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Starting a new TOPs program.

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Aero

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I posted this in the TOPs/HOPES social group, but I figured I'd post it here too, because I feel I can get a lot of input from coaches and other parents. Even if you are just a parent who only knows a couple details about the TOPs program at your gym, the knowledge is helpful!


This is my first time wading into the waters of TOPs.

I have a group of four pre-teamers, and two of them especially are very strong. They just seem to have that "it" factor for TOPs; my assistant coach in charge of the pre-team already has them doing great leg lifts, nearly straight handstands, and presses as well.
I've already notified the parents that I am starting this program. I am just not sure how many days I should host it, and for how long. Also, are there any great resources for learning what to train and what is tested. I do know some things already, mainly from all my reading on ChalkBucket. I'd like to know more though before I jump into this.

Here's some information on the girls:
  • Three of them are six, and one is seven.
  • They started pre-team in July of this year.
  • They train twice a week, with practices running three hours.
  • I do not coach this group, but I will be coaching the TOPs practices.
  • They are not competing this season.
  • They are all already completely in love with gymnastics. :)
Help this TOPs newbie out! I understand this is a broad topic/question, but really I'm just looking for thoughts, experiences, and opinions.
 

raenndrops

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Have you looked at the USAG website? They have a section on TOPS there with lots of info.
Good luck!
 

coachmolly

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I was going to suggest the Gymnastics Progressions series as well- lots of great stuff from very early on in the process all the way up to teaching skills.
As far as the program itself, most states have a State TOPs director you could contact about questions regarding testing dates, costs, possible local TOPs camps, etc. Though I imagine some directors are more helpful than others. There are a few gyms that host TOPs camps regularly (I think they tend to be early summer?), so that might be a good opportunity to get your foot in the door and network with other coaches.
Best wishes! I'm pretty impressed that they have nearly straight handstands at 6!
 
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Muddlethru

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All the above and

https://usagym.org/pages/women/video/tops.html
https://usagym.org/PDFs/Women/TOPs/Testing/2016/skills.pdf

My daughter did TOPS and did not train outside of regular practice hours. She also only started training the summer of the regional testing and learned the skills a month before national testing; not ideal though and a few months more would have better prepared her. If the girls are strong, I don't see why they need to have separate practice hours though. I also don't see why they should not be competing. If they devote their whole year training just to make the TOPs team, what happens if they don't make it? It can be very disappointing. Just my two cents. TOPs was a great experience for my daughter and I think it only enhanced what she was already doing that year but I'm glad it was not all she did.

For the physical abilities, this can just be incorporated into the regular warm up or in between routines. There really is not much to train. They've cut down on the physical abilities test and incorporated more skills. However, for the skills test part, the girls that make the team are usually competing the skills they are testing (i.e., for the 9 and 10 year olds, they are usually at least Level 7 and up).
 

bookworm

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1. My daughter did TOPS and did not train outside of regular practice hours. She also only started training the summer of the regional testing and learned the skills a month before national testing; not ideal though and a few months more would have better prepared her. If the girls are strong, I don't see why they need to have separate practice hours though.

2. I also don't see why they should not be competing. If they devote their whole year training just to make the TOPs team, what happens if they don't make it? It can be very disappointing. Just my two cents. TOPs was a great experience for my daughter and I think it only enhanced what she was already doing that year but I'm glad it was not all she did.

3. However, for the skills test part, the girls that make the team are usually competing the skills they are testing (i.e., for the 9 and 10 year olds, they are usually at least Level 7 and up).
Point 1: Same with my girls...their TOPS training was part of their everyday training so we didn't do any hours extra for TOPS .

Point 2: I can't "like" this part enough...I can't imagine training ALL year for TOPS testings and nothing else....boring...if they just want to condition, they could be at a rando gym. There was a gym near us that had kids that "only trained TOPS, we don't do JO with those girls" ...and guess what, they all burned out and quit gymnastics totally. I would get them competing in some meets , even as pre teamers.

