should have waited until next year. This happened in our gym recently as well, and many parents were very upset to where they were going to open the testing up to anyone that wanted to attend. It ended up that no one attended (for many reasons), but still did not leave warm feelings amongst the team or the coaches. Unfortunately, once it gets brought up, most gymmies always wish that they would have been one of the ones to go... This should be a planned team event - no not everyone may be able to attend, but the gymmies should at least know they are working for a shot at testing - and given time to work on their skills and understand what exactly they are required to have. Personally I think it is unethical for the gym to suddenly allow this to happen. Are the gymmies that are attending both 10 yrs old as well?

As far as burnout, many gyms train their teams with alot of the physical portion of the TOPS training already added into their conditioning. Burnout/quitting occurs with or without "TOPS".

While it is not a necessity, the majority of our elites/international elites have participated at some point in TOPS and/or HOPES to help them reach their goals . But actually anybody that had the skills could test for their elite status - even if they have never competed in the JO program.
 
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Gym-Nice-tics

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May 14, 2008
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I do TOPS with some of my kids, but we do it for a different reason.

My girls train an extra two hours a week all during regular season during "TOPS" practice. It was open to all team kids of all levels. We did a lot of strength and form work during those extra sessions. I had roughly eight girls that came to most practices that fell in the 7-11 grouping (Several older gymnasts attended often, as well, but cannot test). Those girls were allowed to go to the test and see how they did. Five of them attended the last test and are excited to test tomorrow morning to see if they improve their scores.

In all honesty, my girls are not the best ones there. Some may say they shouldn't be there. They can't do 10 presses, and cast handstands can be tricky for them at times. But they love trying the tests and they just want to see how they improve, how they stack up. I'm sure some people would think I'm just wasting the testers' times with bringing them to the test, but they pay the $40 registration fee just like everyone else and they enjoy what they do.
 

Aussie_coach

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Thats great to hear Gym-nice-tics, it sounds like you are training your girls for the right reasons. To improve themsleves as individuals rather than just to win at everything. It also sounds like you are the sort of coach that gives everyone a chance who is willing to put in the hard work and committment even if they arent as natuarlly talented. I do believe that in the end hard work and dedication will play far more of a role than inborn talent. We need more coaches like you around.
 

txgymmom

New Member
Jan 12, 2007
9
Tx
I wish my daughter's coach was like you! That is exactly the reason she wanted to go; for the experience and to see where she stood among others her age. She is now determined to work at her skills and test next year. She'll turn 11. But she got such a sour taste from the way it was handled, that she said (for the first time in 7 years of doing gym) she didn't know if she wanted to do gym anymore. I told her we will always support her, but I hate for her to give up something she loved. And she truly has a passion. I think she's over it now and ready to work hard.
 
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