There are a number of elements that must all come together for any gymnast to become a successful Elite gymnast. It is obvious to most that the first one of those elements is the gymnast. It takes a certain kind of person to be a gymnast, and an even more special type of person and gymnast to become an Elite.
Elite Gymnast Element #1 – A Potentially Elite Gymnast
But there are other elements that are essential to any gymnast becoming a successful Elite gymnast. Without all of the necessary elements, regardless of how talented a gymnast is, there is little to no possibility of becoming an Elite gymnast. Without all of the elements being in place, Elite success is a virtual impossibility.
Elite Gymnast Element #2 – A Potentially Elite Coach
While it has happened that a gymnast was so talented, that the primary reason for their success was talent, and not coaching, in some way, coaching must be an integral part of a successful path to Elite. Sometimes, it seems, that the most important role some coaches can play is to not get in the way of a highly talented gymnasts, and interfere with or hinder their progress. Other coaches have training systems that are capable of producing multiple Elite gymnasts.
All Elites are Not Necessarily a Result of Coaching
Many “Elite” gymnastics coaches have been one Elite wonders, having only one Elite gymnast in their whole career. Which makes you wonder if the luck of the draw placed an incredibly talented gymnast in their gym, and that gymnast’s path to Elite was not because of (and maybe, even, in spite of) the coaching they received. Only when you see a coach or a program produce multiple Elite gymnasts can you be absolutely sure the coaching and training system were a significant contributing factor.
Elite Gymnast Element #3 – Strong Parental Support
The Right Kind of Parents Necessary
Parents are another critical element in the production of an Elite gymnast. I know some gym programs that will bar a gymnast if their parents are not acceptable, but even without that, parents can either help or completely block any gymnast’s chance to make Elite.
Not Enough Parental Support = No Chance for Elite
I know of one gymnast, who has the power and talent to be a National Team member, but whose parents have taken her to only an average of 3 – 4 practices per week for the last four years. Actually, they did not even do that. Another family drove their daughter to the gym almost all of the time. In spite of being told what her potential was, the parents never committed the time to even drive her to practice. They relied on other parents to do that for them. The result is obvious, the girl is successful on the two events where her superior natural power helps, but is not advanced enough on the other two events or dance to every reach Elite.
Parents Must Pay the Price
In addition, they did not let their daughter attend all of the “fly” meets (the most important type of competition experience comes from large invitational meets). We all understand family financial constraints, but with a daughter this talented, it certainly seems evident that a lack of parental support killed any chance this gymnasts had to go Elite, because of their lack of time and/or financial support.
Extreme Financial Commitment
In order for gymnasts to have any chance of making Elite, their parents must provide support of many varieties. We have already mentioned the important time and financial commitments that parents must make. The higher a gymnast goes in the competition level system, the more expensive training and competition expenses are for the parents. Higher level gymnasts generally require more travel expenses to high level meets spread around the country. Gymnastics is a relatively expensive sport, in terms of training and all of the related expenses.
Long-Term Mental and Psychological Support Necessary
Parents must also provide years of psychological support for their gymnast on the long hard path to Elite. They must also deal with coaches and gym owners. Any competition success is certainly a boost in motivation for parents as well as gymnasts, but there will likely be periods of time without such wins along the road to Elite success, that must be dealt with by gymnasts and parents.
Elite Gymnast Element #4 – A Potentially Elite Gymnastics Gym
Gym Must Provide Elite Coaching
Support by the gym is the fourth pillar of support necessary to produce an Elite gymnast. Higher level optional gymnasts require more high level coaching, including one-on-one or small group coaching to be competitive and successful. Experienced high level coaches capable of producing Elite gymnasts are rare and expensive. A gym must be able to find, recruit and keep such coaches in order for them to provide Elite level coaching and free them to have the time to do the close coaching required to make Elite.
An Elite Gymnastics Facility is Necessary
Certainly, gym facilities and equipment are not as big an issue as they might have been in the past, but there are still certain required pieces of equipment that it takes to train to be an Elite. First of all, pits for tumbling, bars and vault are virtually a requirement for Elite training. Trampolines and a tumble tramp (with preferably one end going into a pit) are another virtual requirement to be competitive and successfully train for Elite. without the proper training equipment, gymnasts are at a training disadvantage in comparison to other gymnasts.
Some Gyms No Longer Even Try to Produce Elites
Some gyms (and coaches) were never capable of producing an Elite, but some have made the decision that it is no longer worth the extra commitment necessary to produce and support an Elite gymnast. Since the International Elite rules were changed and with the increased difficulty requirements to be successful at the Elite level, a number of U.S. gymnastics programs no longer even attempt to qualify gymnasts to Elite. Obviously, this eliminates any chance for gymnasts attending a gym like this to ever get to Elite.
It Takes a Delicate Balance Between All Four Elements to Produce an Elite
Finally, there is often a very delicate balance between all of the four elements that must be maintained for an Elite gymnast to be produced. Everyone must get along to a fairly high degree and any conflict between gymnasts, parents, coaches or the gym owners can upset any chance of producing an Elite gymnast. No one or two of the elements can produce an Elite gymnast without the other elements present. Even with all four elements present, it is still a daunting task to actually produce an Elite gymnast, especially a successful one.