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Thoughts on Divisions 1/2

Discussion in 'Men's Artistic Gymnastics (MAG)' started by alongfortheride, Feb 24, 2018.

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  1. After over a year of competing Div 1/Div 2, what are your thoughts on the system?

    Personally, I like Divisions for levels 4 and 5. It gives the little guys a chance to get some awards.

    I'm not a huge fan of the divisions for levels 6 and up. I think by then, the boys know where they stand. Plus it makes the awards ceremonies drag on forever. At level 7, there are so few boys, it seems completely unnecessary. Plus, in Level 7 Div 2, the scores just don't seem medal-worthy at a certain point. I mean, I wouldn't expect my son to get a medal for scoring a 5 or 6, and neither would he.

    I do think JD is a great option for the older boys.
    M2Abi and gymboymom like this.
  2. I'm with you. Two divisions in L4 and L5 is an awesome idea. Keeps the newcomers and young-uns in the sport with a fighting chance to be competitive in the levels with the highest number of boys.

    Level 6, I'm kinda meh on splitting them up. In bigger regions, it might make sense. In smaller regions, so few boys - we definitely see lots of age groups with 1-2 kids in them in Div 2.

    And for Level 7, it's just kinda ridiculous. So few boys, and you're right - by then they know where they stand. If a boy feel he needs to be medal-stand competitive at L7 but isn't quite there, the younger ones can repeat L6, and the olders can go JD until they are ready for 8/9/10. Otherwise going L7 D2 and medaling for a 6.8 on rings, or even a decent score but against 1 other kid, is not super fulfilling, I think, for most boys or families.

    My 2 cents!
    gymboymom and sce like this.
  3. I'm honestly not sure I even like it in the lower levels. Our gym doesn't use it a ton but for the littlest guys in Level 4 I'm not sure it worked out to be great. There are so few 6 year olds at most meets (especially since the cut off change) that there may be only 1 or 2 D2s and then they get all these medals and trophies despite the fact that there is a HUGE gap between them and the couple of D1s in the same age group. Then this year (their second year) they move to D1 as 7 year olds and are not up on the podium a ton just because there are more boys and a greater range of talent. At that young age that's a lot to adjust to. If they had all been together as 6 year olds they would have all been in "1st" less often and this year would be similar then, or even better.

    My one son "should have" been D2 last year (comp age 7) but his coach decided to throw him in the deep end and see if he could swim (in his words). There were some tough meets emotionally but I think it made him determined and resilient. He worked his butt off and is having a great year this year. My youngest will be a comp. age 6 year old if he moves to L4 next year though and I can't imagine him doing many of the bonuses except on high bar so maybe my opinion will change next year :)

    Our gym didn't have any D2 Level 5s or 7s this year and I'm not sure what they did with the 6s. But we also don't currently have JD as an option so I'm not sure what boys will do instead if they don't have the skills to move to 8 as they get older. I think in the past they have always just weeded themselves out as they were unable to move up :(
    strawberries and gymboymom like this.
  4. I love the divisions thru 6. We have a ton of boys and this is keeping boys in here. Then most are old enough to transition to jd. I truly think this will keep more boys in the sport
    OwlGalLiz, duyetanh and sce like this.
  5. I think it is way to early to tell if divisions or JD have actually encouraged boys to stay in the sport on any scale. In order to make such a determination with any real accuracy, not only would more time have to go by, but data would have to be carefully collected and analyzed, so that other possible factors were ruled out. Don't see anyone really doing that, so not sure how the success or failure of these programs are ever going to be measured, honestly. In other words, just knowing some boys who say they would have quit if it were not for divisions or JD is not enough, really. It is just all anecdotal. So, here is my anecdote:

    As long as my boys have been on team- and it has been 7 years now- our HCs have always encouraged a very inclusive team. So would invite onto team and keep on team boys who are older, or not high scorers, or more slow in progressing. They also have allowed team members to engage in other activities and even other sports. This strategy allowed our HCs to, over the years, greatly increase the gym's MAG team numbers by this type of recruiting and retaining, and thus, make our team more financially viable, which in turn has led to being able to recruit and retain enough good coaches.

    So in my view, divisions and JD did not help our team as a whole, or increase numbers of older kids getting into gymnastics or increase retention- because the HCs philosophy/strategy was already doing that. And before the changes, they could all be JO, all on one team. It was simple and gave the boys a good sense of camaraderie. The youngers could look up to the 9s and 10s and know that they actually had a good chance of getting there as long as they stayed with the sport. They did not have to be awesome, they just had to keep showing up and working hard.

