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For Parents Our First Season of Competitive Gymastics

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atlnon

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We just got done with our first season with our 8 year old daughter in Xcel Silver. Wanted to share my thoughts and experience. This is a long post as I have a tendency to be comprehensive.

We started our gymnastics journey 3 years ago. In Feb of 2013, my wife brought my 5 yr old daughter to a free trial class in a large gym close to her school. Unlike her 2 older siblings, my youngest daughter is a homebody. Her 2 older siblings developed a passion for an activity (ballet and baseball) since they were 2 years old. She wanted to just stay home with mom and dad. We finally pushed her to do an activity when she was 5. We tried dance first but she would always ask her teacher when the class would end. Her teacher finally told us to let her try gymnastics. When my wife brought her to the free trial for the rec class, the coach put her on the bars and my daughter just hung there. My wife was watching from the parents section in the balcony and saw the coach call the other coaches to look at my daughter after she hung on the bars for a long time (not sure exactly how long). They talked to my wife after the class and told her that they want to put my daughter in the development team as opposed to a rec class. And just like that, our journey through the gymnastics world began. I didn't really understand what we got ourselves into, and the costs involved at that time. Probably good thing I didn't know or the journey would not have even started.

She stayed on the development team for 1.5 years, then moved to preteam for a year. Most of her preteam was moved up to Xcel silver summer of 2015. They trained during the fall of 2015 and competed during the spring of this year. Her gym starts competing at the Xcel silver level. If we follow the track of previous year's team, they will then next compete in a JO level 4 meet in the fall to score out of that level, train for JO level 5 during the fall, then compete in JO level 5 meet the next spring. From there, I think they go to either Level 7 (and keep going to levels 8 to 10), or go the Xcel Platinum route. I am not sure if this progression is rigid or changes every year depending on the girls they have. They do have 1 girl that competed at the elite level who was a member of the US National Team (but I think she's retired now from the elite level to focus on college). What's interesting is that I have to figure this out on my own. No one explained to us Xcel vs. JO and what the expected progression for teams in the gym would be.

I don't have a lot of experience yet but based on what I read in this board, our gym is more serious when it comes to training. If I remembered correctly, my daughter was training for 6 hours a week when she was in the development team, 9 hours a week in preteam, and 12 hours a week for Xcel Silver plus an extra 2 hours a week for an additional strength and conditioning class (total of 14 hours a week).

Once they started competing, I realized that they were trained to do and incorporated a lot of skills over and above the minimum required for Xcel Silver especially on bars. They were doing kips on the low bar, then squat on to the high bar, then release one of the hands to do a 180 deg turn for the dismount (I'm still trying to learn the terminologies for the skills). They get decent scores on bars, but it is one of their lower scoring apparatus for the team as a whole. I figure this is alright because the coaches is more focused on getting them ready for the next level rather than chasing scores at this level.

Having said that, they do score very high. They have won first place for the team in all 8 meets they competed in this spring including states. They do have a lot of girls on their team (15 to 20 girls) and I'm sure that helps with the team score. They also do often have girls placing 1 to 3 place in all the apparatus across the different age groups. I honestly don't know if our gym is really good, or if this is a product of having a team with a lot of girls, or weak competition in this level for our area (maybe the better gyms compete in JO level 3 or 4)?

My daughter is the second youngest in her team. The age in her team ranges from 8 to 10 yrs old. She is not the best gymnast in the team and routinely scores in the top 40%. She also routinely place in top 5 for her age group in a meet for 2 of the apparatus and AA, and place is the top 8 for the other 2 apparatus (which apparatus she places high on varies from meet to meet). The girls placing above her are normally girls from her gym also.

That age group separation also baffled me in the first few meets as she gets grouped with different girls. It's always disappointing whenever she gets grouped with the really good girls in her gym. The times she placed first in an apparatus is when she wasn't grouped with a lot of strong girls from her gym. She's never placed first in AA, but consistently been in the top 5. She doesn't overwhelm in an apparatus, but I think she's consistent across all apparatus to consistently be in the top 5 in AA. I think the balance of placing consistently while getting a few #1 finish in an apparatus here and there gives her the satisfaction of accomplishment while being hungry enough to do better.

