The 5 yr old Olympian wannabe - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 21 Old 04-27-2010, 08:25 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My 5 yr old just had (at his request) an evaluation with a gymnastics coach. He's been taking gymnastics since he was 18 months at a very positive, non-competitive studio. Its 1 hr a week. The teachers are so encouraging and supportive and he loves it. So much so that now he really wants to start competing. He pretty much practices his gymnastics constantly.

The coach (at a different studio in town - one with a reputation for attracting the really pushy parents - the kind who knock on the glass and yell at their kids when they don't do it right) says he is ready for the level 4 class which is a 3 hr class. He proposed starting at one day weekly to ease him into it with the goal of 2 days weekly. 5-8pm, 2 days a week.

My son really wants to do it.

I'm completely overwhelmed by the committment. He's only 5!!!! 6 hrs a week during prime family time. Missing dinner with our family 2 nights a week. That much structure and loss of free play time. The pressure. Oiy!@@

On the other hand, it isn't like we're pushing him in to this. He really wants to do it. It would definitely teach him something about setting priorities, discipline, committment, etc. He's good and I hate to tell him he can't pursue a passion that he is excelling in.

Looking for help sorting through the considerations. Thoughts?

Laurie Busy mama to Boo (10/02) DeeDa (10/04) and Belly (10/07) TS 45X
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#2 of 21 Old 04-27-2010, 10:15 PM
 
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Originally Posted by LaurieG View Post
He's good and I hate to tell him he can't pursue a passion that he is excelling in.
I think you answered your own question!

Every once in a while, a child is born who's gifts and talents are apparent from an early age, and the child cannot be drawn away from those interests. Seems like both a blessing and a curse... but I think it would be worse to try to resist.
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#3 of 21 Old 04-27-2010, 11:05 PM
 
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I'll be one of those that say let him do it. If it turns out to be too much then just back down. My 7y old LOVES sports and she does well at many. She does far more then I ever thought a child of mine would do but she loves it, and I feel that it is important to encourage her interests. She does 1.5 hours of dance a week, two hours of gymnastics, and then in the winter is an avid snowboarder, in the summer she swims. We do other things, ice skating, skateboarding, this summer she is trying kayaking but the first 4 are her favorites. She is really wanting to be on a snowboarding team next winter which would require a huge commitment since that team is close to 2 hours aways, she knows what she will have to give up, in the end if she does want to do it then I will support her. She is a talented boarder for her age so who knows where she will want to go with it.

ETA: I totally agree with the statement above that it is a blessing and a curse.

There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way.
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#4 of 21 Old 04-28-2010, 07:26 AM
 
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Well, I have a daughter who started 6 hour (2x3 hours) gymnastics team at age 5, and a 5yo son who does 90 minutes two times a week.

Just get all the money out of your wallet and say goodbye right now LOL

Men's gymnastics is a small community. There are usually not a ton of programs to compare.

That being said, if you have more than one, compare them. A 6 hour program may be what he will excel in and be happiest in. My son's gym only work the boys ages 5-7, ninety minutes twice a week with an optional Saturday morning practice. Another local gym works all the preteam boys 2x3 hours. I just didn't think my son would appreciate that, but he has a different commitment level than your son.

I home school so they do have quite a bit of play time and can sleep in in the morning if they get worn out. I particularly think not having to be woken is important when they are working out.

Also, from my understanding it is not as important that they boys early-entry into serious training since they peak later. I think it's common in the US for boys to start competing near double digits or in their tweens. Australia, I know, starts competing them young so they don't lose them to other competitive team sports, but that's not our approach.

Also if you have the money you can consider doing privates. He may be too advanced for any class besides the level 4 training group, but you could also train him two times a week for an hour in privates and he might advance just as much if not more with maybe some conditioning sessions at home that you can work into your regular schedule. A lot of team time is waiting in line. If I could afford it I would definitely trade two privates a week for 2 longer group workouts. Of course my kids enjoy the social aspects, but if you need family time, stick with the gymnastics.

Oh -- final suggestion, compare local tramp and tumbling teams also and see how that would fit into your lifestyle. If that works better, he could always switch back to artistic later.
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#5 of 21 Old 04-28-2010, 10:46 AM
 
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Oy, tough question! I am kind of dealing with the same thing. My 4 year old has a natural knack for gymnastics, she's been cartwheeling, round-offs, etc. for the last year. My oldest is in gymnastics right now, so I talked to the coach about her thoughts in which level to put our 4 year old in. Although, her's would only be a two hour class once a week. I just don't know though, part of me thinks she is too young, the part says to do it, lol.

Good luck and keep us posted!

Busy Mama to three beautiful girls and loving wife to my hubby
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#6 of 21 Old 04-28-2010, 11:20 AM
 
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I would also ask around and see if there is a slightly smaller time commitment or one that fits your schedule better.

