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Sandbaggers on level 4

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mrsmiddle

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I am very frustrated. We just returned from our level 4 state meet in Virginia, and it was rather disappointing. Aside from the usual things at a meet that everyone claims, favoritism and what not, we had several gyms that brought 2nd and 3rd year competing gymnasts. These girls took the awards for the last two years, and now they are getting 38 all around scores. Shouldn't there be a cap on allowing gymnasts that score consistent high 36's, 37's and 38's from competing in the same level again? It is supposed to be a beginning level right? Not a career. I wish the coaches would show more concern for the good of their girls, instead of worrying about what their team award will be. I know that I do not know all of the situations. But, I also know that to get 15th place at this meet you had to score 9.25 or better on most events. How fair is that to these little ones. I just don't understand this logic.
 

cftmoonlight

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Sometimes there are fear issues or commitment issues. We had a girl who was simply too young for level 5 until april so we kept her at level 4 rather than doing one month of level 5. Some sandbag for sure but there are reasons to do level 4 again. You will see it at all levels. I also had a kid who was a first year level 4 who scored a 38 +. Some kids are that talented.
 

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I am very frustrated. We just returned from our level 4 state meet in Virginia, and it was rather disappointing. Aside from the usual things at a meet that everyone claims, favoritism and what not, we had several gyms that brought 2nd and 3rd year competing gymnasts. These girls took the awards for the last two years, and now they are getting 38 all around scores. Shouldn't there be a cap on allowing gymnasts that score consistent high 36's, 37's and 38's from competing in the same level again? It is supposed to be a beginning level right? Not a career. I wish the coaches would show more concern for the good of their girls, instead of worrying about what their team award will be. I know that I do not know all of the situations. But, I also know that to get 15th place at this meet you had to score 9.25 or better on most events. How fair is that to these little ones. I just don't understand this logic.
I agree fully.

Obviously there are situations where a kid can score high and still not be ready to move up, but I also firmly believe that kids benefit from being challenged. Generally speaking, if I have a choice between putting a kid at a level where they will struggle to keep up with the pack and putting them at a level where they will take top 3 without breaking a sweat, I'll take the former.
 
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gymdog

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Well, now VA changed things up to that small/large team format. Compulsories are getting more competitive. Our scoring is also really high and getting higher every year it seems unless I'm just insane. The placements would be the same but I've watched these meets and it seems the routines getting 9.5s would have been lower 9s in past years. While I would say quality of routines, esp presentation wise, has improved overall, our scoring is still on the high side compared to say, Maryland.

I'm comparing results from last year:
age 7 top 5: 2 appear to be 2nd years, but one is from a program I don't usually think of as overly competitive. Although I heard they were going through some changes but that was at the optional level so I don't know.

age 8 top 5: 1 appears to have repeated, but placed 59/59 in 2007

After that it's hard because of 8-1/3 etc. but my rough comparision doesn't show much overlap of the top spots from last year until now. The repeaters generally placed lower the previous year. I'm not sure if this was a problem in a specific age group or not because I didn't check them all. I guess it would be the older age groups if it was the 3rd year? and I didn't really check those.

Since it seems it's pretty unusual here to move a compulsory up mid-year, no matter how well they're doing, I think that probably accounts for a lot of the high achieving by states in L4. Although some might skip L5 and do L6.

OT dominates the compulsory levels here, but they do have a huge program and can drop a ton of scores, and the quality of their routines is good overall. They had a veritable compulsory army at the invite I worked earlier this year. So I pretty much expect them to win large team at the compulsory levels now. WC has an incredible optional program. I don't know much about their compulsory program but I would assume it was good. It's nice to have the small team designation now at least.
 
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Aussie_coach

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This is a really common problem in gymnastics. Many gyms do this here in Australia as the kids are allowed to do bonus skills in their routines to give them extra points, so you get level 5's who have recently learnt kips on bars, cartwheels on beam and front and back handsprings on floor competing against other level 5's who are doing cast to handstand giants on bars, standing back tucks on beam and back and front layouts on floor. It's crazy!

Unfortunatly it means more and more clubs are encouraged to sandbag because it is the only way for their girls to have a chance in competition.