Her worst meet (3rd meet in the season) was when she started on bars (her favorite event) and she scored unexpectedly low even when she thought she did great. I did not understand why she scored low. Her whole team actually scored low so there must be something they were doing that the judge did not like. She was still upset and thinking about the score she got in bars when she moved to the next apparatus (beam). She did not look her normal self during warm ups and sure enough, she fell during her back walkover in beam. That was her one and only fall during the season. I was proud of her though as she regained her composure and executed her vault normally, and vault is her weakest event. I learned by then not to focus on the score (thanks to this board) and used that as a learning experience for her to let go of her disappointment in the previous apparatus if she didn't do well or did not get the score she was expecting, and to focus on the next apparatus.

One of the surprise for me is how much meet they had for their first year (8 meets), and that 2 of these meets are out of town (1 meet is 2 hours away and no need for an overnight stay, the other one is 4 hours away where we did have to spend a night out of town). We are ending our season with states and not going to regional even if a lot of the girls qualified for regionals (and I'm happy about this).

Her season ended with a good showing at state. She placed 1st on beam, 2nd of vault, 3rd on floor, 7th for bars (which is surprising as that is her favorite but she stumbled a little on her dismount) and 3rd all around for her age group (15 girls). Out of 300+ gymnasts in Xcel Silver at state, she was #2 at beam, around #30 for vault and floor, around #100 for bars, and #15 in AA.

My last thought is that what surprised me the most is the camaraderie the developed in the team. I was surprised because I see gymnastics (unlike baseball and basketball) as a very individualize sport. I was concerned about the girls within the team becoming very competitive with each other, and biting each other behind their backs. But I was pleasantly surprised to see my daughter loving the team, getting along with the girls in the team, and caring as much about the team score as her own score, if not more. And better yet, I have not seen or sense any issues with the parents. I think it helps a lot that our gym bans parents from staying to watch practice. I did not understand this at the beginning but it made sense later on (and after reading this board). This may change as the girls gets older (I hope not).

Anyway, this is our experience so far. Sorry for the long post. I hope someone who is beginning their journey and wondering what they got themselves into would find something here that is helpful.
 

B.Gold

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I hope someone who is beginning their journey and wondering what they got themselves into would find something here that is helpful.
Loved reading your post. ....and really, your dd is only just getting started herself, sounds like a very positive start!! Congrats to what sounds like a very successful first season, may they all go as smoothly...
 

IreneKa

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Well, Xcel is supposed to be less intense, lower hours type of program. I think one of the reasons your team did so well is because they are training 14 hours a week, while their competition teams are probably training somewhere around 5-8 hours. Not trying to say that your gym is not as good as you think, but don't be surprised if the girls won't be winning as much when they start competing JO, and going against the teams training similar hours.

Good luck to your DD! Sounds like she is doing great!
 

ePink

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Thank you for sharing your story! This is my first post. :) I came here to learn more about my daughter's gymnastics journey. Very helpful!!
 
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atlnon

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Well, Xcel is supposed to be less intense, lower hours type of program. I think one of the reasons your team did so well is because they are training 14 hours a week, while their competition teams are probably training somewhere around 5-8 hours. Not trying to say that your gym is not as good as you think, but don't be surprised if the girls won't be winning as much when they start competing JO, and going against the teams training similar hours.

I agree. I figure it's going to be tougher if and when we move to JO Level 5. I know our gym's level 5 also got first place in states, but I also heard from them that they did not get much competition during spring as most of the gyms competed in fall. There is some talk that we may switch to competing in fall next year for this reason. Not sure if this is true for other areas.

So what is the advantage for our gym going the route of starting with Xcel Silver in competition only to move to Level 4 and 5 the next year? It seems like the girls practice as much hours as JO level 3's and 4's anyway. Is it more fun and engaging for the girls to start with optionals vs. compulsaries?
 