3. And I know TOPS is bringing the age lower ( no more 11 yo, and now testing 7 yo) but in terms of skills, in order to be successful in the program, they would need to be moving along in the JO levels to get the skills for the skill testings....press handstands and leg lifts are nice but they are going to need skills to make the teams down the road. I bring this up because if you are only the TOPS coach, maybe there needs to be more input to you on their JO progression.
 

gymdog

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So you may want to look at the birth dates because the 7 year old will need to test as an 8 year old in summer 2017 and if the 6 year olds are turning 7 in the next few months, they may need to as well. 8 year olds test skills and they'll need about a level 5 skill level, which means kids who are 7 this year should be at least in level 3/training 4. It's possible they are, I just wanted to point that out. If they can keep up, you may want to move them up off the preteam and enter them at least in some bronze or silver meets doing as many skills as they can.

The other option is to start training next year but not test until 9 or 10 when they could "catch up" with skills. Age is determined by Dec 31st of that year and goes up to age 10.
 

Ms.Pak-Man

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In my area, the gyms that are successful in TOPs (have kids qualify to Nat Testing or Diamond) start training separately much earlier than age 7. I'm not in an area that keeps up with the best coaching techniques, however.
Our gym starts TOPs when kids are age eligible, 2 hours additional training a week, to the tune of almost an extra 100 bucks/month. None of the kids came close to being ready for state testing. Our gym it's about the $$$. USAGYM even has a video presentation for gym clubs and that was highlighted as one of the reasons to start a TOPs program, the extra income/profit. Our gym started one the next month, LOL. The couple gyms in our area that qualifies kids, those kids train about double for their level, starting as early as age 4 or 5. Many homeschool. It's HARD. On the kids, the families, the gym dynamics. As a parent, I would have appreciated a meeting explaining not only TOPs, but what the goal is, and the percentage of kids that get there. Explain HOPES, Elite, Camps, and the differences btwn the JO Program and Elite pathways. I would have liked to know what I was signing up for, as it stands I am paying $$$/month for a good conditioning class with her friends. She loves it, so I'm sorta stuck now. But I would have declined, had I known. Gymnastics is expensive. Some gyms do not charge at all, and limit to just a couple kids in the whole gym. It just depends how a gym goes about the process and their motivations vary. TOPs for profit on one end of the spectrum ::wave:: to TOPs in the best interest of an exceptional few kids at low/ no cost at the other end. From parent's perspective, communication is the most important aspect.
From reading a few of your posts, you will be an exceptional coach for TOPs. Not many coaches around here have any idea how the body works. An understanding of the musculoskeletal system and physics goes a long way when training little ones to that level.

Good luck!! Keep us updated!
 

LJL07

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In my area, the gyms that are successful in TOPs (have kids qualify to Nat Testing or Diamond) start training separately much earlier than age 7. I'm not in an area that keeps up with the best coaching techniques, however.
Our gym starts TOPs when kids are age eligible, 2 hours additional training a week, to the tune of almost an extra 100 bucks/month. None of the kids came close to being ready for state testing. Our gym it's about the $$$. USAGYM even has a video presentation for gym clubs and that was highlighted as one of the reasons to start a TOPs program, the extra income/profit. Our gym started one the next month, LOL. The couple gyms in our area that qualifies kids, those kids train about double for their level, starting as early as age 4 or 5. Many homeschool. It's HARD. On the kids, the families, the gym dynamics. As a parent, I would have appreciated a meeting explaining not only TOPs, but what the goal is, and the percentage of kids that get there. Explain HOPES, Elite, Camps, and the differences btwn the JO Program and Elite pathways. I would have liked to know what I was signing up for, as it stands I am paying $$$/month for a good conditioning class with her friends. She loves it, so I'm sorta stuck now. But I would have declined, had I known. Gymnastics is expensive. Some gyms do not charge at all, and limit to just a couple kids in the whole gym. It just depends how a gym goes about the process and their motivations vary. TOPs for profit on one end of the spectrum ::wave:: to TOPs in the best interest of an exceptional few kids at low/ no cost at the other end. From parent's perspective, communication is the most important aspect.
From reading a few of your posts, you will be an exceptional coach for TOPs. Not many coaches around here have any idea how the body works. An understanding of the musculoskeletal system and physics goes a long way when training little ones to that level.