We do have a rule for level 4's and 5's that if they score an all around score of 56.00 or more (we us the new scoring system so that is an average of 14.00 per apparatus similar to getting over a 9.5 on the old scoring system) then they are required to move up to the next level the following year.
 

mrsmiddle

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Yes OT does dominate. I am glad to hear that maybe these results are just due to some incredible talent. Also one of those level 4 - 7 year old repeaters scored a high 35 at state last year, and was moved to level 5 then switched gyms and went backwards, so she was truly a sandbagger, but there was the comfort level of switching gyms there too. It would be nice not to hear "well, we just wore the wrong colors" anymore. And have it really be all about the kids, but I guess that a bit idealistic. The gym that you spoke of is going through a lot of changes and getting more competitive an all of the levels, not just the optionals. It will be interesting to see what the future holds. And, It will definitely benefit the kids in that are in that area to have a choice of competitive gyms!
 

CoachL

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I've always felt when parents or coaches put too much emphasis on results at the lower levels the kids also put too much emphasis and end up being upset because they didn't get 1st etc...instead of focusing on their performances.
 

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Yes OT does dominate. I am glad to hear that maybe these results are just due to some incredible talent. Also one of those level 4 - 7 year old repeaters scored a high 35 at state last year, and was moved to level 5 then switched gyms and went backwards, so she was truly a sandbagger, but there was the comfort level of switching gyms there too. It would be nice not to hear "well, we just wore the wrong colors" anymore. And have it really be all about the kids, but I guess that a bit idealistic. The gym that you spoke of is going through a lot of changes and getting more competitive an all of the levels, not just the optionals. It will be interesting to see what the future holds. And, It will definitely benefit the kids in that are in that area to have a choice of competitive gyms!
Oh yeah I hear you. I'm seeing some trends that I don't really think are appropriate/necessary levels of competitiveness at the lower levels. But at the same time, I guess I kind of have a "what can you do" attitude about it, other than focusing on yourself and kind of staying positive in your own circle, you know? I'm not blaming any one gym because honestly I don't have any specific problem really and I think overall the results are pretty fair, or fair enough for me anyway. It's kind of hard to separate "they always win" from "they have a ton of girls at this level and a very competitive compulsory program" and thus with 4 or 5 scores counting, 4 or 5 girls are likely to not only be particularly strong on any given event but to hit a routine with no falls. Whereas if you have 5 girls and can drop no scores, at the compulsory level, a fall is pretty much going to put you out. But when I'm running scores or timing, and watching every routine on a given event, I have to say I am always highly impressed with our judges and how dedicated they are to focusing on each routine down to every last tenth (some of whom I've watched for years...well I try to always be at bars because I like that best).

When I did L4, I went 6 hours a week and won my first meet. Now at that gym, the L4s go significantly more than 6 hours a week in order to be one of the more competitive programs. There are a lot of great less competitive programs with a different focus, that are a better fit for some for various reasons. But it is harder to be competitive without the hours, you have to kind of take a different focus, and most likely you're going to work more on mobility skills than perfecting the routines. Oddly enough there are some fairly large optional programs I can think of that don't have standout compulsory programs because they just focus on training routines to a point, moving girls up, and they tend to have higher retention rates in my experience, so they build up a whole lot of optionals even after high school age.
 

mrsmiddle

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I've always felt when parents or coaches put too much emphasis on results at the lower levels the kids also put too much emphasis and end up being upset because they didn't get 1st etc...instead of focusing on their performances.
I totally agree! We really try to focus on "personal best" with our girls, but even then they still walk away from a meet like that thinking their best wasn't good enough.
 

lannamavity

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I am very frustrated. We just returned from our level 4 state meet in Virginia, and it was rather disappointing. Aside from the usual things at a meet that everyone claims, favoritism and what not, we had several gyms that brought 2nd and 3rd year competing gymnasts. These girls took the awards for the last two years, and now they are getting 38 all around scores. Shouldn't there be a cap on allowing gymnasts that score consistent high 36's, 37's and 38's from competing in the same level again? It is supposed to be a beginning level right? Not a career. I wish the coaches would show more concern for the good of their girls, instead of worrying about what their team award will be. I know that I do not know all of the situations. But, I also know that to get 15th place at this meet you had to score 9.25 or better on most events. How fair is that to these little ones. I just don't understand this logic.
If you want to be competitive, then your kids need to be better at Level 4....and excuses like "the other kids are second or third year" or "the judges are biased" doesn't really cut it.

The team that wins needs to be so good that bias/number of second year athetes isn't an issue. That's the only way to win the compulsory game.

Just like you have your own ideas about what level kids should/shouldn't be, a club who repeats their kids should have that same freedom to train the way they want.

We have high expectations for our kids when it comes to competition, but they train at a level higher than they compete...it's just another way of doing it so that the kids are successful in competition as well as prepared before moving to the next level.
 

mrsmiddle

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If you want to be competitive, then your kids need to be better at Level 4....and excuses like "the other kids are second or third year" or "the judges are biased" doesn't really cut it.

