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Skipping Levels

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Megley

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I'm not sure if this is the correct board, but as this question is sort of addressed to coaches, I'll ask it here. I am pretty new to the world of gymnastics but I've been doing some online looking and have joined some message boards and groups and asked a couple of questions and am running into what seems to be a difference in coaching philosophy. Do you think that a child should spend at least one or two years at each level or is it better to get a child into optionals as quickly as possible? One school of thought seems to be that there is no rush, you can't compete internationally until you are 16 anyway so why move up quickly to optionals. The other school of thought seems to be that you should get the gymnasts to optionals quickly so that they learn the skills before they grow and learn fear. Assume you found a child age 5 or 6 who had tons of talent and drive. She clearly has the ability to learn fast. Would you have her compete each level or would you train her up to optional level as quickly as possible? What would be your reasons for picking either option?

To personalize this a bit, we have a few gyms in my area. Some of them operate along the lines of the former model. They concentrate heavily on Level 4-6 compulsory gymnastics and have teams that compete srtrongly there. They have optional gymnasts, but the numbers are much lower and they don't compete as strongly in optionals. Most of the girls are approaching puberty by the time they get into optionals. We have one gym that doesn't stress compulsories at all and tries to get talented kids into optionals as fast as possible. As a result, this gym doesn't have strong compulsory teams but they compete well at the optional level and have produced a few elites. This latter gym offers home schooling.

Any thoughts on which is the more desirable approach? Or am I opening a huge can of worms here!? This question is limited to girls. I think boys progress more slowly anyway, largely as a result of their slower physical development.
 
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hammy

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I personally feel that the basics are the most important things you'll ever learn...if you can't do the basics you'll have trouble learning more advanced skills. It's possible to skip levels, I don't see anything wrong with it if you're able to correctly do the skills required. I skipped level 7 and did fine in levels 8-10.

It all depends on the gymnast--if they're able to skip and they can handle it mentally then I say go for it!
 

JBS

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That's a very deep question...very hard to answer.

Ages have been raised do to child development issues. Just be careful what the focus of your gym is. If it is a coach picking a kid to be the ONE (future gold medalist)...be careful. Coaches should be concerned with raising the level of the whole team...not the ONE. By creating a strong foundation, coaches will find themselves with more high level, healthy athletes. The level system has been developed to make the sport safer for all. Skipping a level is not a big deal...it's the reasoning behind it. If you're skipping a level because you are beyond it...fine. If it's because the coach has some "master plan" for you're kid...watch out. You don't need to be a certain level to train harder skills.

The harder you drive at a younger age, the higher the risk of stress injuries and burnout. This does not mean a gymnast will get hurt or burnout...I just like to be careful with my kids.

I'm talking in circles...just be sure to ask your daughter if she is having fun.;)
 
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Geoffrey Taucer

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It really depends on the kid. My philosophy is to have the kid compete the highest level they are ready to compete. If that means skipping a level, fine. If it means doing the same level for two or three years, that's fine, too.

I think it's important to note, though, that there is more to being "ready" for the next level than having the skills; kids (especially girls) need to be psychologically ready for the next level as well. I have one girl who competed level 4 this past year, and could easily get the skills required for level 6 by next year. She's very talented, leanrs skills quickly, and has beautiful form. However, she has major fear issues, and though I think she could pull off all the skills required for 6, I think she'd likely burn out if I had her go to 6. So I will most likely have her compete 5 next season.
 
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gracefulone

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at our gym, I can't remember ever having a girl who skipped a level, but there was one who came close. She was very talented, winning many titles at levels 4 and 5, competing one year on each level. The optionals coach almost moved her straight from five to seven, but it was decided in the ned that they didn't want to burn her out. She did fantastic at six and seven, and is now a level eight. She's about 11 or 12. She's doing fairly well, but quite inconsistent and is missing a release on bars, because of fear issues. It all depends on the girl, her mental capabilities, and how far she really wants to go in the sport.
 
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Megley

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Thanks for the responses! I do agree that it's an individual thing and for the record we are at a gym that stresses compulsories and the fundamentals. I don't know whether they are amenable to level skipping or not since we aren't even in a level yet. There does, however, seem to be a difference in opinion out there about this issue. I read something about developmental optionals, which I take it is where kids train to learn optional skills but maybe don't compete compulsories? I like your approach Geoffrey - train skills that they are able and willing to learn and let them skip if they are mentally and physically ready for it. I'm sure it helps if you have a group of kids in this situtation instead of just one.

JBS, my daughter is having a great time in gymnastics right now and would go more if she could. She seems to be really excited about learning new skills and is dying to start team practices. :)
 
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