I think the boys' version is Future Stars. There is a little info on it on the USA Gymnastics site. I don't know a whole lot about TOPS aside from what I have read on the USA Gymnastics website. I take it there are TOPS camps for kids starting at age 8 or 9. Testing starts at age 7.
A way over-rated program that USA Gymnastics implemented back in the early 90's to attempt to better identify talented kids and to get their coaches the knowledge that they need to develop them properly. There is a physical abilities component as well as a skills section. The kids first test regionally and based on their regional scores, they are invited to national testing. Lately, it's been held down in Houston at the USA Training Center based at Karolyi's Camp.
7 and 8 year olds only test physical abilities. If they make the Diamond Level, their coach is allowed to attend the national TOPs camp with USA Gymnastics footing the bill. The athletes receive a certificate (I believe...) and some apparel of some sort, I believe - shirts? maybe a warm-up? I'm not sure, exactly 9-11 year olds test both physical abilities and skills. Those who score the highest (usually about 20 kids per age group) get to attend the TOPs national camp in which the national staff serve as the clinicians. Again, USAG foots the bill for these kids and they get a warm-up, leotard, shirts, etc. About 4 or 5 years ago, USAG started offering a TOPs "B" camp for the next tier kids who did not quite make the "A" squad. That camp is offered the following week after the "A" camp. However, the gymnasts must pay their own way and pay for the camp itself.
I've coached in a few gyms with TOPs athletes and they weren't anything special outside of being great at leg lifts, rope climbs, etc.
When you break down the percentages, most of the kids don't make elite and those who do would've made elite even if TOPs had never existed. Talent is talent. TOPs is not the savior that made a kid an elite gymnast.
over rated? another trophy? perhaps....well, you both sound very experienced - me, not at all - so I can't speak from experience... but it seems like gymnasts work so hard and get so little recognition. Maybe for some girls/boys it gives them a little of that recognition, something to say they accomplished and have forever. Not many gymnasts make it to elite anyway right? But to me, gymnastics is not just about becoming an elite gymnast anyway...
I have had athletes participate in the TOPs program for years. Its an excellent program, designed to not only find the most talented young athletes, but to help coaches find their athletes' strengths and weaknesses at an early age. The athletes benefit by getting stronger and more flexible, and the coaches benefit from the coaches education they recieve at the training camps. To be successful at the National level-the athletes are also required to learn basic skills at an early age with excellent technique. It has been an invaluable experience for me as a coach!
Yes, there are gyms who just produce "conditioning experts" through the TOPs program. But its a great way to either:1. get your athletes in better physical condition so they are better JO athletes, 2. or introduce them into the elite system when they are young- get them noticed early so to speak.
Each year at the traning camp, they bring in a past TOPs athlete to speak to the girls and they are the TOPs Athlete of the year. Sam Peszek, Sam Shapiro, Shayla Worley, Cassie Whitcomb, Amanda Jetter are all current National Team Members who participated in The TOPs program. Oh yeah, Carly Patterson, Terin Humphrey and Courtney Kupets also did TOPs. (Not to shabby an alumni list, eh?)
The bar has been set VERY high in recent years- the program has really grown and gotten very competitive, but I feel that every athlete can at least benefit form getting straonger and more flexible by participating! I am a big supporter of the program!
a girl i met at gym camp made the A team when she was little.... it's about nine years later and she still said it was the coolest experience of her life to be able to train at the ranch and everything. so even though it doesnt automatically mean you'll become an elite, it is a good experience for the kid and does help a lot with strength/flexibiltiy of course.
Kids are talented whether they do TOPS or not. It helps probably, and coaches sometimes use the workouts at their gym, but it's more for experience and to get noticed. It probably makes them feel special and is just fun.
Lannamavity that was a good one, and unfortunately there is a little bit of truth to that! TOPS can be a great program and a great additional training tool. It's important for parents to understand that it is ONE way to the elite path, but not the only way. AND more importantly, it doesn't guarantee that a girl WILL be an elite gymnast.
And to Californiaaaa017, yes, kids are talented whether they do tops or not but it's what a coach/gymnast DOES with that talent that will make a good gymnast. Tops helps you use your talent and challenges you much more than the regular JO program will, you certainly can't be lazy and excel at it!
It's true that only a small percentage of tops members that become intl elites, but if you look at the percentage of girls from the entire JO program who go on to be intl elites, the percentage is even smaller! Because it's tough stuff, both physically and mentally!