Finding the Right Gym and Coaching

Subject: Questions on finding the right coach and gym and program

Dear Coach,

My question is how do you find the right program for your child? When the coach tells you she has all this talent and is gifted, yet the gym you are at doesn’t have a Tops program, or an Elite program. They have good actually very good coaching with wins at the J.O. Nationals in the medal the last few years, but not anything after that. How do I find out if my daughter really is special, and needs or should get more? She has big goals and dreams and I only want to encourage her and do what is best. Plus, give her the best opportunity she can have. Thank you for your help.

You have presented two difficult questions. We will try to give them the serious consideration they deserve. You have given us no indication of her age, level and how long she has been in the sport at the team level or what gym you are going to, which always makes it difficult for us to answer questions as well and specifically as you and we might like.

For example, if your daughter is an 11-year-old Level 4 and has been on the team and in Level 4 for two years, don’t start making travel plans to the Olympics yet. If she is an 11-year-old Level 9 and has been on the team for five years, you may have some decisions to make.

First, you have asked how you find out if your daughter is truly gifted and talented in gymnastics. We will refer you to one of the articles already on our web site titled “Is My Gymnast Talented?

The basic answer is that there is no way to tell if your daughter is going to be successful in her gymnastics career over the long run. If they have the physical talent, are they strong enough minded to be successful at the highest levels of competition? No one can say for sure.

Will they work out hour after hour, month after month, and year after year or will they burn out and quit the sport before they have a chance to get to the highest levels?

Gymnasts may look great when they are young and then burn out. Gymnasts may be late bloomers and show little or only moderate ability early and then explode.

Injuries, family or financial problems and even boyfriends with cars can interfere with a gymnast’s path to success. Essentially there are no guarantees. If your gymnast loves the sport and wants to compete, you and she should enjoy it along the way, get the most out of the sport and its opportunities as you can as you go along and just wait and see what happens.

It sounds like the program you are currently in has at least reached the second (or third) tier of gymnastics competition. Medaling at Level 9 and 10 at the National Championship level puts your gym and coaches in, say, the top 10% in the country. The problem is that the Elite level is the top 1% of programs, coaches and gymnasts in the country and the difference is big.

In our opinion, the best predictor of whether a coach will produce an Elite athlete is first: whether they have more than one Elite on their team now, second: whether they have produced Elite gymnasts on a regular basis and third: if they have ever produced an Elite gymnast.

If a coach has not yet (or ever) produced an Elite gymnast, then you might look to see if their team is winning at increasingly higher and higher levels each year (e.g., winning at Level 8 Regionals, then winning at Level 9 Nationals and then wining at Level 10 Nationals). A scenario like this might indicate (or at least there would be chance) that the coaching staff may eventually produce an Elite.

In America, gymnastics facilities are usually adequate but just as a check, gyms should be designed to produce high level gymnasts and have pits for tumbling, bar dismounts and release moves, vaulting and beam dismounts. Trampolines (preferably multiple tramps), tumble trampolines, power tumbling floors should be available.

A TOP program is not a necessity, but it is a proven fact that the best and most efficient way to progress in the sport is to first get strong (presses, planches, muscle-up strong) and flexible (180° plus splits and say 25°-30° shoulder flexibility). When gymnasts have developed the necessary strength, they need to train the progressions for high-level gymnastics skills and high-level gymnastics skills. So even if a TOP program is not present, some similar type of training program is likely necessary to have a chance to produce Elites.

There most likely should be a definite program designed toward producing high level and Elite athletes. If a training program depends and concentrates only on the USAG Compulsory program as a basis for its first three (or more) years of training, those gymnasts in that program are not very likely to become high level or Elite gymnasts. This is not to say that gymnasts can not or should not compete in level 5 and 6, only that they should primarily be emphasizing their long-range high-level gymnastics training goals.

Three is no doubt that there is a shortage of high-level gymnastics coaches in the United States. There are certainly more talented gymnasts than there are successful high-level gymnastics coaches to coach them and we know of no short-term solution to that situation. The long-range solution is knowledge, education and coaches’ training programs. This is the reason we have produced our web site – GymnasticsZone.com and our series of e-Books and we have many more we need to and will write.

If your daughter is 11 or under, the general consensus seems to be that gymnasts should not move away from home for a better gym program (especially if they are in a reasonably good program currently). If your daughter is 12 or older and has well above average talent and success in the sport and is driven, then you might be faced with the prospect of meeting her goals and dreams by moving (or moving her) to one of the gyms that is currently producing Elites.

Without seeing your daughter, knowing her age and level and coaches, that is about all we can tell you. If there is anything else we can do for you, please feel free to contact us.

We sincerely wish you and your daughter good luck and success in meeting her goals and dreams.

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