Physical Potential vs Desire

The 2011 Jr. Olympic competition season is now about to start. All our girls are trying to get into routine shape, but some of them are still struggling. They have some weak areas that they were not able to fix during the pre-season.

However, many of the problems are also quickly fixed around this time because of the urgency of getting ready to compete. During the last few weeks the intensity of the training has gone up and as a result the productivity has gone up as well. I hope all the girls will be ready to compete safely by the first meet of the season.

We have 2 young gymnasts (11 yrs. & 12 yrs. old) competing at Level 9 for the first time. Observing the development of these two gymnasts this year was quite interesting.

One gymnast (12 yrs. old) came to us from a different club almost three years ago. She is physically talented and she has been in the TOPS program since she was 8 or 9 yrs. old. When she came to us she was already able to do most of the TOPS strength exercises quite well and she was very strong for her age.

She went through the Level 7 & Level 8 during the past two seasons with us, but she was injured most of the time. Her body was very fragile and she had many problems in her joints, such as ankles, wrists as well as elbows. Our concern was damaging her growth plates in the joints by pushing her hard, so we had to interrupt her training many times. As a result, she has progressed rather slowly for the amount of physical talent she possesses.

She has never trained consistently for an extended period of time up until last summer. But finally her body was able to build enough strength and she was able to train harder for the skills she needs to get for Level 9 and beyond.

We are considering have her challenge to the elite program after the JO competition season. We feel that she has picked up enough skills to possibly compete in the classics and qualify to the US Championships.

We have one other girl (11 yrs. old) who just finished competing Level 7 last season and she joined our morning training group last summer. She started her gymnastics in our tot’s program and came up in our normal developmental system.

The morning training group is composed of gymnasts who are in the home school program. They train twice a day and work out around 36 hrs. per week.
So the girls in this program are committed and serious about their training.

We started all the basics with this girl to build the foundation for optional routines. She has not shown any special physical traits for an elite level potential. We felt her physical potential was very average, but she has not developed too many bad habits that could possible slow down her development.

We could tell that she is very serious about gymnastics and she is willing to put her time into the training. She was always willing to do many repetitions of simple drills without loosing interest. She has never complained about her hands being hurt nor being too tired. We know that the biggest problem working with young gymnasts during the basic training is to keep the motivation high and maintain good intensity on each turn.

She has made progress slowly, but little by little she has kept steadily progressing in the past 6 months.

By the time the competition season came around we found that she had out learned all her teammates in the last 6 months. For example on bars, she was able to do the average Level 7 routine when she started with us. The routine consisted of a handstand pirouette, low clear hip circle, weak (arched) back giants and low layout flyaway.

Now (by the end of the year), she is doing a Level 9 routine with a clear hip circle handstand, cast handstand pirouette, blind turn, front giant, pirouette, shoot over and tuck double back dismount.

She has also learned Level 9 skills on all the other events as well and is ready to compete at level 9 this season.

She has scored out of Level 8 in a small pre-season meet this month so officially she is a Level 9 gymnast for this season.

We have noticed that this girl has a very strong desire to be a good gymnast and has the mental toughness those most successful gymnast posses. She is a grinder and she does not give up many things easily.

However, she needs to be further developed if we consider her to be elite level material. We have not tested her with the high difficulty level skills that might be physically tough and mentally more fearful to learn. But we have not spent much time with her yet to see how well she will respond to the stressful training.

At the start of this competition season both gymnasts are standing on the same starting line at the Level 9. However, the competitions and the training during the next few months will tell us much more about these 2 gymnasts.

Have fun coaching!

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