Seeker

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So what is the advantage for our gym going the route of starting with Xcel Silver in competition only to move to Level 4 and 5 the next year? It seems like the girls practice as much hours as JO level 3's and 4's anyway. Is it more fun and engaging for the girls to start with optionals vs. compulsaries?

To build competitive experience.
Experience some success (this would likely help maintain enthusiasm and desire).
Build slowly towards the more competitive nature of JO.

I'm sure there are other reasons, but those came to mind immediately.
 

HoldThePhone

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As soon as I began reading your post, I kept thinking, that sounds a lot like a gym I know of, as I kept reading, and saw your username, I realized it is the gym I'm thinking of.

It sounds like your daughter had a great first season, so congrats to her! I think your gym is definitely a strong gym, not everyone's cup of tea, but it works out great for a lot of girls. The teams are big, but successful. As an outsider it does seem like your girls tend to compete down from what they're capable of, which is why they're pretty easily able to make the jump through the levels like they do.

I'd say it sounds like your daughter enjoys the sport, especially if this one stuck when others didn't! Enjoy the ride!!
 
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SeaActually

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As soon as I began reading your post, I kept thinking, that sounds a lot like a gym I know of, as I kept reading, and saw your username, I realized it is the gym I'm thinking of.

It sounds like your daughter had a great first season, so congrats to her! I think your gym is definitely a strong gym, not everyone's cup of tea, but it works out great for a lot of girls. The teams are big, but successful. As an outsider it does seem like your girls tend to compete down from what they're capable of, which is why they're pretty easily able to make the jump through the levels like they do.

I'd say it sounds like your daughter enjoys the sport, especially if this one stuck when others didn't! Enjoy the ride!!

It's funny when you can figure stuff out like that!
 
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ldw4mlo

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So what is the advantage for our gym going the route of starting with Xcel Silver in competition only to move to Level 4 and 5 the next year? It seems like the girls practice as much hours as JO level 3's and 4's anyway. Is it more fun and engaging for the girls to start with optionals vs. compulsaries?

So they don't have to do things like a mill circle.............
 

HoldThePhone

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Yes, but they could do Silver without a mill circle or kip. Their gym requires a kip. They all usually score fairly high across the board on all events, and not by doing the minimum. Correct me if I'm wrong OP, but there are a few levels of pre-team, and the Advanced level, they're required to have their kip, right? Kids generally spend a good while in the various preteams before ever being able to compete, and because of that, from what I hear, a lot of kids either switch or quit. Obviously they still have a huge program, and are often full except for upper level optionals, but I personally know a lot of girls who have switched from there because of being told they didn't have the right potential, or they'd never make actual team, etc.

What I have personally seen at meets is they look great. I can't really say if the other comments are accurate as we don't have the experience there.
 

atlnon

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Yes, but they could do Silver without a mill circle or kip. Their gym requires a kip. They all usually score fairly high across the board on all events, and not by doing the minimum. Correct me if I'm wrong OP, but there are a few levels of pre-team, and the Advanced level, they're required to have their kip, right? Kids generally spend a good while in the various preteams before ever being able to compete, and because of that, from what I hear, a lot of kids either switch or quit. Obviously they still have a huge program, and are often full except for upper level optionals, but I personally know a lot of girls who have switched from there because of being told they didn't have the right potential, or they'd never make actual team, etc.

What I have personally seen at meets is they look great. I can't really say if the other comments are accurate as we don't have the experience there.

Lol. I always try to be careful when I post but I guess I still gave too much info there... But it's good to hear that you know our gym as I am really curious what your perspectives (and other's perspectives) are.

Yes, there are 3 levels of pre-team. We didn't know what we got ourselves into in the beginning so we weren't really paying attention to how the various girls progressed, and girls that switches or quits. I can't even tell you who was in my daughther's pre-team groups in her various pre-team levels and where they are now. The impression I got (based on me trying to learn more about gymnastics the past several months) is that our 3 levels of pre-team is comparable to JO levels 1 to 3 (and/or Xcel bronze) but they just focused on training the girls and have in-house competitions as opposed to going to meets. They wait until Xcel Silver before going to meets which totally suits me. Given my other kids' activities, I was glad that they wait until now to go to meets.

