I would like opinions on the TOPS Program. I know it is not a requirement for gymnasts looking to go elite.............but do the national or elite coaches want kids who have done well in a TOPS Program???
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It's way way over-rated and kids who do well in TOPs and make elite would've made elite without the TOPs program.
I have coached in too many gyms with TOPs kids and they weren't any better than anybody else except that they could climb the rope faster, pump out more leg lifts, etc. etc.
Interestingly, they often had worse body shapes than most of the other kids because of doing so many leg lifts. If the posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, etc.) and the core (abs, transverse abdominis, internal/external obliques) aren't sufficiently strengthened then the gymnast's spinal control is not going to be adequate to even be performing this exercise. As a result, the gymnast will perform this exercise in an anterior pelvic tilt and make it an even more hip flexor dominant movement. This further exacerbates the shortening of the hip flexors and the lumbar lordosis (lower back arch) that is so common amongst female gymnasts.
In my opinion, the exercise should be performed such that the gymnast is rotating the buttocks under and creating more of a posterior pelvic tilt upon initiation of the raising of the legs. Furthermore, the ribs should be pulled inward and the back should remain flat. However, this takes more activation of the obliques and lower abdominals. You can test TOPs at 6 years old. How many 6 year olds have such natural core stability? I think you can catch my drift on this.
I also don't find a lot of validity in the press to handstand physical ability test, either. I used to think that it correlated well to a cast handstand, but I'm not so sure. I've seen a lot of kids who could press, but had bad cast handstands.
Why they took the hollow hold out is beyond me? That was the best test that they had in there. There are certainly a lot of ways to make that test more difficult if it were too easy. (I heard that kids were maxing it out too easily...so, they took it out)
The rope climb...I think that rope is a good general conditioning tool. But, does one's ability to climb a rope really determine gymnastics prowess? Let's pick something that's a bit more gymnastics specific.
I could go on and on and on about the drawbacks to the program as I see it.
Bottom line is this - when you get right down to the raw statistics - for the number of kids who test and make the team, there's still only a select few who actually make it to elite. If you're an intelligent coach and know what you're doing, you don't need the TOPs program to develop an elite gymnast.
Assuming the coach is knowledgeable, the greatest obstacle to developing an elite gymnast is finding the right kid who possesses both the mental and physical gifts to pursue such. Those kids are a real rare find.
Elite level gymnastics requires high level of strength and flexiblity. TOPS program provides a guideline for coaches who may not know how to get a gymnast or group of gymnasts strong and flexible...therefore, it does have its benefits. The majority of the girls that are elite level participants at the moment went through the TOPS program at one time or another.
I do agree with ACoach78 in that it is overrated though. Coaches who know where they want to head in terms of strength and flexibility to get a girl to elite levels do not necessarily need the politics and guidelines of TOPS to get there.
Having said that, just remember, you make the TOPS team and continue to go to the ranch in Texas you will catch the eyes of the National Program Coaches...this has to count for something in the politics of selection eventually...