If you ask most young gymnast’s what their long-term goal is, most will answer that they want to be an Olympic gymnast. For many coaches, to coach an Olympian is their ultimate goal, as well. In spite of that, few actually do the long-term planning for their training programs to realistically achieve that.
Quadrennium Coaching, or Quad Coaching, is a system of planning for each gymnast to learn what they need to become an Elite gymnast (the group from which Olympians are chosen) in a four year period of time. We emphasize the role of coach’s expectations in going from zero to Elite in 4 years. Most coaches believe either their gymnasts are incapable of learning that fast or they are incapable of teaching that fast. That expectation then becomes true.
Plan Training to Match Olympic Quadrenniums
The basic concept of a quadrennium coaching plan is to plan a gymnast’s progress to their natural Olympics (the first Olympics for which they are old enough to compete). Most gymnasts will have more than one quadrennium (4-year period) to prepare for the Olympics and to become an Elite, depending on when they start seriously training. The concept of going from zero to elite in four years does not change, just because they have more time, since at least four of those years (from age 12 – 16) will not likely be in the gymnast’s skill learning window of opportunity (which is before their Peak Height Velocity, the growth spurt before puberty). The window of opportunity for learning gymnastics skills, the fastest and easiest, ends with that PHV growth spurt. Skills can still be learned, but it is not nearly as easy or as fast.
Must Teach Most High Level Gymnastics Skills before PHV/Puberty
The period of skill training time before the PHV and puberty growth spurt is the best time to teach gymnasts high level skills – the kind of skills they will need to become Elite gymnasts. Quadrennium coaching is all about maximizing gymnast’s skill learning at the time they are best suited to learn skills. And likely, that will be in their first quadrennium of training, with perhaps a few extra years, depending on how early they start.
The First Quadrennium
For most gymnasts, their first quadrennium of serious gymnastics skill training, until they old enough for the Olympics, will go from:
- Ages 6 – 10 Plus 6 more years (2 Quads + 2 years)
- Ages 7 – 11 Plus 5 more years (2 Quads + 1 year)
- Ages 8 – 12 Plus 4 more years (2 Quads)
- Ages 9 – 13 Plus 3 more years (1 Quad + 3 years)
Late Start Means Missing Some of the Window of Opportunity for Skills Learning
Any gymnast, not starting serious high level optional skill training, will likely not be in the window of opportunity for skill training for all of that quadrennium and time, and, of course, will have much less extra time for preparation for Elite and/or the Olympics.
- Ages 10 – 14 Plus 2 more years (1 Quad + 2 years)
- Ages 11 – 15 Plus 1 more year (1 Quad + 1 years)
- Ages 12 – 16 (1 Quad)
Competition and “Political” Training
Extra quadrenniums and extra training years should be spent learning new skills (although this will likely happen at a much slower rate), learning to compete successfully (by competing as much as possible) and moving up the “political” ladder of Elite and Olympic gymnastics. The window of opportunity for strength training and dance grace and elegance is post puberty, so the time after puberty can be used to improve those as well as gaining the maximum amount of competition experience possible. Gymnasts should also spend this extra time preparing their training to match the expectations of those who choose who competes in the Olympics and other international competitions. Right now, for example, gymnasts are expected to be able to compete in numerous trials and camps in a short period of time before the Olympics and Worlds and do very large numbers of repetitive competition routines.
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