They started teaching and training kips at the 3rd pre-team level. My daughter didn't really master it until the fall of her Xcel Silver season. She was able to do it here and there in pre-team but not consistently. I was really scratching my head when we went to our first meet and the routines they were performing, especially the bars, were so much different from the other gyms.

I would be curious to hear what the other's perspectives are with regards to our gym. I know that the girls love their coaches and it seems like a good atmosphere, especially in how the coaches nurtured the bond and relationships between the girls.
 

atlnon

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BTW, another thing that surprised me a lot in our first few meets is how tedious and time consuming the awards ceremonies are! There was one meet where the awards ceremonies was longer than the meet itself. I was surprised also by how many awards were given out for each apparatus, for AA, and for each age divisions.
 

HoldThePhone

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Yes, you'll learn to appreciate the gyms who do a speedy awards ceremony, even if a lot of awards are given. Typically awards will go out 50% + 1, but you'll see some meets do more than that.
 
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tooootsie

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I enjoy the awards unless it's a late night meet. Those kids work work their tails off and deserve recognition. Meet season is my favorite most stressful time of the year ♡
 
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2G1B

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I too figured out which gym OP is at. ;) it is a good gym and in general the silvers are very good and would score as well at gold as they do at silver. I honestly don't know why the gym does silver instead (do you have to have competed before to do gold? If so, that would be my guess for the reasoning). Not many gyms in the OP's state gave girls competing USAG silver with low hours. I'd guess that the minimum is 9; but 12 is probably the norm. Gymnasts doing lower hours tend to do AAU or the is a program called "gum stars" that seems to be at a lot of gyms. OP's gym's silver tend to be worlds ahead on what they are doing with bars; but a lot of girls from other gyms are doing comparable skills on the other events.

OP, girls from your gym do go on to do very well for their 4 score out and then season of 5. They do great in optionals. They are a strong team. The coaching does get much tougher/ more strict and there are a decent number of girls who either swap to other gyms or quit; but there are also a decent number who stick with the program and go on to compete in college.

As I've mentioned before, Xcel is different in region 8, in your state in particular.:)
 

2G1B

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Oh, and as for level 5, it just isn't competed much in your state. Normally fall is the larger compulsory season; but for level 5 spring was slightly bigger than fall, though even combined there were not even 125 girls who competed level 5 at the state meets.
 

atlnon

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I enjoy the awards unless it's a late night meet. Those kids work work their tails off and deserve recognition. Meet season is my favorite most stressful time of the year ♡

I did learn and grow to enjoy the awards ceremonies that are well run. The number of awards given was something I still have to get used to coming from other sports (like baseball and basketball) where only the top 2 teams were given awards, and the fact that my only exposure to gymnastics before this was the Olympics where only the top 3 gymnasts were given awards.

It was unfortunate that the first couple of awards ceremonies I've been in were not well run. They had 3 concurrent sessions going on but they had 2 awards room. Our awards ceremonies was at the same time as the other session and they did that session first. They also called up first to last place (I think for all individual apparatus). I can understand the 50%+1 even if I am still getting used to it. I really don't get calling first to last place. It feels like it highlights a girl's low placement by calling them up front.
 
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atlnon

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I too figured out which gym OP is at. ;) it is a good gym and in general the silvers are very good and would score as well at gold as they do at silver. I honestly don't know why the gym does silver instead (do you have to have competed before to do gold? If so, that would be my guess for the reasoning).

I looked up the requirements for Xcel Gold and they do not require competition experience prior to competing gold. Based on my deciphering of the Xcel Gold routine requirements, I think the gymnasts are required to land on their feet for vault. Our girls are still not ready for this. They still land on their back on top of the foam mattresses. I don't understand the minimum requirements for the other apparatuses enough to say if our girls can do it or not. The vault routines our girls do are the same as other gyms except that some of the gyms uses a trampoline type equipment to jump off from.
 

HoldThePhone

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Vault doesn't really have any variations, aside from the springboard like you mentioned. I think though if your girls had been working the vault over the table, they could have gotten it.
 
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