Good luck!! Keep us updated!
This is the GREATEST post I have read all day!! I second this a million, trillion times. This sounds identical to the situation we are currently in, and I am about to tear my hair out. We have a 6 year who started the program and initially wasn't going to compete. Was becoming burned out from conditioning only, but is now going to compete level 3 and is super happy again. I also have a 9 year old level 7 who has some catch up to do on physical abilities, has some ADHD issues, but is in good position skill wise, and we are told one day she's going to do tops and the next day no tops. We aren't even wanting to do Hopes at this point--just thought the program would be good for her. Meanwhile there are 8 year olds who are nowhere near close to skills or PA, are doing level 2, and are going to test?? And a 9 year old skipping from level 2 to 8 in one year's time. I can't even wrap my head around any of it. I am beyond confused. Sorry for the mini tirade, but this post really hit home. And agreed that you sound thoughtful with your approach to all of this!! Good luck!
 
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munchkin3

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Most TOPS programs earn extra income for the gym....We have a big TOPS (extra practice) program....has never qualified anybody.

REAL TOPS is a very different animal........ NOT a money maker due to the high investment from the gym and low # kids.
Carbc is correct.....the gyms do not explain this to new L3 and 4s.....but it can be nice extra conditioning for any regular kid, just dont expect to make TOPS A/B
Our program with over 1000 kids, maybe 6 are actually TOPS material.......funny thing is not 1 is in the TOPS class!!!
 
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HoldThePhone

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Our TOPs program in our gym has changed throughout the years as needed. This year, DD was the only one that tested, and her training was incorporated into her practices. Previous years we had a team of girls and separate practices. There were still only a handful of girls invited to be in the TOPs group, and the cost was extremely low...there is no way the gym made money on it, but it's a program they believe in. They have done well having girls qualify to National Testing each year, and then camps A, B, and DIC.

I think it's good to be able to adapt to what the needs of the kids in the group are. I think when DD started she did one day a week for an hour or so...then gradually moved to 2 days, and then the hours each of those days went up. Last year she only attended one day of TOPs practices and 3 days of regular practice. She qualified Diamond Team last year. This year she was the only one ready to test for her age, the others either aged out or weren't enough prepared for our coach to want to send to State Testing.
 

munchkin3

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Our TOPs program in our gym has changed throughout the years as needed. This year, DD was the only one that tested, and her training was incorporated into her practices. Previous years we had a team of girls and separate practices. There were still only a handful of girls invited to be in the TOPs group, and the cost was extremely low...there is no way the gym made money on it, but it's a program they believe in. They have done well having girls qualify to National Testing each year, and then camps A, B, and DIC.

I think it's good to be able to adapt to what the needs of the kids in the group are. I think when DD started she did one day a week for an hour or so...then gradually moved to 2 days, and then the hours each of those days went up. Last year she only attended one day of TOPs practices and 3 days of regular practice. She qualified Diamond Team last year. This year she was the only one ready to test for her age, the others either aged out or weren't enough prepared for our coach to want to send to State Testing.
sounds more like the real deal.......when the gym breaks even, and gets kids into the National Testing, its more about the bigger picture.
 

Gymmommy71

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We have a rather large TOPS program - I have my suspicions it is the money-maker type as described by the poster above. Costs extra (a lot extra), isn't very selective, kids that test don't make it to national testing, none have skills beyond L5 (at best)...but dang do their parents throw money at the gym cause they think their 7 year old L3 is going to the Olympics because they are "in TOPS" ;).

I suspect the coaches are following the right guidelines, doing the proper conditioning, right amount of hours, etc. - but IMO kids that have the raw talent necessary to get those skills by the ages they are required to have them are just very rare - even w/ great training. It's almost as if you need to have a Talent level that is far beyond that of the average gymnast, to be successful in the Talent Opportunity Program ;) - yeah, I'm being snarky.
 