Here it depends on the gym- teams for that age are 1.5 OR 2 hours twice a week here depending on the gym.

-Angela
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#7 of 21 Old 04-28-2010, 12:03 PM
 
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My DD was the same way - identified early on as having "promise". They wanted her on the team - tons of training hours, tons of expense etc....

I had to really look at what the reality of the situation was.

First, really, at 5 years old, they can tell that a kid has promise?

Also, what were the chances that she would really, truly do something with the gymnastics? What were the chances that she's have a serious injury before ever truly doing something with the gymnastics? The chances were really good. We saw kids constantly getting injured to the point that any real career in gymnastics was lost.

They stressed that competitive gymnasts could get college scholarships - ummmm, with what I paid at the gym (over $400 per month) I could have put that money away and paid for her college outright.

Competitive gymnastics is incredibly hard on the body.

We decided it wasn't for our daughter. Competitive gymnastics took all our family time. It prevented her from doing any other activities. And the reality was that she was more likely to end up with a serious injury than she would be to do something career wise with her gymnastics.

So, we found a really good non competitive gym. They allowed kids to train with the team but not compete. These kids weren't pushed either and they trained a lot less. The team trained 12 hours a week, my DD trained 2. It was enough for her.

And, even though she loved gymnastics at the time and was all about team and competing - she matured, grew and her interests changed and 2 years later, she had out grown gymnastics all together and decided to move on.
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#8 of 21 Old 04-28-2010, 12:11 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Somewhat OT - can someone tell me how to quote from multiple posts in the same response? I'm identifying with things each of you has said and I think it will be hard to follow me if I can't quote, but in all these years on MDC I still haven't figured out how to do that - LOL.

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#9 of 21 Old 04-28-2010, 12:18 PM
 
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Originally Posted by LaurieG View Post
Somewhat OT - can someone tell me how to quote from multiple posts in the same response? I'm identifying with things each of you has said and I think it will be hard to follow me if I can't quote, but in all these years on MDC I still haven't figured out how to do that - LOL.
You click the "+ button on each post and then on the "final" post that you want to quote you click the "quote button.

(at least that is how I do it)

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#10 of 21 Old 04-28-2010, 03:41 PM
 
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I'm another who says if he wants to do it, let him. You're not pushing him to do it, he wants to do it. Some kids have a natural bent towards a particular sport, instrument, whatever. For the pp who mentioned all the injury possibilities, yes, that's true. But that's true for almost any sport, ice skating, skiing, tennis, soccer. You name it, you've got kids w/serious injuries. Doing any sport at an advanced level (even not at an advanced level) puts you at risk for injury. What you need to do is find out how well the gym handles safety. Ask other parents who have kids on the team. They'll tell you. Ask the coaches how they handle things like spotting, what the ratio of kids to coaches is on the team. And specifically for his level.

That said, I have an 8 yr old dd who is a level 5 gymnast. She practices 12 hrs/week ( 3x/wk for 4 hrs) and loves it. It is a huge commitment, from her and our family, but we do it b/c it's her passion.

I'd ask a lot of questions about the program though. How much time do they spend on conditioning and flexibility? That should be a good amount of the 3 hrs. At my dd's gym, the first 45 min to an hour is all conditioning. Running, sit-ups, other core work, etc... all before any work on the apparatuses. And the last 1/2 hr to 40 min is stretching and cooling down. So it's roughly 2 1/2 hrs of actual gymnastics each practice.

I'd ask about body image. How does the gym handle it, address it etc... This is important for boys as well as girls. Is there a lot of emphasis on food, looks, etc...? Do they weigh the boys (or the girls?)
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#11 of 21 Old 04-28-2010, 06:54 PM
 
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As a parent of an older child in another competetive sport, I agree with the premise of if he is highly motivated and you have the money, go for it. My 13 yo ds plays ice hockey and lacrosse. During hockey season he is often gone from home from 4 or 5 pm until almost 11 because he plays an hour away. Lacrosse practice is in our town but it is every.stinking.day from 4:45 until after 7. But if he doesn't do it......
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#12 of 21 Old 04-28-2010, 11:39 PM
 
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My dd is very good at swimming. She has progressed quickly and could have been on the swim team for the last year and a half. The time commitment is too much though and I am having her wait and keep her skill up through lessons and swimmming as a family rather than competitive work. I think that family and friends are more important than a sport that very few people are able to do anything professional with. I think you should go with your instincts. If you think that this sport is going to cut too much into family time and his time to be a kid outside of structured activities then I think you should go with that. If there is a way for him to keep his skill up without that time commitment or if he is open to trying other activities then I think you should try that route.
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#13 of 21 Old 04-28-2010, 11:45 PM
 
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Another vote to let him go for it!

