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.
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.