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To consider 10 hours gym a week excessive?

(66 Posts)
janep57 Mon 19-Mar-18 07:31:49

My 6 year old granddaughter attends a gym club and has been asked to ‘try out’ for their squad. This will mean 10 hours (!) gym a week - 4 hours on a Saturday, and 4 - 7 on Wednesdays and Thursdays. As far as we can tell there is no middle ground option. She does love her gym and is a good little gymnast but she is 6 years old. I am very concerned about this on many levels, not least the effect on her developing body (and mind!). Add to this that her Mum is a single parent with two other younger daughters and lives half an hour from the gym and is only just surviving on benefits and her income from her part time job so that we will be subsidising the gym. I guess luckily we are in a position to do so but this also makes the whole situation socially divisive. Apparently this situation is very common and I’m sure it applies to many other areas of children's’ interests. It is just excessive for so many reasons, but very difficult to say to a child that they cannot do something which has been offered to them like this. I’d welcome comments.

BlueBelle Mon 19-Mar-18 07:50:49

I had one granddaughter who was a brilliant gymnast but was burnt out by 13 and having bad knees and panic attacks she’s never been near it since her mum was running her all over the place a lot of money and effort went into it
The countries that have the greatest gymnast Russia China use the most punishing regimes from a tiny age 3 they are literally trained like circus animals doing punishing exercises I watched a video once it made me cry those poor little kids
It’s a hard one as the child doesn’t realise how much ten hours is going to erode everyone lives remembering 10 hours is the STARTING amount it will increase as she gets older if she sticks to it

sodapop Mon 19-Mar-18 07:56:24

If you want to excel at any sport you have to train hard. All our leading sports people and their families will say they had to give up a normal life to train.
Having said that it presupposes your granddaughter has exceptional talent, I think you have to weigh this against the needs of the rest of the family. If she wants to do this then maybe other parents will help with supervision and transport, maybe the club can help with this,
These things are often short lived with children so I would let her try it for a while then reassess the situation.

OldMeg Mon 19-Mar-18 08:02:49

When I was younger I was a B.A.G.A. in my spare time. I also coached the Junior Town Team and judged gymnastic competition.

Yes, this is far too much for a 6-year old. It’s not just the time commitment but also the potential damage to young limbs and back.

I’d think very carefully about this. At this age sport, any sport, should just be for pleasure and exercise and if the child shows promise then more hours, technique and discipline introduced gradually. And it must be the child’s choice, not the parents.

Also too many trainers and clubs are in it for their own glorification. They are quick to drop children who don’t make the grade.

janep57 Mon 19-Mar-18 08:05:09

Obviously to reach a very high standard you have to train hard. However so very very few ever make that standard and I’m not sure how desirable that is anyway. I am shocked that there are obviously so many very young children (and families) being put in a position where they have to make this level of commitment at this very early age. I know it’s not like the Chinese/Russians but it still strikes me as a very poor way of treating children.

Nelliemoser Mon 19-Mar-18 08:09:21

Children need time to play and relax. I always wonder in situations like this whose ambitions are being played out here. The parents or the child's?
I would think there might be potential damage to a childs physical development with too much rigorous traning before their bodies are really ready for this.

A six year old might find it very difficult to tell a parent they do not want to do this at a "professional" level. There are parents who get "banned" from standing on the sidelines of a childrens football matches because they are over zealous in how they are "encouraging" their child.

janep57 Mon 19-Mar-18 08:10:32

Thank you for that OldMeg. It confirms my thoughts. Do the gymnastics associations have any guidelines on the age of children and training times?

janep57 Mon 19-Mar-18 08:25:02

I think my daughter is very torn between wanting the best for her child, wanting her to do something she loves, and her own feelings that this is too much. I don’t think it is really the parents’ ambition that’s the problem. The trouble is if you tell a parent their child is talented it makes it very hard to say no because they feel they are depriving their child. As a teacher I saw this so often with boys and football. My husband and I have 54 years secondary school teaching experience between us and only ever saw a tiny number of young people make it to the top for all the huge numbers of parents making financial sacrifices and disrupting family life for the sake of a child’s talent. I honestly believe there needs to be some sort of debate about all this. Children and families definitely need time to play and relax.

