Elite Gymnastics – What It Really Takes

Elite Gymnastics Coaches And Gyms Are Rare

Only about one in a hundred (1.28 %) gyms in the United States is currently producing an Elite gymnast and has a rightful claim to the title of an elite gymnastics gym. Only about 2.2% of gyms, now in existence, have ever produced even one Elite gymnast. Both the number of elite gymnasts and the number of gyms producing them has decreased substantially since the International rule changes that took effect in 2006-2007.

Elite Gymnastics Requires More Than Just Saying You’re Elite

While I haven’t really done the research, it seems like that any gym that has Elite in its name is even more unlikely to actually produce any real Elite gymnasts, than those that don’t. While there are many gyms and coaches that profess to be running programs that are going to develop Elite and Olympic gymnasts, the likelihood is still going to be that less than 1% – 2% will produce an Elite. When you are talking about Olympic gymnasts, less than one or two in a thousand coaches will do that.

Elite Gymnastics is Hard

What is the big disconnect between the rhetoric of coaches and the reality of who and how many coaches will produce Elites and Olympians? There are many. One is a basic misunderstanding of how hard it is to create an Elite gymnast. Many coaches, especially those who are invested too heavily in the USAG Compulsory program, don’t realize that you cannot just meander through the Compulsory program and the beginning Optional program for years and think you are just going to all of a sudden have gymnasts who are capable of becoming Elite in the last few years left in their career.

Elite Gymnastics Requires Good Timing

Many coaches don’t understand the consequences of missing the limited windows of opportunity for developing the physical traits necessary for successful gymnastics and skill learning. The window of opportunity for quickly and easily developing flexibility begins at age 6 and is gone just a few years later. High level gymnastics skills, if not learned before puberty, are way harder to learn afterwards.

Studies have indicated that athletic excellence (and other categories of excellence) has been determined to take an average of 10,000 hours of serious training. For an early development sport like gymnastics, all of that ideally happens before age 13. There is no time to be repeating Compulsory levels year after year if you want to be on track to become an Elite gymnast.

Elite Gymnastics Requires A Long-Term Focus

Many coaches get stuck in training too much for the current year of competition, instead of having long term goals, and training to achieve those. They spend almost the whole year, each year, training only the 31 major skills their gymnast is competing that year and never have time to develop all of the thousands of progressions and skills necessary to lead to high level optional and Elite gymnastics success.

Elite Gymnastics Requires Extra Effort

There are a significant number of coaches, who although they know what it takes, have decided that it is not worth all the extra time and effort to try to get one or two of their gymnasts to Elite and are now content to have a good Level 10 team as their goal. Years of working extra hours with a gymnast, who then quits to become more popular in school as a cheerleader or to spend time with a boyfriend, can do that to a coach.

Elite Gymnastics Training Starts Early In A Gymnasts Career

The secret to Elite gymnastics is to train gymnasts from the very beginning of their gymnastics experience to be high level optional gymnasts and to keep that as the primary goal throughout their gymnastics career. Only with a comprehensive and focused Elite training program is it likely that any gym or coach will actually produce an Elite or Olympic gymnast. Few gyms and coaches have such a program.

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2 Responses to “Elite Gymnastics – What It Really Takes”

  1. Marc Futch September 2, 2011 at 7:45 pm #

    What level do colleges look at for scholarships? L10 or elite?

    • Coach Howard September 7, 2011 at 11:29 am #

      Obviously, colleges want to recruit any former Elite gymnasts that they can and are still eligible amateurs first. Elite gymnasts tend to go to the University of Utah, the University of Georgia (UGA), the University of Alabama, UCLA and the University of Alabama, the only schools to win an NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championship since 1982. Other colleges certainly look first at National Level 10 gymnasts, but a fair number of Level 9 gymnasts, with strong events, have won scholarships as well, at smaller gymnastics programs.

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