The team that wins needs to be so good that bias/number of second year athetes isn't an issue. That's the only way to win the compulsory game.

Just like you have your own ideas about what level kids should/shouldn't be, a club who repeats their kids should have that same freedom to train the way they want.

We have high expectations for our kids when it comes to competition, but they train at a level higher than they compete...it's just another way of doing it so that the kids are successful in competition as well as prepared before moving to the next level.
I was wondering when I was going to get a comment like that one. I am not really worried about where we place as a team. I am more interested in not making the girls feel that their best isn't good enough because girls who are wearing different colors and are at the "right" gyms are scoring higher and their mistakes are being ignored. But that isn't what this is about. It's not what any of this should ever be about. It should ALWAYS be about the kids. I don't think that keeping them in level 4 for a 2nd and 3rd year so that your club can get higher scores is about the kids. It's about the coaches instead. I personally don't need to validate myself or make my girls miserable and bored so that our club can place higher. I just think, as coaches, we have the responsibility to make the playing field fair, for the KIDS. There are biases, the judges are human, I am not using it as an excuse. You just must be on the right side of them.
 

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Kids aren't always repeating level 4 for the sole purpose of winning. Level 4-5 is a big step the gymnasts must get their handspring vault, kips on bars, squat on to catch high bar, cartwheel on beam, back extention roll on floor and many other skills to compete level 5. If their gym focus's a lot of competition and routine they may not be focusing a lot on developing the skills for the next level. Ideally level 4 gymnasts should be working both.
 

lannamavity

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I was wondering when I was going to get a comment like that one. I am not really worried about where we place as a team. I am more interested in not making the girls feel that their best isn't good enough because girls who are wearing different colors and are at the "right" gyms are scoring higher and their mistakes are being ignored. But that isn't what this is about. It's not what any of this should ever be about. It should ALWAYS be about the kids. I don't think that keeping them in level 4 for a 2nd and 3rd year so that your club can get higher scores is about the kids. It's about the coaches instead. I personally don't need to validate myself or make my girls miserable and bored so that our club can place higher. I just think, as coaches, we have the responsibility to make the playing field fair, for the KIDS. There are biases, the judges are human, I am not using it as an excuse. You just must be on the right side of them.
I have yet to see a "miserable and bored" gymnast standing in first place on the awards stand.

If the "move up" standards in a program are stringent, then the athletes must remain in their current level until they meet those standards...where else are they supposed to go? Are coaches supposed to lower their standards so that other clubs can be more competitive? That is not their responsibility.

I just don't see a "right or wrong" here.
 
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gymdog

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I just don't see a "right or wrong" here.
Personally, I agree. I think everyone needs to evaluate their place in this sport and decide if they're happy with the situation. No matter how everyone handles move-ups, there are going to be winners and losers and personal victories. I think in any program there is a lot of room to emphasize the latter but each program is going to have their own competitive goals and progression standards based on a variety of factors.

There's just no such thing as a completely level playing field in my opinion. Ultimately, you need to fulfilled with the capacity that you're participating in for this sport and what you are getting out of it. I reserve the right to comment on practices that I feel are abusive or unnecessarily harsh, as a means to an end in this sport, but otherwise I've been on both sides of the "reputation" equation from a couple standpoints and I think a lot of people are looking for the perfect experience in gymnastics instead of focusing on the fact that there's no point to all this if you're looking for some kind of "justice." It's just not really there. I know a lot of girls who have come to end and initially freaked because it was over and they felt like...what did I just do? What did I just spend my whole life doing, for this in the end? Once there's nothing left to achieve, you either realize that you loved gymnastics in its entirety, or maybe you really did just waste your life, dunno, I think most people I know ultimately came to the former realization luckily.

The important thing for a competitive program is to provide a safe, healthy atmosphere to instill a love of the sport and lifetime fitness, and provide an outlet for the gymnast to progress and learn. There are a variety of ways to achieve that, all of them have their place and as a coach I personally think the worst thing I can do is imply or encourage things about "wearing the wrong colors" etc. I think that is really the wrong focus here until there is concrete evidence for this. That is really not making it about the kids and what they can improve to further their goals. If a parent approached me with a comment like that, I would suggest that if their gymnast was unhappy about our relative performance level, then we could meet to determine what improvements she could make to her own routine. We may also need to discuss that we train for x hours with x equipment, for x tuition, and that is a trade-off whereas this gym trains for y hours with y facilities for y amount. If they are unwilling to make that trade-off than either my program or this sport is not the right one for them. Some of the trade-offs girls are making at the other gyms include not moving as fast through the levels once they meet minimum standards. I've lived both sides of that, and personally I was MUCH happier at the competitive gym. On the other hand, some were miserable there and happier elsewhere.
 