M0nica Mon 19-Mar-18 08:28:46

I would have severe doubts about an organisation that expected a child as young as six to do such prolonged sessions twice a week, an hour a day, perhaps, but even that sounds excessive

I went on to the British Gymnastics Association site and found their Health and Safety policy and it contains the para
^Children under eight years of age
Where gymnasts under the age of eight years are involved in activities of a duration of two or more
hours, the provider may be required to register with the Local Authority Social Services. Although
the legislation that regulates the care of children under eight years is not normally applied to sport,
British Gymnastics recommends that clubs with classes for children within this age group should
notify the Local Authority of their existence to avoid any uncertainty on the issue.
British Gymnastics recommends that sessions for children under the age of eight years do not
exceed two hours and classes for pre-school children should not be longer than 45 minutes.^

which rather confirms my doubts about the advisability of the training recommended for this child.

I would contact the BGA and find out what they would recommend. There are further relevant paragraphs about young children in the HSE policy. The times and durations they give are advisory maximums, not advisory levels.

OldMeg Mon 19-Mar-18 08:31:31

It’s 20 years since I was coaching jane but I’m very surprised at the level of commitment they expect from a child this age.

Can I suggest you check that she would be expected to attend all these sessions for the full time if she was chosen? It seems excessive.

Also could it be suggested that she perhaps continue as she is for now and ‘try out’ at a later date when she is older.

harrigran Mon 19-Mar-18 08:34:30

I think 10 hours a week is way too much for a six year old, her little joints will be taking a lot of punishment. I attended a gym club that trained olympic gymnasts and it made me determined not to put my children through that.
GDs have left a swimming club that were piling on the pressure to train everyday before school.

janep57 Mon 19-Mar-18 08:42:36

Thanks all - you are confirming my concerns. In fairness I think the club is registered with all the right people but they are pretty competitive. They don’t seem to be allowing a compromise position. Yes harrigran, the gym club my daughter went to was run by two ex competitive gymnasts who ran it on a just for fun level because of what they had been through as children. It clearly isn’t only gym which is like this. I think the clubs get carried away with themselves!

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Mon 19-Mar-18 10:07:49

That sounds a lot for a 6yo. My (almost 10yo) DD runs with a club twice a week for 60-90 mins at a time. On top of this she does cross country training at school one or two lunchtimes a week (30 mins a time), plus football training twice a week (1 x 30 mins and 1 x 60 mins) and then there are matches and races on top as and when. So anywhere between 5 and 7 hours a week in total of very full-on sport. She loves every minute - but she is almost 4 years older. I'm not sure she would have managed this at 6.

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Mon 19-Mar-18 10:09:37

She is also my only one so that makes logistics a lot easier and husband and I are able to split the out-of-school stuff too. But i have friends with children who swim competitively and are expected to train 6 days a week, sometimes at 5.30am. With other children that is very difficult indeed

eazybee Mon 19-Mar-18 10:11:47

You are right to be concerned; ten hours a week is excessive for a six year old. Children in physical activities do need to start early and train hard, but this is too much, and may cause permanent injury. Some of these clubs are interested only in competitions and medals, and have no idea how to regulate pressure.
It will also impact on the other children in the family.
I taught a nine year old who had been training in competitive gymnastics from the age of six, and the mother ignored all concerns about her level of involvement, and the neglect of the other two children as a consequence
The crunch came when an official from her club phoned the school and instructed the Headmaster that the child must not take part in any PE or sports lessons in case she injured herself. Social services were sent round to investigate the family, and the club, which was not following B.G.A guidelines.

Jalima1108 Mon 19-Mar-18 10:23:19

Ten hours a week does seem a lot; if a child shows talent I wonder if it could 'take over' their lives and in fact affect their joints later on.
I know of a girl (aged 9) who is taken out of school early every day of the week to travel 40 minutes to gymnastics training - then competes some weekends. That is not in this country so being taken out of school for an hour a day is allowed - but is it a good thing?

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Mon 19-Mar-18 10:24:33


I am also reassured by the fact DD's club coach is a physio and very much on top of how much they do, what they do, how they do it and so on. If she trains on a day she has had a football match, for example, she will reduce what she does in the evening accordingly.

