Subject: Optional routine upgrades
Gymnastics Level: 8
My daughter is in a fairly new gym and is going to L8 regionals. She has routines that are “upgraded” as do some of her L8 team members. Bars and floor always seem to score them a bit below the gymnast who has the bare minimum in her routines. Most of the time this gymnast hits everything perfectly while the upgraded girls may have a few extra deductions because of the upgrades.
I was told that she needs these skills in order to be competitive at regionals and to be better prepared for the next level and beyond.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to keep perfecting the skills and compete what you have down pat if it meets the requirements for L8? I did not think there were bonus points for difficulty until L9 and L10.
We only have 1 L10, 3 L9s, and 6 L8s in the gym. The rest are compulsories and rec. Not sure if they have the experience to put her on the right path.
First, let’s get some perspective on your daughter. Your daughter is a 10-year-old Level 8, who made Regionals. Congratulations on that above average accomplishment. Second, she has more than the minimum skills required for Level 8. Congratulations on that. She has, at least, moved up one level every year on average. More congratulations for that.
Perspective on the Coaches
Now, let’s get some perspective on your daughter’s coaches. They are planning her training and skill levels for her future gymnastics career, not just the current year. They are at least attempting to prepare her to be competitive at Regionals. Goals and planning for the future = necessary and good.
You Did Put Her In the Best Gym, Right?
Without knowing them or your gym, I don’t know if they have the experience to coach your daughter to Elite, winning at Level 10 Nationals or if there is a better gym within driving distance. It is your responsibility (always was, has been and always will be) to get your daughter into the best gym possible. If there is a much better high level gymnast producing gym nearby, you should, at least, consider checking it out and trying it out.
Plenty of Time to Move Higher
Still, her coaches have produced at least one Level 10 (don’t know how she did nationally) and your daughter is currently progressing at a rate to get to level 10 at age 12 and have four more years to get to Elite and/or win a college scholarship.
Prepare Now for Level 10/Elite
Wouldn’t it make more sense to keep perfecting the skills and compete what you have down pat if it meets the requirements for L8? Depends on what your goals are. If you/they are trying to prepare your daughter to become the best gymnast she can be ultimately, then preparing her with “upgraded” skills for the future is by far the best path toward future high level optional success. If you are more concerned with winning at this level, then you could choose to forget preparing for the future and only practice, focus and concentrate on the skills she is doing this year.
Train Skills One to Two Years Ahead
My preference is the same as theirs. I am really only interested in producing high level optional gymnasts and that is what I would be training every gymnast for, during every year of their career. Planning and training for Elite/Level 10 is the best (and only) way to get gymnasts there. Doing the minimum each year is not the path to Elite/Level 10.
Given Equal Execution, Higher Difficulty Always Wins
No, there are no bonus points for difficulty in Level 8, but the judges (especially at Regionals) still usually manage to recognize, understand and reward the girls who do the most difficult routines, using other scoring means and criteria.
You Don’t Want to Get Left Behind on Skill Difficulty
As far as the girl whose routines are not “upgraded,” I would be more upset if I were her mother. It seems like your daughter and the other Level 8s are leaving her behind skill-wise. And even if she wins more or does better at meets now, she is behind in getting the difficulty it will take to be successful and win at Level 10 and beyond.
The Best Train for the Olympics From the Beginning
Now I have been primarily talking about (and am most concerned about) training and preparing for the future. The best coaches spend the majority of their training time every year preparing and training skills and skill progressions for the future. Olympic coaches are planning and training all their team members for the Olympics from the first year they are on the team.
Harder and Higher Difficulty Skills Take More Time to Learn
Because of all the increasingly difficult skills that must be taught and learned in limited time, it is necessary to start training skills for the next level(s) at least a year or two earlier. Triple fulls are harder to learn than fulls. If it took a gymnast a year to learn and perfect a full, you can’t expect them to learn and perfect a triple full in only one year, so you have to start training for it early.
Training Only for Regionals, Nationals, Elite, Worlds and the Olympics
How important is it to win at Level 8 versus preparing for the future? Are you bragging or even thinking or remembering how your daughter did as a Level 4 or 5 now? When your daughter is a Level 10 or Elite, you won’t remember or care much how she did as a Level 8 either. There are only two meets that you don’t train beyond for – Worlds and the Olympics. Other than those meets, gymnasts and coaches should always be planning and training ahead.
Train Ahead 1 – 2 Levels/Years and Win with Confidence at your Current Level
Now nobody thinks that winning at any and every level is of no importance. Winning can and should get to be a habit and gymnasts, who are training ahead for one or two levels above their current level, are almost always successful in competition anyway. They have way more confidence competing skills that are much easier than they are training, as opposed to gymnasts who can do only the skills, and especially only the minimum skills, for their level.
Before the Most Important Meet of Each Year, Maximize Scores
In spite of the wisdom of training for the future, there does come a short period of time before the most important meets of the year, where it is only intelligent to minimize deductions and maximize scores. This is done by assessing and balancing difficulty versus execution deductions and optimizing routines to get the highest scores possible at the most important meets. It is more difficult to change bar routines, but the other events can be modified to produce the maximum possible scores. I expect her coaches are already doing that, but if you don’t think they are, you could delicately ask about it.
Don’t Worry, Be Happy With Your Daughter and Coaches
All in all, it seems like your daughter’s coaches are doing a good job and making good progress with her. It appears they have the necessary forward vision and planning to allow her to reach her highest potential, limited only by their own coaching potential. They are not doing the minimum and are not having your daughter do the minimum, either, thus improving her speed of progress and increasing her maximum learning and training potential.
Good luck to you and your daughter at Regionals.