Talent vs. Gym Profit

Subject: When to quit? Talent vs. profit

Dear Coach,

My 6 year-old daughter was asked to be on the Level 4 Team after about three months of pre-team. She has been training 9 hours a week for about the past three months.

While she is very strong, she seems to lack the skills, poise and balance of her other teammates. Can those things be learned? At least to my novice eye, she seems to be the least talented girl on the team of about 8 girls. When I question the coaches about her potential I get “we’ll see” responses.

I really don’t want to invest that much time and money for something that will only offer her future disappointment. While she loves gymnastics, I often wonder if she’d be better off in a rec program. I’m concerned that she is only there to fill a spot (and they can collect the tuition). Do teams ever keep girls lacking talent just for the money? How can I avoid this?

While it is possible that somewhere in some gym that owners or coaches might do what you are talking about, we are relatively sure that this is not widespread or even very likely.

The reason is gym finances. To maximize profits, gym owners would rather fill the gym and their coaches and instructor’s time with one time per week classes. Whatever you pay for your daughter’s 9 hours of coaching and gym time, it is nowhere near what the gym would receive if they filled the gym and the coaches time with nine one-hour classes.

Students who come one time per week invariably pay the highest hourly rates for instruction. As gymnasts attend more, the hourly price decreases. Class students are paying a higher per hour price than you are for team training. This means that it is highly unlikely that your daughter has been placed on team for monetary reasons.

Let’s say your daughter and 7 other Level 4 gymnasts are paying $250 per month for their 36 hours of gym and coaching time. Total income = $2000 per month. The gym could be running nine one-hour classes during that same time and equipment station locations instead. Each one-hour class would have the same 8 students paying, say $45.00 per month. 9 classes x 8 students x $45.00 = $3,240.00.

Class and team prices vary and there are also two and three time per week classes that may alter the numbers, but the general concept is the same. Team members pay less per hour, which does not make the gym the maximum amount of profit. In fact, in general, the more time, gymnasts spend in the gym, the less profitable they are for the gym. And this does not even take into consideration that team coaches must be paid more than class instructors, which lowers the profit levels even more.

Coaches don’t place gymnasts on team for money, they place them on the team because they think they have a good chance to be successful in the sport which will build the reputation of the gym, the team and the coach.

You have identified the most likely factor as to why your daughter has been moved up – the fact that she is very strong. Strength is such an important factor in the sport of gymnastics (the TOP program for training Elite gymnasts is predicated upon strength and flexibility) that it is one of the key factors that coaches are looking for. If your daughter is stronger than other gymnasts, they will have a very difficult time in the long run beating her.

Your daughter is 6 years old, spent only 3 months on a training team, before being moved to Level 4. She cannot be expected to show the skills, poise and balance of girls who may have been on the team longer, are older or have more gym experience. And she is most certainly going to improve and improve. Experience and maturity are going to help her learn. Those girls you are looking at were in exactly the place your daughter is now at one point.

Even if all of the other girls are of similar age and experience, it is never a good idea to compare your daughter to them or any other gymnast. There is only one true measure of success in the sport and that is personal progress. If your daughter is enjoying the sport and making progress in the sport, then coaches, parents and gymnasts should all be happy. There are early bloomers and late bloomers in the sport who are equally successful.

As to her future in the sport, if your coaches said anything other than “We’ll see” they would be misleading you. Their (or anyone’s) ability to predict who might be the best gymnast in the gym next year or the year after that, much less in five or six years when they are doing high level gymnastics, has about zero chance of being correct. It is the coaches who “guarantee” your daughter will be an Olympian that you should be most wary of.

As you say, even those with limited gymnastics experience can relatively easily pick out who is currently the better or best gymnast, especially physically. What no one can predict is if they have all of the corresponding psychological tools and the drive, endurance and determination to stay in the sport and reach the highest levels of the sport.
Some, maybe even many coaches may believe they can predict who is going to be their best gymnast, but I promise you we could both get rich betting against them. Three are just too many other internal factors that will eventually override physical ability and talent as the most important success factors.

If your daughter enjoys gymnastics, enjoys the group she is working with and is making progress, then she has as good a chance to eventually be the top gymnasts as anyone else. It sounds to us like she is in the right group and we would not at all recommend that she go back to a rec class.

You and your daughter have years of fun gymnastics experiences ahead of you. There are so many benefits she will gain along the way, that gymnastics “success” can almost be guaranteed regardless of competition success.

Don’t sell your daughter short because of where she is now. A lot is going to happen in the upcoming years.

It appears that your coaches have an understanding of what I have related above and are not trying to oversell you with false promises about your daughter’s future gymnastics success. This would be another strong indication that they did not place your daughter in Level 4 for financial reasons.

We wish you daughter and you good luck in her future gymnastics career. If there is anything else we can do for you or questions we can answer, pleas feel free to contact us.

Good luck to you and your daughter.

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