Cold Mon 19-Mar-18 10:27:29

If you are in the USA and have hopes of being an elite gymnast then this type of training is pretty common. Many train the long hours in the hope of making the national team or getting a gymnastics scholarship to a top University.

Jalima1108 Mon 19-Mar-18 10:34:13

Something to look out for is that very sporty children can develop Osgood Schlatter's or other similar conditions through over-exercising developing joints.
It was explained to us by a consultant that the bones can develop and the growing points do not always harden off into solid bone straight away - thus over-exercise can cause pain and tenderness and rest is required.

We do know of several children who developed this or something similar (including one of ours).

Not wishing to alarm you, OP, but it is something to look out for and needs prompt medical attention.

Cold Mon 19-Mar-18 10:35:46

The countries that have the greatest gymnast Russia China use the most punishing regimes from a tiny age 3

You are way behind the times BlueBelle. Russia and China are not the leading women's gymnastics nation - the top women's gymnastics Nation is the US - the last 4 Olympic Champions have been American. They train very long hours with 30-40 hours a week for top 10-12 year olds being common. Some gyms run their own home-schooling programmes at the gym. In the US there is also the collegiate scholarship system where hundreds of gymnasts get college scholarships and the best are recruited at 13-15.

However the dark side of this sucess and early training was revealed recently when the team doctor was convicted of child sexual abuse

janep57 Mon 19-Mar-18 11:08:13

Thanks all. It’s just all too much isn’t it? It’s different when a child is old enough to make a reasonable judgement but I just know so many stories of parents who gave up all sorts to ferry their children round the country at the expense of other siblings and then it’s all given up when other interests take over. I think the clubs are at fault though I have to say for putting pressure on the parents to think this is somehow normal.

Nonnie Mon 19-Mar-18 11:34:25

Talent needs to be nurtured to develop and this is not excessive if done correctly. If it were my gc I would check on the qualifications of the people training her as young bones can easily be damaged. If the trainers are professional a lot of that time will be on warming up and warming down as well as discussing the theory of what they are doing. Yes, you can do that with a 6 year old.

If you really think this is too much perhaps you could take her to ballet, tap or modern classes instead of one of the gym sessions. That way she would be doing something which would help her with the gym if she did take it seriously but giving her an opportunity to try something else which she might like instead. Be warned, you do need to ensure the teacher is properly qualified in those too.

Once I had done that I would give her all the encouragement she needs but I would not push her.

There are a lot of people whose parents thought they knew best who are full of regrets at what might have been and I can think of one particular girl who was talked out of doing what she was passionate about and now, at the age of 37, works on the fringes of what she really wanted to do.

M0nica Mon 19-Mar-18 16:57:15

DGD, aged 10, is a very good and fast swimmer and recently reached the stage where she had to decide whether to sign up with a swimming club and enter their training squad with all that entails or just have swimming as an activity she enjoys.

But after investigating all the demands on child and family, there was family agreement that she would not take that route. For her it would have meant giving up all the other activities she takes part in and also has a talent for, especially dancing and for her parents, whose work makes lots of demands outside office hours, the strain of meeting the demands of swimming training would be too much. They were also uneasy about a child as young as 10 focusing on one activity to the exclusion of all other, plus the effects on the other child in the family.

Eloethan Mon 19-Mar-18 18:49:21

Everything is so competitive now. Even young children are being eyed with a view to taking part in serious competitions and possibly the Olympics.

It seems to me that, when it becomes so time-consuming and serious, the enjoyment, at least for some children, must go out of it. And I also think it might be physically damaging.

I wouldn't encourage such a huge time commitment in a young child. And, even when children are in their early teens, is it really a great idea for them to be training for many hours a week and giving up almost all other social activities?

Deedaa Tue 20-Mar-18 22:20:48

I think DD will have been training for 10 hours a week when she started gymnastics, but she was 8. By the time she gave up at 15 she was training about 16 hours I think, plus she was doing a lot at home. Really she was only happy in the gym but it didn't stop her doing very well academically as well. The daughter of one of her friends was exceptionally promising but was in the National Squad before she left primary school and just became completely overwhelmed and dropped gymnastics altogether.