What Should.My.7 Month Old Baby Be Doing At This Time The US Gymnastics TOPs Program

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The US Gymnastics TOPs Program

TOPs stands for Talent Opportunity Program. This program is designed to identify those girls between the ages of 7 and 11 who show special talent in gymnastics and who are not already enrolled in an elite program or training for international competition.

Girls are first identified by their respective gyms and coaches as having potential to further their training. Usually, this means that the girls show talent in flexibility and strength; however, both of these can be improved with additional training in the TOPs program. TOPs is a separate program from any other training, including team training programs, and therefore requires additional practice time. An extension of this is Baby TOPs, which is designed for girls who show talent but have not reached any team training level.

Once they are identified as having potential, the girls are tested briefly by their coaches to identify any deficits in their abilities. The purpose of the program is to provide training to correct these deficits. The training class also works on flexibility and strength with specific conditioning exercises.

At the end of each training year, the girls are then tested on their skills. This TOPs testing takes place during the summer, in the months of June and July. First, the girls are tested locally in several skills; and if they manage to perform at the highest level, they are invited to test nationally. This is an opportunity for them to compare their performance with other girls in their age group across the country.

Girls test at the age they will be in that calendar year. For example, a girl turning 8 in November will test at the 8-year-old level, even though they will only be 7 at the time of testing. Testing is available for girls ages 7 to 11. (A similar program, called HOPEs, focusing on pre-elite girls ages 10-12, is available.)

The skills tested vary from year to year as the program is continually reviewed and revised. Currently, the tests for strength and flexibility include the following: right and left leg splits, bridges, vertical jumps, 20-meter sprint, rope climbing in the lunge position, leg lifts, handstand, press, and cast handstands. The requirements for each skill vary depending on the age of the gymnast. The goal for handstands for girls ages 7-9 is 30 seconds, while the goal for girls ages 10-11 is 60 seconds. Girls ages 7-8 aim to complete 5 press and throw handstands, while girls 9-11 should try to complete 10 of each. Everyone should aim for 20 leg lifts. The goals for flexibility, jumping and timed running and climbing are more difficult to define, but all girls are encouraged to perform all of these skills in the best time and distance possible. Although no artistic points are given for any special skill, penalties may be imposed for poor form, such as bent knees, arched wrists on the cast, etc. This happens more often at the national level.

At the end of the testing season, results will be posted and the gymnasts are placed in different levels. For girls aged 7-8, these are Gold, Silver and Bronze, with the top 10% given Diamond status. This category is equal to National Testing status in the older girls; however, they do not test nationally. Girls aged 9-11 receive Gold, Silver and Bronze and the top girls qualify for National TOPs Testing. National testing takes place in Texas. At the conclusion of this testing, the best 60 athletes are selected for Team A to go to camp with Bela Karolyi as their coach, all expenses paid. The next 60 athletes form Team B and are invited to participate in the camp but must pay their own way.

Although approximately 50% of the US national team gymnasts come through the TOPs program, it is not a guarantee that any girl will make it to this level. Many factors will affect a gymnast’s performance at any time and place.

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