Generally, children start gymnastics around 3-7 years old. (It really doesn't matter how young they are when they start, it is proven to have little bearing on their future abilities as a competitive athlete but it's great fun and exercise for any kid!) As they attend their recreational classes, our coaches and Head Coach evaluate them on several fronts - capability, work ethic, form, etc. Usually within a few years of starting in the recreational program a qualified athlete's parents will be approached to consider entering the competitive stream (like you!). The only fundamental difference is that it is called Pre-Competitive Program, with the aim that they will attend one competitive meet during the year (Satellites Summer Spectacular), and progress through the Provincially recognized levels and compete in Provincially sanctioned meets.
What will my child need?
Competitive athletes attend competitions and represent Satellites and Owen Sound among dozens of other cities and towns. We have a team uniform (gym-suit and warm-up) that you will need to acquire - (ask around for available hand-me downs!). We generally update our suits every 2 or 3 years. Athletes also benefit from a dedicated gymnastics bag in which they will keep extra socks, bandages and athletic tape. At some point your athlete may also require wristbands and grips. These are leather strips with buckles that hook over the middle fingers and protect the palms from abrasion while training on the bars. We have training suits for sale in the office, and you will also see items for sale at competitions.
What kind of time commitment are we talking about?
As a recreational gymnast, your child is likely training 1-2 times per week, for a total of 1-4 hours. This will be increased to 2-3 times per week, for a total of 6-9 hours per week. They will also train through the summer, in preparation for the next competition year. Depending on their levels, some of our dedicated athletes train 4-5 times per week up to 20 hours. It's hard work, but the rewards both in and outside the gym are tremendous. If you ask any of our gymnasts, they'll say its worth every minute! Understanding there are school and family commitments and each family is unique, we try to work with families to place their athletes in the programming that is right for them.
What is required from me as a competitive parent?
Our Club runs on both the competitive and recreational programs. As a competitive parent, you will no longer be required to register each session. Instead, you will receive a monthly invoice for training hours and these can easily be done by automatic withdrawal. In order to keep these fees as low as possible, we participate in the club committees, fundraising efforts and our recreational program must remain healthy. Therefore any and all assistance in fundraising and volunteering for events help subsidize your costs. We can only succeed through your engagement.
We have a Competitive Mentor Program which matches your family with a veteran competitive athlete and their parents. These folks have committed to provide you with an information, advice or support you need during the first years of competing. The senior gymnasts are role models to your child and are prepared to offer their encouragement and positive influence at practice, competitions and events. Their seasoned parents are also at your disposal to offer any tips and experiences that will make this transition a wonderful time in your child's gymnastics career! Alternatively, we encourage you to talk with your child's coach, Head Coach and Board members with any and all observations and ideas that will make the kids' experience the best. You will also find that as the athletes train more together, your child will forge friendships with their teammates outside of school and they will more often than not be so for a very long time (sleepovers are a favourite!) they will support each other in training and competition, and grow together as fellow gymnasts. Other than that, your love and support, just like in everything, is the best thing you have to offer your athlete!
These are great fun for the kids and the parents, especially at the wee ages! Children under 6 attend competitions that are specially designed for their level of development not only physically but mentally and socially. Rather than traditional routines on apparatus, the kids perform a series of tasks at several different stations over a couple of hours. For example, one station might be a rope climb where the child climbs the rope as fast as they can, or another might be holding a pike sit for as long as they can. These competitions introduce the child to the competition atmosphere, travelling, preparation and 'dressing' for competition, being around many other gymnasts, performing in public, and developing their confidence to excel. This is an opportunity for parents to feel the pride for their athlete without the risk of huge disappointment. This is the time when parents really need to set the tone of encouragement, refrain from criticism, and try not to be too competitive themselves.
After this level, a child becomes OCP (Ontario Competitive Program) and their competitions are more traditional. They will learn routines (we at Satellites take pride in giving each athlete their own floor routine where the music and choreography is tailored to their personality and abilities - this is when they really feel 'like the big girls' - especially if they are handed sown a routine from one of their favorite older gymnasts!). They will compete in what are referred to as 'flights'. These are groups of athletes from several different Clubs around the Province of the same level and age who will compete against each other.
We are invited to several invitational meets over the year, all over the Province. You are not required to attend all, but the more experience competing, the better (and they are fun for the children!) Flights are offered normally Saturday and Sunday from 7:00 am - 7:00 pm. Your child's flight will last approximately 4 hours. You are not allowed on the gym floor (don't worry - your child's coach will be right beside them the whole time!) At this stage your child will learn about the social nuances of individual competitions, experience both pride and challenges in their performance, however are not yet awarded places. Instead, each child's routine is judged and given a rating of gold, silver, bronze and merit, based on their technical and artistic performances. They receive a certificate at the Awards Ceremony at the end of their flights. At this stage the athletes are not subject to ranking and scores just yet.
After 9 years old, athletes are full fledged competitors, routine requirements, scores, ribbons and medals, the whole deal. It is important for the parents to be emotionally tuned in to their athlete as there are bound to be moments of sheer joy, and also those of defeat. During these years your child is preparing for the Provincial stream.
Once Level 3 is achieved (they are evaluated by their coach based on the skills they have mastered) athletes will participate in Provincially sanctioned competitions. There are a series of qualifying meets that culminate into the "Provincial Cup" which is the championship of all Ontario. Based on their standings in the qualifying meets, athletes may or may not become eligible to compete in the Cup.
What if the Competitive Program isn't for you?
No problem. If your child chooses to remain in the recreational stream they will receive the same quality of instruction as their competitive counterparts. Please let us know if there is any other information you would like to have regarding transitioning to the competitive program!
Satellites Gymnastics Club
Through dedication, hard work, commitment and some natural talent, your child has been recognized as an athlete with the potential to represent Satellites in the Provincial or National Competitive stream. This is neither an easy nor common accomplishment so consider yourselves and your child elite!
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