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For Parents When can you tell you aren't at the right gym?

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Fierystar

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Aug 19, 2019
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Hello - I am in need of some advice or perspective maybe from all of you more experienced gym parents. I am having doubts about whether or not my daughter is at the right gym for her. I worry that it is a little too laid back and that they don’t have enough coaching experience right now. The coaches are all relatively younger and I don’t believe they have much or any experience coaching girls at higher levels. They do a lot of conditioning, which I know is important, and really emphasize that their focus is the girls’ safety.

So my daughter is 8, very tiny if that matters, and is competing Xcel Bronze (they start everyone on Xcel track, but will switch to JO if they are ready and want to) this year after a year on the developmental/pre-team. She’s doing fairly well, but I’m not sure if she is progressing as much as she could be. I do understand that each gymnast progresses at their own rate, but I feel like she should be learning at least a little more than she is. I can’t stay to watch an entire practice session, but I try to arrive about 20-30 minutes early for pick up to see a little of what is going on. To me, it looks like they don’t have enough coaching staff to really spend enough time with each gymnast. I watch her going about going through some skills and not getting any feedback on any of it. They look at a paper to see what they need to do and then do it. She looks like she is racing through them, not really practicing them, and it looks like she is not really being watched. I know they are paying attention to them in general and keeping them safe, but I don’t see anyone telling her about what she is doing right or wrong. She tells me “mom, I’m so close to” this skill or “I did this.” Then I ask if the coaches told her that and she says no they didn’t see it, so I don’t know if she just thinks she is close or doing some things.

She is getting stronger and the few basic skills she does show some improvement, but beyond that, she is not much further along than she was last year at this time. I just wonder if we need to switch to a gym with a slightly different philosophy maybe? One that will push her just a bit more? I don’t even know how to approach this at her current gym or if looking at a new one. I don’t think we can really change mid season, although a few girls did just leave for a new gym this week.

There are other gyms around us, but they are all pretty small and we are, unfortunately, not in an area with a lot of serious, big name gyms. The next closest option is about 15 minutes from us. After that it’s either 45 min or almost 1 ½ hours away. DD, of course, has Olympic dreams, but we are a bit more realistic than that. I just want her to be able to reach her potential, whatever that may be, and to be able to go as far as she can and as far as she wants to with the sport. I’m just at a loss about what steps I should take or what I should look for. Thanks in advance to anyone who reads and for any advice you can offer.
 

kendo348

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Aug 5, 2019
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If you don’t have confidence in the coaches - not just for safety but that they have the ability to give your daughter what she needs - then you should have her evaluated elsewhere and explore what they can offer. There are three sets of people in the equation for success [athlete, coach(es), parent(s)], and if there’s a broken chain of trust or confidence in any one of those links then her progress will be inhibited to varying degrees. Confidence in the others involved lets each person in the equation fill their role with the least stress/conflict and most potential. 8yo is prime time for learning and if you think she has the personality and drive for JO, she probably doesn’t want to waste a year doing less than she could be.

One caveat: is it possible that the main goal of the coaches right now is just the strength and flexibility, not skills? My daughter didn’t gain any new skills in her first year on team, but once she got to a point where they let her work on the bigger skills again, it was clear she had made miles of progress in her pre-team time because she now had the strength base to execute those skills with much better technique, and they came easily. So sometimes, progress is happening but you just can’t see it yet. If you think this might be the case, talk to her coaches and ask what their goals are and what progress they’ve seen in your daughter. Maybe it’s more than you think!
 
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ldw4mlo

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They might be a great gym. And if you are questioning them now. It’s not going to change move on. FYI we go to the second closest gym to us. It’s 40 mins at ush hour
 
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Fierystar

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Aug 19, 2019
14
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If you don’t have confidence in the coaches - not just for safety but that they have the ability to give your daughter what she needs - then you should have her evaluated elsewhere and explore what they can offer. There are three sets of people in the equation for success [athlete, coach(es), parent(s)], and if there’s a broken chain of trust or confidence in any one of those links then her progress will be inhibited to varying degrees. Confidence in the others involved lets each person in the equation fill their role with the least stress/conflict and most potential. 8yo is prime time for learning and if you think she has the personality and drive for JO, she probably doesn’t want to waste a year doing less than she could be.

One caveat: is it possible that the main goal of the coaches right now is just the strength and flexibility, not skills? My daughter didn’t gain any new skills in her first year on team, but once she got to a point where they let her work on the bigger skills again, it was clear she had made miles of progress in her pre-team time because she now had the strength base to execute those skills with much better technique, and they came easily. So sometimes, progress is happening but you just can’t see it yet. If you think this might be the case, talk to her coaches and ask what their goals are and what progress they’ve seen in your daughter. Maybe it’s more than you think!
I know it's hard to predict where she could end up, but I feel like time is against her since she's 8 and she doesn't have as much time to make progress to the higher levels. I just don't want her to miss out on what she could do because I make the wrong decision.
With regard to your point about working on strength and flexibility, I think it's definitely possible this is what they are doing. They have made comments similar to that in the past. I feel so unsure about how to approach the topic with them though. I don't want it to sound like I think I know more than they do. I also don't know if I can just lay it out there and ask them how far they think she can go and/or how far can they take her.
 

