Sandbagging or Well Organized Training Program

Subject: Moving Levels

Sex: female
Age: 9 years
Gymnastics Level: 4

Our gym only moves kids into the next level once a year, in July. They must test into the next level in May. To move into the next level the kids must have 100% of the skills for that level when testing in May. Is this common? My daughter has not even started her meet season, has 90% of the skills needed for all her level 5 routines, and is bored with the level 4 routines. She trains some higher skills in practice, but I feel like the gym semi-sandbags the kids (without making them go two years) by only letting them do one level per year and placing them into the level so early. How is this commonly done?

There is a tremendous variety in how gyms handle moving gymnasts up. There is no average way gyms handle it that I could point out to you. While I am a firmly anti-sandbagging, it does not appear to me that your gym is doing that. Let me tell you why.

Moving up One Level per Year is Appropriate

If a gym is moving its gymnasts up one level per year, that is certainly not sandbagging, holding a gymnast back or limiting a gymnast’s future career. Even if a highly talented gymnast could move up faster than that, a normal career path of one level per year is much more common and certainly is appropriate.

Training Higher Level Skills

You indicated that your daughter does work on higher level skills and does not just do skills for only the level she is currently at. While there still might be some discussion about what percentage of time (50-50, 75-25, 90-10 etc.) is spent on new skills and how much on their present level of competition, it sounds like there is training for your daughter’s future career. That is, again, not sandbagging.

Sounds Like a Highly Organized Training Program

While I can see that, depending on when your compulsory competition season is (some states have fall compulsory seasons, some have compulsory spring season and some have both), the compulsory training season may seem long, it appears like your gym has planned to have their gymnasts well-prepared and prepared early. This seems like a sign of good gym program organization. And many gyms and coaches are not known for being well-organized.  Being in a well organized gym, that can also produce high level optional gymnasts, is an advantage.

Potential Negatives

It wasn’t completely clear to me whether your daughter was going to have to repeat Level 4. For me, that would be a negative scenario. If it takes a training program more than one year at the lower compulsory levels, what are the chances that they will be able to move up gymnasts one level per year at the higher optional levels. The fact that you say that your daughter is bored is never a good sign in my opinion. Gymnasts, who are regularly learning new skills, are never bored. Learning new skills is fun and exciting, regardless of what level gymnasts are competing. I am not nearly as concerned with what level a gymnast is competing, as long as they are progressively learning new skills, and improving their skill execution and consistency.

Give Your Gym Credit

So give your gym credit for being organized, planning for their gymnast’s competitive success, working on new skills, other than just those a the level they are competing and moving gymnasts up at one level per year. Don’t hesitate to let your daughter’s coaches know your daughter is complaining of being bored. They should be concerned about gymnast boredom, because of the potential of losing such young gymnast.

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