My DD will have her last meet of the season on Friday. This is her first year of competition and she just loves it. She's made great new friends, looks forward to every practice (3X/week for a total of 7.5 hours) and is so excited for the next season before this one is even over! She does have a late dinner twice a week, but we all hang out in the kitchen all the time anyway.

Just today I found this in her backpack after school - "Gymnastics is a very fun sport. I love to do my routines. Sometimes if you do your best you feel really good and you get to feel like your (sic) flying! I feel like gymnastics helps me with school because it makes you get the strength to write a fifteen mile story. My coaches incurage me that I can do a triple backhandspring/back tuck/split." For the record, she's not even close to that kind of stuff, but she BELIEVES she could someday, and for DD that is HUGE.

It's not for everyone, but it's been really good for DD and, really, for all of us. The right fit in a gym is hugely important. DD will never be an Olympian and her coaches aren't ever going to coach one. But they are going to coach a great bunch of kids who love gymnastics and they truly care about the kids.

Best of luck, whatever you decide!
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#14 of 21 Old 04-28-2010, 11:48 PM
 
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I'd ask a lot of questions about the program though. How much time do they spend on conditioning and flexibility? That should be a good amount of the 3 hrs. At my dd's gym, the first 45 min to an hour is all conditioning. Running, sit-ups, other core work, etc... all before any work on the apparatuses. And the last 1/2 hr to 40 min is stretching and cooling down. So it's roughly 2 1/2 hrs of actual gymnastics each practice.

I'd ask about body image. How does the gym handle it, address it etc... This is important for boys as well as girls. Is there a lot of emphasis on food, looks, etc...? Do they weigh the boys (or the girls?)
So glad I saw your post!

I guess I didn't realize how good we have/how bad it could be! My DD isn't a twig, but I can't imagine her coaches ever mentioning it! And while she rolls her eyes at conditioning, they managed to get its importance across to an 8 year old quite nicely.

You've made me feel even more grateful for our happy little gym.
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#15 of 21 Old 04-29-2010, 08:27 AM
 
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One thing to beware of is the sales pitch. How do you feel about this gym? I have had four friends that have been told their pre-schooler had great potential, should compete, olympics, yadda yadda! Your DS is probably great at this, I don't doubt it, but I don't think at five your in the place where he won't be able to compete later if he still wants it.


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The coach (at a different studio in town - one with a reputation for attracting the really pushy parents - the kind who knock on the glass and yell at their kids when they don't do it right) says he is ready for the level 4 class which is a 3 hr class. He proposed starting at one day weekly to ease him into it with the goal of 2 days weekly. 5-8pm, 2 days a week.
I am a sales person, and this sounds like someone trying to sell you, in my opionion. Did he approach you initially, or did you seek him out?

What would happen if you signed DS up for an extra or more advanced class at the gym he is currently using?
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#16 of 21 Old 04-29-2010, 11:32 AM
 
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One thing to beware of is the sales pitch. How do you feel about this gym? I have had four friends that have been told their pre-schooler had great potential, should compete, olympics, yadda yadda! Your DS is probably great at this, I don't doubt it, but I don't think at five your in the place where he won't be able to compete later if he still wants it.




I am a sales person, and this sounds like someone trying to sell you, in my opionion. Did he approach you initially, or did you seek him out?

What would happen if you signed DS up for an extra or more advanced class at the gym he is currently using?
I completely agree with this. I watched it at our gym. They tell parents all these flattering things about their kids (I'm not saying your child isn't talented, just sharing my experience). They get you in and get your money - and it's an incredible amount of money - and they start moving your kid up the ranks - more time, more money.

But, what they never talk to you about is what your child's chances are of really ever doing anything with their gymnastics vs. the chances of a career ending injury.

They also don't talk to you about how a lot of kids peak and/or burn out before ever doing anything with their gymnastics. They train them harder and harder and harder and it's the rare few kids who can take it, who don't get burned out, who don't get injured and who actually do anything with their gymnastics.

In the mean time, you have spent thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars on a gym who may be in the business of churning out elite athletes - they don't specifically care about your particular kid - they want to train the elite.

I know gyms are different but make sure you go into it with open eyes. Gyms can be very seductive. They tell you how talented your kid is, they start out slowly but, the time and money commitment increases and increases and increases.
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#17 of 21 Old 04-29-2010, 12:41 PM
 
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I haven't had the experience of a gym trying to "sell" me on competitive gymnastics, so YMMV. In my experience, gyms have various standards to be placed in a developmental (team track) or team group instead of a rec class. However, it's widely known that rec classes are what support, financially, the gym. Gyms need both rec kids and team kids. If this coach is saying he's a fit for the level 4 group, he's a fit for that gym's level 4 group. Another gym might put him in a different level. That's because each gym has its own standards for its levels and grouping. Of course the competitive levels have their standard skill sets, but one gym will make a group master all level 4 skills and maybe score a minimum score in an in-house meet the year before they move to level 4, where another gym might move up any child who is pretty close to mastering level 3 skills and is ready to start training some level 4. KWIM? Or other standards altogether.