Fierystar

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Aug 19, 2019
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They might be a great gym. And if you are questioning them now. It’s not going to change move on. FYI we go to the second closest gym to us. It’s 40 mins at ush hour
I have nothing against the gym and I think the coaches are nice and encouraging. I'm just not sure if they can produce/coach the higher levels. I think our highest level gymnasts are xcel diamond right now. If she can go farther and has the desire to, I want her to have the right support.
I questioned if she should stay when she switched to team, but I didn't want to separate her from her friends and it felt disloyal to leave. I think I may have her finish out the season and see how it goes before making a final decision. Hopefully 5 more months won't harm her in the long run.
 

Tmacs

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Definitely won’t harm her to finish out the season. But maybe you can go observe other programs in the meantime. My dd trained with other gyms when we were away and it made me really appreciate and trust where we are because I saw the pluses and minuses of other places.
 

GAgymmom

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Oct 25, 2010
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I feel like because it’s bronze, they are using it in the true sense that Xcel was created for. It’s supposed to be low pressure and low hours. Many gyms have turned it into just as high intensity as JO levels, but it was never meant to be like that, so I don’t have any red flags popping up when I read your post. Your type of gym is exactly why Xcel was started.

now, if you and your daughter want a more structured, more disciplined type of gymnastics, then it’s probably not the gym where you would stay long-term. Visit some other gyms during their practices to watch and get an idea of what’s out there, then decide the path your daughter should take.

you don’t need a “big name” gym to have good, quality coaching and high levels. Sometimes the best gyms are the unknowns.
 

mls529

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My two cents is that you should check out other gyms as well, while letting your daughter finish out her bronze season. My DD was 7-8 when she was at a laid back gym, lovely coaches, wonderful owners but no JO team. But I knew she wanted more. I switched her to the more intense gym so she can compete JO. And honestly, she grew by leaps and bounds. I don't regret that decision at all. Eventually, mental blocks overtook her and ironically she left the intense gym to compete Xcel elsewhere. But age 8 or 9, and certainly 10-11 is an age where gymnasts can really grow a lot. As long as you are willing to drive and your daughter is willing to put in the hours (JO is generally more hours than Xcel), then why not try? Your current gym sounds totally fine, and like someone else said, I don't see red flags. But if your daughter wants a more intense environment, no harm in seeking it out. Just know the grass is not always greener. :)
 
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Lilou

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It sounds to me like they are doing 'stations' maybe each girl has a list of things they need to repeat, practice. Often times there is not the one on one for a long time when there is 1 coach per 7/8 kids. It also sounds like they are really working on form and strength and the new 'skills' that you want to see will come later on once strength and form are solid. Neither of these things are uncommon nor bad.
You can observe and check out other places, but know the grass is not always greener, so if you consider another gym, ask them specifically the ratio of coaches or girls, do they do stations, and how do they approach getting skills? There's a saying, "drills make the skills" which might be what you're seeing now- drills.
 
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Fierystar

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Aug 19, 2019
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Definitely won’t harm her to finish out the season. But maybe you can go observe other programs in the meantime. My dd trained with other gyms when we were away and it made me really appreciate and trust where we are because I saw the pluses and minuses of other places.
Thanks for the reassurance that finishing out where we are should be fine. What's the best way to observe other programs though? Do I call them and ask or just show up? I'm assuming she shouldn't really do a trial elsewhere until we're sure we're considering switching.
 

Fierystar

New Member
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Aug 19, 2019
14
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USA
I feel like because it’s bronze, they are using it in the true sense that Xcel was created for. It’s supposed to be low pressure and low hours. Many gyms have turned it into just as high intensity as JO levels, but it was never meant to be like that, so I don’t have any red flags popping up when I read your post. Your type of gym is exactly why Xcel was started.

now, if you and your daughter want a more structured, more disciplined type of gymnastics, then it’s probably not the gym where you would stay long-term. Visit some other gyms during their practices to watch and get an idea of what’s out there, then decide the path your daughter should take.

you don’t need a “big name” gym to have good, quality coaching and high levels. Sometimes the best gyms are the unknowns.
I think because we are new to all of this, we didn't know what to expect and likely didn't ask the right questions when we started. We expected a more intense environment when she moved to team, but that may not be this gym. When visiting other gyms though, do you just show up or call and ask about wanting to observe their team to possibly switch there? I'm not too sure what I should ask to ensure we make the right move. I also feel like I should meet with her coaches now to understand what their goals are, I guess? I just don't want to sound crazy or like I think I know more than they do.
 