    On the other hand, the change in age limitations were very harsh on the team because several kids suddenly had to jump levels. Those definitely worked against the HC's strategy. But those same age changes did make JD necessary. But I personally do not see that as a net positive. I would have preferred no JD and no upper age limits on JO optionals.

    As far as divisions and meets, whether or not D2 makes sense depends on how many kids are competing D2.

    Meets usually have age groups that shift with each meet and these are broken up into roughly the same number. Right? So you could have a kid in the 9 year old group who scores way higher than a kid in the 10-11 year old group of the same level, and he does not get a medal and the other kids does. That is just the way it is and I assume always has been and there is not much complaint. But why not? Why should it matter how old the kid is? Think how short awards would be if there were no age groups! Obviously at some point it was decided to break things up this way for no other reason than more kids would get medals. (And this is also why I always say placement is never the point.)

    So, if we accept the idea of age groups for medals, and a meet has age groups of (as an example) 15 gymnasts each, and there are enough D2s to make up a group of about that many gymnasts (maybe by having no age groups for D2) then I think it is fine to have a D2 group. As far as what scores are "medal worthy." Remember D2s cannot do any bonuses. Their highest possible scores are consequently lower than D1s. Again as with age groups, sometimes pretty low scores get a medal, especially on certain events. I mean this is just the way it is.

    Now, when it gets to the point that there are just not enough D2s to make up a reasonably sized competition group, that is a problem. No kid wants to keep going up for a third place medal if there were only three kids competing in their group. Obviously that is silly. The upshot for our gym this year and last is that for Level 6 there is D2 and Level 7 there is not.
    samsmama and sce like this.
  6. All I have is anecdotal of course, but we have a large D2 team, and many parents indicate how frustrated their kiddos were before the divisions. The divisions, coupled with JD, has given their children a path through gymnastics where they are feeling successful, making progress, having fun, and being part of a team. Not sure how long that will last, but for now, I see a huge upside to it!
    OwlGalLiz likes this.
  7. Yes I get what you are saying. And certainly I had hoped that that is what JD would be like. And for some it is like that. But I think it depends on the kid and why they are looking at a move to JD. Unfortunately, what I am hearing is that for some former JO optionals, anyway, JD is seen as a step down and kids who would have been fine to repeat a level at JO, for example, but cannot due to age restriction, quit despite the option of JD. Or they try to use JD as a stepping stone to get back into JO optionals.
    strawberries likes this.
  8. So far, I’ve not really been in favor, though perhaps that’s just because of my kid’s gym. Coaches in DS’s gym don’t really use D2. It would seem that they are sort of protesting having the divisions? Last year, my DS had a rough, rough season as he had zero bonuses and competed D1 - he’d been on the bubble for moving up. Yes, for some kids, perhaps this will light a fire under them, but it was not the case for my kid - by the end of the season he was convinced he was just not a good gymnast.

    Thankfully, this year has been better as he repeated the level, which I agreed with 100% - he needed some more time there. I’m sure this will also help a bit developmentally towards the next level, and he also has many of the bonuses now. At the same time, is that the goal? To have the older boys repeat levels until they can be competitive in D1? Or move up and not be competitive at all? At least in the past those “not-so-competitive” kids had some company.
    strawberries likes this.
  9. Many of our comps have a minimum score to medal. So say the apparatus score falls below a 6.5, then medals would not be awarded. Same with AA If is drops below 42.00.
  10. I'd love to see a good study done on this next year!

    Here's my anecdotal report. In our area, I'd say divisions have been an almost unqualified success for compulsories at 4 and 5. I don't think D2 is needed at L7 and I think most coaches and athletes would be fine with getting rid of it. L6D2 is probably on balance a benefit at bigger meets. The main drawback is that award sessions, which were already long, have gotten to the point of outrageousness at big meets that break things down. There's also an unfortunate slight trend toward breaking things up into small age groups the way girls do, and if you do that plus divisions, it just gets absurd. What does it even mean to be the Junior B Division 2 Level 4 vault champion? Also there's the perception of where you are thing -- I think our coaches do a good job of helping the guys understand what the divisions mean, and our guys seem to process very well moving from D2 to D1 even when their medal count goes down, but I'm not sure that all coaches are handling this as well.

    JD has been a positive so far. Our region has been an enthusiastic adopter, though norms for its use are still evolving. Some gyms have eliminated their older L8-L9 teams and have them all in JD now with the intent of moving back to JO when they have the coaches' minimum thresholds met. A lot of those guys are competing JD1 and look very good. At my son's gym, in addition to those athletes we have a strong team of guys who did gymnastics a long time ago and came back, some guys who were taking advanced rec classes, and some guys who started gymnastics late who are all doing JD, a few division one and most division 2. None of these guys were on team in the last three or four years, so they are all net gains for men's gymnastics. JD is also going to enable our team to retain a guy who's been doing JO since childhood but has reached a point of frustration at L10 and wants to try diving.

