Is My Gymnast Talented?

One of the most common questions coaches hear from parents is “Is my gymnast really talented?” For gymnasts on our team who have been tested, screened and chosen to join the team our answer is always positive. This is not, as you might suspect, for financial reasons, but because it is simply impossible to predict which gymnasts are going to end up being the best on the team.

Anyone Can See Obvious Talent, but Not The Mind

This is not to say that some gymnasts are so obviously talented that anyone can see their ability, whether parents or coaches. What is not as obvious is whether that gymnast or any gymnast has all the other characteristics to progress successfully through all the years and levels of the sport.

Need Balance of Physical and Psychological

Physical abilities are often fairly visible to parents and coaches, but it is the psychological factors which are invisible and often the most important for long-term success.

Late Bloomers not Uncommon

Successful gymnasts come in many varieties. Some are late-bloomers who just seem to be on cruise control or meander through the sport in their early years. Some gymnasts hit their teens and all of a sudden get serious and make a huge jump in progress.

Early Rapid Progress Not Always a Great Sign

Some gymnasts, often talented ones, make rapid easy progress early in their career and then stall when they hit the higher difficulty levels. While talent alone let them zoom through the lower levels, talent alone is not enough in gymnastics. No one is talented enough to just go out and do double backs on floor.

Gymnasts Have to Learn How to Work Hard

Sometimes very talented gymnasts who progressed rapidly early have never learned to work hard and when faced with skills that require hard work are unable to adapt and eventually leave the sport.

Battle Burn-Out

Sometimes young talented gymnasts are the focus of so much expectation and pressure so soon that they burn out before they have a chance to reach the age required to compete internationally (currently 16).

Don’t Bet on Who Will Be the Best, You’ll Likely Lose Your Shirt

There are just so many factors, physically and psychologically, that no one can accurately predict which gymnast or gymnasts will ultimately end up the best. Russian scientists for years tried to find factors predictive of success and were never able to get any more effective than a flip of a coin would have been.

If They Made the Team, Their Chances are As Good As Anyones

So if your gymnasts has already been picked for the team, you can be relatively certain that they have as good a chance as any at becoming the best, but no one is going to be able to tell you who is going to eventually be the best. In fact, it is often impossible to even accurately predict who is going to be the best on your own team only two years from now.

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4 Responses to “Is My Gymnast Talented?”

  1. Thomas Stotz February 18, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

    My daughter is 12 years old and a current level 8 scored over 39 as a level 7 and is scoring 38’s as a level 8 and already has level 9 skills and can do a layout on the vault. We have been told she needs to go elite but our coaches say it is not worth it. They said if she stays healthy she will go to a great school. We are torn on what to do since we would have to leave our gym which we love.. Any advice? Thanks

    • Gymnastics Zone February 19, 2012 at 6:37 pm #

      If your goal (and more importantly – your daughter’s goal is just to make a collegiate program and/or get a college scholarship), there is no need to switch gyms. She seems to be doing well and has 6 more years to develop into a top collegiate prospect. But is also sounds like, at least someone think her talent level may be high enough to qualify for and compete Elite. If, however, she would ever think she might want to compete at the World Championships or the Olympics, Elite is a necessity to do that. So it all depends on her goals and dreams! In that case, her current coaches would either need to change or you and she will have to think about going to a gym, where training for Elite is thought to be worth it. Good luck.

  2. Donny February 7, 2016 at 4:51 pm #

    My daughter is currently a 7 yr old level 4. She’s been the last kid on her team during both seasons to have all of her skills on all of the events. She was appropriately placed in a group of 4/3 kids this season b/c she’s been slower to acquire skills.

    Is this an age appropriate thing or is she likely to demonstrate this pattern throughout her gymnastics career?

    Thank you for your time.

    • Gymnastics Zone March 11, 2016 at 9:13 am #

      Not to worry.

      Skill learning and competition success often vary during a gymnast’s career. Like the human mind, the progress of gymnasts is infinitely variable and not particularly predictable. There are early maturers and late maturers and everything in between, both physically and mentally. There are two predictors of learning speed and progress and they are strength and flexibility. Gymnasts who are not sufficiently strong and flexible will learn slowly (and numerous skills cannot be learned at all without enough strength and flexibility). So you might want to check your daughter’s levels of strength and flexibility to see if she has not yet developed a basic gymnast’s level of those qualities. You might also want to make sure she gets to view the Level 4 video and as many Level 4/Level 5 and optional gymnastics routines to enhance her visual learning capabilities.

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