Your Kid Probably Isn't the Next Simone Biles. Here's Why You Should Keep Her in Gymnastics Anyway

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Answer by Tim Lockwood, World's Best Dad, or so the coffee mug says, on Quora:

My daughter is 12 years old and is only level 5 in gymnastics. Should I make her quit? She's not that good at gymnastics. Most girls her age would be training for the Olympics by now. I keep telling her that she's too old, but she insists on going to practice every time.

Where on this earth did you get the idea that most girls in gymnastics, at the age of 12, would be training for the Olympics? Did you watch the Olympics this year? Did you notice how many young ladies competed in the Olympics for the United States?

It was five. Not five thousand or five hundred, but five.

The truth is, the vast majority of the girls who take gymnastics are not, nor will they ever be, "Olympic hopefuls." There are approximately 100,000 girls taking gymnastics, and only 79 were considered elite enough gymnasts to even be remotely considered Olympic material this last time around.

Now, at 12 years old, level 5 is neither great nor horrible - it is right on track. My daughter, who will turn 12 in less than a month, is set to move from level 4 to level 6, skipping over level 5 (true of all her teammates at her level). The reasons for skipping over level 5 have nothing to do with having stellar skills, as much as it has to do with a coaching decision to allow the girls to do optionals, since that is the only practical difference between the two levels (the skills required in both levels are basically the same). But level 5 is where she would be were it not for that decision. So level 5 is totally appropriate and reasonable for that age.

If you're trying to compare your daughter to Aly Raisman or Simone Biles, you're doomed to disappointment. But why would you do that, to yourself or to her? At level 5, she has a certain set of physical skills that I don't have and you probably don't, either. To have attained level 5, she has proven that she is coachable. She has proven that she is willing to work towards her goals. She has proven that she can provide her best individual effort while working in the context of a team. And by insisting on going to practice despite you trying to talk her out of it, she has proven she has the determination to stick with something and to see it through.

Now, as a gymnastics parent, I totally understand. It can be expensive. Because we can't fully afford it, my wife and I are on our way to her gym right now, on a Sunday, to clean the place as payment for her lessons. It is an arrangement we have made with the owner of the gym. But we do that because our daughter has demonstrated her willingness to work at developing her skills and loyalty to her teammates. Not every gym will have the option to do that, though. So if you can't afford it, it's understandable if you want to pull the plug. It's regrettable, but understandable.

But to pull her out strictly because she's not an Olympic hopeful is completely unrealistic, and completely misses the long-term benefits of gymnastics. Not just physical benefits, but mental and emotional as well.

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