Physical ability testing programs in WAG (women’s Artistic gymnastics) is a polarizing topic.
For every great coach who swears by one of these program, I can name another great coach who thinks they are a waste of valuable time.
There is actually no divide between great coaches. All the best coaches I know assess young gymnasts with their own battery of criteria: body type, strength, quickness, flexibility, agility, courage, enthusiasm, parental support, etc.
Most elite coaches can assess young children within 10 minutes as accurately as any testing scheme.
The real questions are:
â€¢ do we want testing programs to replace competitions?
â€¢ do we want inter-club testing programs? Or simply keep it in-gym?
Personally I like to make a “big deal” of physical ability testing only for a year or two. Perhaps the second and/or third year of serious training in the career of each gymnast. It’s part of the education process of athlete and parents.
As soon as possible, actual and modified gymnastics competitions should become more important goals in the minds of coach and athlete.
Many physical ability testing schemes are criticized for being too complicated, too time-consuming and inconsistently evaluated. In my experience, those complaints are valid more often than not.
Physical ability testing is one part of programs that often seem to go by acronyms: TOPS, STEP, LEAP, etc.
I’ve seen good kids quit the sport after a poor result in testing. That’s a shame.
Physical ability tests measure “potential”, not “talent”.
The most successful two Artistic gymnasts out of my Province are Jennifer Wood and Kylie Stone.
Both would fare badly on the FLEXIBILITY component of any testing scheme.
Yet those girls obviously had “talent”.
The best strategy for coaches, I think, is to start many kids in physical ability testing programs â€” but move them OUT quickly if it gets discouraging. This would be a “promotion” to competitions.
Every gym has some kids who do well in testing, who love testing. Those can stay longer in the testing program before starting to compete.
Note: Technical (skills) ability testing programs are much less controversial. Mosts coaches see benefit in having kids challenged by trying to master a list of evaluated skills and drills.
photo – Marina from Canmore Illusions Gym Club