Fierystar

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Aug 19, 2019
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My two cents is that you should check out other gyms as well, while letting your daughter finish out her bronze season. My DD was 7-8 when she was at a laid back gym, lovely coaches, wonderful owners but no JO team. But I knew she wanted more. I switched her to the more intense gym so she can compete JO. And honestly, she grew by leaps and bounds. I don't regret that decision at all. Eventually, mental blocks overtook her and ironically she left the intense gym to compete Xcel elsewhere. But age 8 or 9, and certainly 10-11 is an age where gymnasts can really grow a lot. As long as you are willing to drive and your daughter is willing to put in the hours (JO is generally more hours than Xcel), then why not try? Your current gym sounds totally fine, and like someone else said, I don't see red flags. But if your daughter wants a more intense environment, no harm in seeking it out. Just know the grass is not always greener. :)
I think this is exactly where we are. My DD enjoys where she is and likes her coaches and friends, but I don't think she truly understands that they may not be able to get her where she wants to be. I don't think she really gets exactly how much work it would take actually. I do think a more intense environment would be beneficial to her. I also think we may regret not trying it more in the future, then trying it and deciding it's too much and switching back. I do worry about walking that line between pushing her enough so she can grow and pushing her so much that she loses her love and enjoyment of the sport. I understand it might not turn out to be better elsewhere and would hate to alienate her current coaches/gym if she wanted to return there at some point.
 

Fierystar

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Aug 19, 2019
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USA
It sounds to me like they are doing 'stations' maybe each girl has a list of things they need to repeat, practice. Often times there is not the one on one for a long time when there is 1 coach per 7/8 kids. It also sounds like they are really working on form and strength and the new 'skills' that you want to see will come later on once strength and form are solid. Neither of these things are uncommon nor bad.
You can observe and check out other places, but know the grass is not always greener, so if you consider another gym, ask them specifically the ratio of coaches or girls, do they do stations, and how do they approach getting skills? There's a saying, "drills make the skills" which might be what you're seeing now- drills.
I do agree that it looks like they are doing stations/drills. I'm just not sure she's doing them how she's supposed to! It looks like she races through them without really focusing on what she is doing and why. I guess that's what worries me, I don't want her to just go through the motions. She definitely needs to work on strength and form. She's so tiny and slender, but she is slowly getting stronger. She just doesn't have a lot of power right now.
 

Cmumgym

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I do agree that it looks like they are doing stations/drills. I'm just not sure she's doing them how she's supposed to! It looks like she races through them without really focusing on what she is doing and why. I guess that's what worries me, I don't want her to just go through the motions. She definitely needs to work on strength and form. She's so tiny and slender, but she is slowly getting stronger. She just doesn't have a lot of power right now.
Stations are normally how some sessions train. The coach will show all gymnasts how it’s done then it’s up to the gymnast themselves to work hard at it. Coaches will and should come over to assess how each gymnast is doing but If a station is set up with 8 gymnasts 7 doing lead up skills and the coach is spotting one station then the coach can’t be with the other 7 gymnasts until they get around to that spotting station. And this is where work ethics come into it. Gymnasts need to be able to work independently at times and once a coach shows them the drill they need to be able to do it on their own without a coach constantly making sure there not rushing through it or doing it incorrectly. When a coach sees them doing it incorrectly they will fix it and then it is up to the gymnast to keep note of those corrections from then on and future and shouldn’t have to repeat the same correction multiple times. Otherwise coaches can’t focus on the actual skill gymnasts need to learn as they’d just be correcting the same thing and have their hands full with gymnasts who aren’t making an effort with the lead ups. Nothing would get done.
 

Cmumgym

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If the atmosphere is great and you can see the coaches are focused on safety and positively encouraging the gymnasts. To get a small understanding of their results. Research meets to see how they are placing at higher levels. Yes sometimes higher level scoring gyms can be a mix of a negative high pressure environment however if you know that the gym your at is a great environment then check out some scores and also ask for a meeting to discuss your gymnast. Also check out meets online and see the higher level high scoring gyms in your area. Give them a call and ask to come in to see their environment. Might not be greener. Or it might be but Atleast then you will have more knowledge of where your gymnast is at and also what other gyms offer in comparison.
 

TumbleTimes4

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I do agree that it looks like they are doing stations/drills. I'm just not sure she's doing them how she's supposed to! It looks like she races through them without really focusing on what she is doing and why. I guess that's what worries me, I don't want her to just go through the motions. She definitely needs to work on strength and form. She's so tiny and slender, but she is slowly getting stronger. She just doesn't have a lot of power right now.
I think your last sentence gives insight to this situation. If you notice that she doesn’t have a lot of power, then her coaches will know that too. It sounds like they are doing stations to build strength so that she does have the power to do the skills. The last thirty minutes of practice at our gym are spent doing conditioning and stations.

My DD started out in Xcel Bronze and she was and still is a tiny thing. She moved to JO after a year in bronze. It took two years (preteam and bronze) of good conditioning to really build strength and I could really tell a difference this year. She has developed a lot of strength and the bigger skills came after that. She had a great level 4 season and will compete 5 this year. Bar skills especially and vault, I feel, really require a lot of strength to do them safely and correctly. You can’t put the cart before the horse.

If you have any questions, ask to schedule a meeting with her coaches. Just explain that you are new to the sport, have questions about what you are seeing, and explain your daughter’s goals. I think it’s great that they do prioritize safety. We have been to some meets where there are coaches who have there kids competing skills that have no business doing them and it’s scary to watch.
 
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