Gym-Nice-tics

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*applauding* That was a great response Gymdog. So much goes into it.

Do I get annoyed with gyms that keep gymnasts down for several years, despite the high scores? Yes, sometimes. But you deal with it and move on.

The funniest thing that happened is that there is a gym that is notorious for keeping kids down in levels and at one meet this one coach comes up to me and asks when I'm going to finally move up one of my good ones. I just looked at them in shock. It was so funny and ironic. I couldn't believe it!
 

mrsmiddle

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*applauding* That was a great response Gymdog. So much goes into it.

Do I get annoyed with gyms that keep gymnasts down for several years, despite the high scores? Yes, sometimes. But you deal with it and move on.
I agree with you and Gymdog, I just needed to voice my frustrations. I am truly glad that I had this forum to do it in.

The funniest thing that happened is that there is a gym that is notorious for keeping kids down in levels and at one meet this one coach comes up to me and asks when I'm going to finally move up one of my good ones. I just looked at them in shock. It was so funny and ironic. I couldn't believe it!
I could just see that happening here, I don't think I would be able to hold back the laughter! As far as our gym goes, I feel that staying on level 4 for more than a year is a waste of time. I'd rather see them move on to level 5 and stay there for a couple of years... at least they'll be working on "real" skills and real equipment. But I know that I am in the minority, at least in Virginia. In California, that was the norm. If a gymnast hit 36.0 AA once during a season, they couldn't compete that level again the next year. Now that kind of a rule would really shake things up down here!!
 

gymdog

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I could just see that happening here, I don't think I would be able to hold back the laughter! As far as our gym goes, I feel that staying on level 4 for more than a year is a waste of time. I'd rather see them move on to level 5 and stay there for a couple of years... at least they'll be working on "real" skills and real equipment. But I know that I am in the minority, at least in Virginia. In California, that was the norm. If a gymnast hit 36.0 AA once during a season, they couldn't compete that level again the next year. Now that kind of a rule would really shake things up down here!!
That is a great philosophy for your program. I don't mean to indicate you can't vent. I don't think a mandantory move up policy would go over well here, but I personally have few problems with the way we're running compulsory competitions. I do not really believe that philosophy is in the minority. If you look at the overall quality of gymnastics in VA our judging is actually a lot more lax than nearby MD. Our scoring is pretty high, but I don't see a lot to indicate we have a lot more repeating than other states. NorCal at least strikes me as way more competitive than VA. Honestly, we have virtually no sub-L4 competition here so there is also that aspect when we're talking about the first competitive level. Actually I can think of a few gyms here that do 5 as their first competitive level, there is no requirement to compete L4 of course.
 

lannamavity

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I agree with you and Gymdog, I just needed to voice my frustrations. I am truly glad that I had this forum to do it in.



I could just see that happening here, I don't think I would be able to hold back the laughter! As far as our gym goes, I feel that staying on level 4 for more than a year is a waste of time. I'd rather see them move on to level 5 and stay there for a couple of years... at least they'll be working on "real" skills and real equipment. But I know that I am in the minority, at least in Virginia. In California, that was the norm. If a gymnast hit 36.0 AA once during a season, they couldn't compete that level again the next year. Now that kind of a rule would really shake things up down here!!
Huh? I've been in California for years, and there has never been any rule about a 36.0 mandatory move up score.

:confused::confused::confused:
 

mrsmiddle

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Huh? I've been in California for years, and there has never been any rule about a 36.0 mandatory move up score.

:confused::confused::confused:
The last year I was there..in southern California, the gyms came together and decided that. It was in 2006-2007 for the first year. I know that because our new level 5's competed their first meet in the beginning of June, for fun, but if they made the scores, they were going to have to compete level 6 in the fall.
 

Gym-Nice-tics

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That would cause chaos here. I know several gyms just wouldn't agree to it.

I tend to keep level fours at four for two years. Their first year tends to be a year where I just throw them out there, and usually they are missing four or five tricks from the events. That first year was about learning how to compete, being on a team, etc. The second year they become the veterans and are then set up as the leaders of the group, showing the new fours the way.

Usually the second years didn't start hitting 36's or 37's until a meet or two into their second year. Then they'd start to do well and they would be training five on the side, maybe even attending one or two fun five meets. However, this year the group was very good, many hit 36 in their first season, despite starting off lacking some important skills. Most will probably move out of four after their states this weekend.
 
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