Ms.Pak-Man

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I suspect the coaches are following the right guidelines, doing the proper conditioning, right amount of hours, etc. - but IMO kids that have the raw talent necessary to get those skills by the ages they are required to have them are just very rare - even w/ great training. It's almost as if you need to have a Talent level that is far beyond that of the average gymnast, to be successful in the Talent Opportunity Program ;) - yeah, I'm being snarky.
Yes, exactly. If a child truly has national team material, chances are they did not have to add a ridiculous amount of hours to their training for TOPs success. I worry about the families that are homeschooling their 5-8 year olds to fit in the gym time required to be prepared and ready to TOPs test. Those poor kids may burn out by age 12/13. Our gym has had 2 nat team members (I believe one was approached at a meet to start camps, the other sent in video). And at that time no TOPs program, ironically. I think it's about the money mostly, but it's good to have "TOPs" for marketing/recruiting. 100% there are no kids in our gym right now that are elite material, it's so rare, especially nowadays and the downsizing of the Olympic team has made it a little more iffy. Our gym has also been heavily active in the elite scene previously, so they aren't stressed to get a kid on TOPs A/B for their own benefit, like some up and coming gyms might. I doubt they'd bother, honestly. Probably would send in a video when ready for DIC. Especially now that they have it as a paid alternative above TOPs teams. At that point save the trip and do a video. Coaches have already "been there done that" as far as getting their reputation established. Anyway...Good talk :).
 

triplethreat+1

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I'm in Ontario, we have a similar program to TOPS called ODP, without all the camp hoopla as far as I have heard. Last year my two girls were in an odp-only group, only levels 1-2 though. Compared to the regular JO classes, they still did some 'fun' skills but far more emphasis on strength and flexibility. Both my girls loved it, my YDD especially (she's the type to condition and stretch at home). My ODD has aged out now (with the birth date changes) and is now in JO, I've noticed that she is one of the most flexible and strong in her group, even though she doesn't have some skills the other girls that did JO last year do. Our gym also has an ODP group for the talented kids too young to compete JO, and two groups that do both JO and ODP. They do 2/3 hrs per week extra, but the ODP training is incorporated every day they train. At our gym you pay based on the weekly hours, no matter what stream you are in, so it's not a 'money maker'. Coach last year told me they had introduced it because they weren't happy with how prepared the gymnasts were for level 4 and up.
In any case, I was really happy with it and my girls were too!
 

Aero

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I suppose I didn't give enough information, or I didn't word it as best I could, but I'll be more concise here: The reason the girls are not competing this season is simply because they aren't ready to yet. They started in July and have not made enough progress to be ready to compete. The first level I have my girls compete is Xcel Bronze, but I compete girls when their form and technique is of good quality. I do not feel they are there yet. It has nothing to do with TOPs. I fully intend on having them test TOPs and compete at meets, too. Competing is obviously the main reason I invited them to the team in the first place. I'm starting the TOPs program mainly for my benefit, although I feel some of the girls could have a good experience with it too. It's just a bonus, really.

As for all the wonderful information you all have shared, it is really helping me to form my own program, so thank you! Keep it coming, please! I will be sharing my plan with all of you on this thread soon, probably within a few days.
 

munchkin3

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Tops can be a great supplement to regular training. Just make sure the gym sells it correctly.
 
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scgymmom322

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It is so interesting to read about different experiences with TOPS. My 5 year old trains TOPS 3 hours a week (1 hour, 3x a week). It is by invite only and there is only one other child in her TOPS group (also 5 years old). We have a separate group for the older girls who will be testing sooner (these two have just under two years to go before testing). They usually have 2 coaches (but sometimes I will look down and some of the optional coaches have wandered over to work with them, too, haha!).We pay only $24 a month, which works out to less than $2 an hour, so definitely not a moneymaker in our gym! They get a lot done in that hour since there is a coach for each girl! These two little ones are crazy strong and can already meet a couple of the PA requirements for 7 year olds! They both adore their TOPS training time!
 
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