    The biggest downside to JD is that it's seen as lesser than by the JO group rather than as a training ground for getting the JO requirements ready to compete. This creates some tensions. I think also on the JO side, around our area, the net effect has been to make the median skill level in JO L8-L10 higher, as some guys who previously would have been doing JO in those levels are now doing JD.
    strawberries, gymboymom and sce like this.
  11. One thing that has made it negative for our guys (again, talking the 9 and under set because we really don't have older D2s and no JD) is when the D2s compete at a different session than the D1s. The boys all practice together and all consider themselves part of the same team and then when a meet comes up the D1s (usually 12-14 of the 17 guys on the team) go to one session and there are only 1-3 at the D2 session. I know some teams are small and always have only 1-3 boys but since they are with the "big team" at practice they experience it as a pretty negative thing to be separated during meets. The coaches and parents, from what I have seen, don't make D2 "less than" but even the younger boys interpret it that way and consider themselves not part of the "real" team. There is no way we could have separate practices so I'm not sure what a solution would be. When they are all together at a meet they don't notice near as much because everyone is already divided for awards (by age) so additional dividing by division goes mostly unnoticed (except by parents who just want to get out of there!).
    strawberries and sce like this.
  12. Our coach has all the boys compete Division 1. At some of our meets, there is a very small contingent of D2s and the awards do seem rather silly and make the ceremony take longer. On the other hand, my son is a 6 year old and he's had a couple of meets where he's won 1st AA when competing against 2 or 3 other 6 year olds in Division 1 (no Division 2s).
    sce likes this.
  13. madden,, I agree with the boys that got caught up in the optional age requirements....that is a different thread than talking D1/D2.

    I see places who have embraced it, growing. The 2 gyms in our state that have fully embraced the change have huge teams that are doing well. And i totally see our L5/6 D2s transitioning to JD 1/2 quite easily and successfully in the next couple of years.

    Our gym has a philosophy of, it doesn't matter level you compete, what matters is what progress you are making. Gymnastics is gymnastics, and competing a level that you cannot be successful at is not the correct way to go. When we started, the owner told us that he could do level 9, but it would be just to say he was doing L9. He did JD to start and did well, made progress and moved to L9 when he had the requirements to be successful.

    So I do think that the philosophy of the gym is important. Our gym does not look down on D2 or JD, etc. but encourage kids toward what they want. If you are aJD who wants to be a 10, you have a list of things you need in order to do that move. Same for any other move.
    OwlGalLiz, Sasha and sce like this.
  14. I think only 2 seasons in us too soon to really asses how it is going. Many gyms are still working to understand when and how to best use the divisions. My ds changed gyms last summer and his last gym was a small team that used dub 2 for some boys but at meets it was clear few gyms did that year. This year all the boys are division 1 even though some boys are scoring quite low. No idea though if the thinking behind that. New gym does not really use division 2, no idea why.
    profmom likes this.
  15. I think at our gym, JD isn't seen as "less than." However, we had several guys who kind of needed to opt for it last year after the age bracket changes - and interestingly, this year we have none. So I suspect there is at least an unspoken pressure not to to JD.

    We also do not compete anyone in D2, which I do think is a shame. (Again, I don't know if that's an official policy or just how it's all been working.) We don't have a huge team, so that may have been a factor. However, all our L6s (for example) are 1st years this year, and we're hurting. We have 6 kids, 3 are more or less holding their own in D1, but I really feel the other 3 should have done D2. I suspect they are all on the cusp of quitting because it's been so frustrating this year. However, none of the meets we've been to this year have a big D2 contingent, and I didn't notice too much of it last year in L5, either. Maybe that's a Texas thing, since we're psycho about every sport. We had a couple of kids quit between last year and this year who I suspect would have been great candidates for D2, where they could still do gymnastics but not have to invest as much energy in it in order to have some success.
  16. So here is my question. What does it mean to be "successful"? Or "competitive?" Presumably it is something between "that kid is going to kill himself if he tries to throw a Level 9 vault" and "Consistently placing in top 3 AA." But where is the line, exactly? I am honestly asking. I realize this is something each gym/coach/gymnast decides for themselves, but what do you think? No matter how good the kids in a level are, someone always comes in last. Is the kid who comes in last by definition not successful and not "competitive?" What if he does not care that he came in last?

    Also I did not want to create the impression our coaches look down on JD. I meant kids who would prefer to be JO might feel that way.
  17. For our gym, the coach wants each gymnast to have the required elements for the level. If a c dismount is required for the group, then you need to have a c dismount. If you need to have 4 element groups covered, then all need to be there.