I've never had a gym (and we've been eval'd at several over the years as we tweaked the schedule and budget) try to snow me with discussions of my child's talent. The vast majority of kids are going to be on team for a while and that is all the kids want. It's a huge accomplishment to participate in competitive gymnastics at any level IMO. Gymnastics is a fantastically tough sport.
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#18 of 21 Old 04-29-2010, 12:44 PM
 
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See, my experience is the opposite. Our gym put no money into their rec program. The real money is in team training.

Rec classes are 1x a week. Team training is 2, 3, 4 days a week for hours at a time.

Rec classes generate $80 / mo. Team training generates $400 ++++++ per month.

It's much more financially beneficial to have kids on team.
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#19 of 21 Old 04-29-2010, 02:13 PM
 
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Revenue per student per hour is less in team though the total tuition is more. Rec is the "bread and butter" of the gym.

Bear in mind the general ratio of coaches to gymnasts remains the same whether they are in team training or rec training: generally you need one coach for every 6-8 gymnasts. However, team coaches generally have more experience and must be paid slightly more (though wages for all gymnastics coaches are crazy low).

Basic going private gym rates around here is $60 per month 1 hour/week rec ($15 an hour) some gyms you pay $60 a month for December even though 2 weeks are taken off, etc.

Developmental track: $95-125 per month for 3 hours a week (about $8-10/hour)

6 hour/week team: $145-175 per month (about $6-7/hour)

And it just gets cheaper per hour from there, though tuition continues to rise.
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#20 of 21 Old 04-29-2010, 02:34 PM
 
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I would look at this a little differently than what the other posters have said. I think it's important to consider what you want your family life to look like. Do you want your 5 yo ds gone two evenings a week right now? 5-8 is pretty much all the family time there is in most families in the evening. How do you feel about not having that two nights a week? What about when the commitment rises to three or four nights a week? What about when there are competitions in addition to that? How will it impact your daughter's gym time and free time? Only you can figure out how this type of commitment fits in with your family values and lifestyle. Then you can figure out how much of a commitment you're willing to make to this sport. Good luck!
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#21 of 21 Old 04-29-2010, 06:18 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi all. Got pulled away from the computer when said DS got sick yesterday and am pleased to come back to find so many helpful thoughts.

Thanks to lyterae for clueing me in on the multi-quote thing. I appreciate it! I'm not using it in this post just because there are so many responses now it would take forever to respond to each.

I have been looking at this from the assumption that gymnastics is not going to be his lifelong passion. Of course it may be, and I wouldn't want to close the door on that possibility. But much more likely it will be a passing phase. As DH likes to point out, he's much too tall to be an olympic gymnast anyway. However, gymnastics provides such a good foundation of skills that can be useful to so many other sports and he is very sports oriented - it would not surprise me if he chose to pursue sports to the high-school or collegiate level or beyond. Of course, you don't have to train 6 hrs a week starting at age 5 to get that good foundation.

I think dentmom3's post about her dtr's joy and self-confidence is where my thoughts are going. What is he going to learn in the process? I'm thinking something about priorities in life, working hard, dedication, maybe self-confidence. I would love to hear more stories along those lines, either positive or negative. I understand the point that it really depends upon the gym and the teachers. I don't know this gym very well but I do know that a friend pulled his dtr because he didn't like the vibe the other parents were giving. He said nothing bad about the instructors, and I imagine the kids are not as aware of other parents vibes since they behind a sound proof glass. However, there is also the point of what does he lose in the process. My inclination is to let him try it and if we find it is causing more issues than the benefit we can always change things down the road.

I didn't get the impression it was completely a sales pitch. Clearly they could benefit from convincing us to move from our current gym to theirs, but I don't know what would be the benefit to suggesting such a high level of training. I do know one other child, a girl who is in DS's current class, who was evaluated by this gym and was given a list of skills she needs to work on before she could be accepted into the level 4 class. It sounds like their rates are quite reasonable compared to what many of you are paying. ($76/ month for one night of training, $112 for 2 nights). FWIW, we called them asking for an evaluation.

I'm really learning a lot from those of you with children involved in gymnastics. I don't know much at all about this whole thing.

Laurie Busy mama to Boo (10/02) DeeDa (10/04) and Belly (10/07) TS 45X
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