    So for L10, D had to have C dismounts on each event. He needed to be able to cover all of the element groups required on each event. Those were the main things. If he had not met those requirements, he would have done JD or older 9 until he had them.

    Not sure about the other levels. I think they do require all bonuses to do D1, although I don't know.

    Coming from a gym that had no requirements for each level, I like this approach. My son was dead last in teh state at L8. Dead last. He still loved gym, but was getting frustrated that there was no plan, no real idea of what he needed to do. 1st year of 9, he was injured, but still not doing well. Never placing, but also falling behind his peers and not progressing. He moved to this gym and they put him in JD for the first 1/2 of his 14 yo season. He did well. He had a list of requirements to meet to move to 9. He was motivated. He worked to get them. Moved to L9 midway through the season. Made nationals. Placed 10th in the nation.

    Having been in the 2 situations, I appreciate the philosophy. There is little ambiguity. You either have the skills required, or you don't. I rarely hear parents questioning why their kiddo is not D1 or L9. They know. They know that their kiddo is missing x,y,z in order to move. Somehow, it works.
    OwlGalLiz and Sasha like this.
  18. Some of the boys on my son's team do not have the bonuses, yet they all compete Division 1. DS can solidly compete all of the bonuses except for two of them, which he is capable of doing, but not consistently. DS is competitive in Division 1 even when his age group includes more than 6 year olds. There are a few of his teammates that would probably be better off competing Division 2.

  19. Thank you for your detailed answer. We are new to optionals and I am consequently still figuring out what "requirements" means (my son understands it but despairs of explaining it to me.) How you explained it makes sense to me actually so thank you!

    Your son was previously at a gym where there was actually no coaches for a while? Was that you? Sorry if I have it mixed up. In any case, for your son, with his move to a different gym, JD worked well. I would even say, remarkably well! And that is great. But I think your son's story is a bit of an outlier. Coming in last in the state in Level 8 and going to 10th in the nation in Level 9 is a remarkable feat no matter how you slice it.

    I can just see a situation developing where gymnasts who had a rough season or two are more "permanently" shunted to JD and left there, or are not motivated to improve but rather frustrated by the move, or are just not as clearly great as your son and not noticed or "pushed." Also I think that if D2 is becoming a pipeline to JD, together they create an alternate and "easier" track kids may be put on very young, and I am not sure that is good for a sport like MAG where the overall number of athletes is low, puberty changes things so much, and the athletic peak is reached so much later.
  20. I think you answered your own question here, as to me, that is what the different options (Xcel, D1/2, JD, JO, JE) are designed for - personal choice - because there is no one 'line' that defines success to each athlete at each point in his career.

    I don't find this much different than, say, soccer or basketball, where there are multiple league choices from very recreational to super competitive. A kid can select up or down to find where he feels is the sweet spot of feeling both successful and challenged, and therefore, is having the most fun.

    Another thing, with boys even more than girls, is the high variance in which they mature and gain focus and body control (at the younger ages) and musculature (at the older ages). A 6-8 year old boy just starting out, especially if he is more slow-maturing, can have his bubble burst really fast by being forced into D1. Even if he's not 'medaling' in D2, the pool of kids will seem 'more like me' - enforcing the notion of 'I belong in this sport.'

    I do see your concern, though, if coaches/gyms are 'tracking' boys too early into what is seen as 'lesser' and therefore actually impeding their progress and cutting off their ability to enter into JO later. I haven't seen this personally, yet - the main reason being that D1/2 all still practice together with the same coaches in most gyms (? chime in if not true of anyone's gym - if D2 kids are tracked to less skilled coaches anywhere?), and so boys are still progressing at their own ideal pace. Then at the JD level, they may or may not be working with the JO boys, but are all still working optional skills, and so those who want more are naturally working harder and selecting into JO when ready, where those who are only coming part of the time, or goofing off somewhat (taking a more recreational view of class), are naturally self-selecting to continue JD (which is fine).

    So as long as boys who WANT to progress are getting opportunities for good coaching, the D2/JD track, imo, is a wonderful system.

    If any programs/coaches are limiting opportunities because of 'success' (in their definition) at age 8, then there becomes a problem.

    ETA: in case not clear, my viewpoint is colored by my experience seeing D1/2 and JD/JO/JE being very open and fluid with boys moving between these categories. So less as 'tracks' and more as simply 'divisions' that a boy is ready for at any particular point in time - a season, or partial season. I am seeing a lot of movement in other words, rather than any kind of 'track'.
    profmom and skschlag like this.
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