View Full Version : Age or years of experience over talent?

06-24-2013, 07:51 AM
Has anyone faced an extra curricular activity in which the child excels but can not advance due to age or not having enough years experience? If so what did you do? How did you handle it?

I'm in a quandary. I've always been the type who accepts a coach's/instructor's recommendation or decision. This time I want to speak up, but at the same time be respectful. Anyone experienced in supporting your child but not being the obnoxious "my kid is the best" mom?

06-24-2013, 08:32 AM
Many sports have age limits imposed on them by the national parent organization, like hockey and track and field. Each level is identified by age ( usually birth year, occasionally grade level which is more random).

There are always issues with the kids who feel like they've passed their teammates in ability, but honestly, at least in team sports, I find that those kids may shine in the more obvious areas (they score a lot of goals, for example) but lack in others (they don't have the maturity to pass the puck instead, or their sportsmanship is um, less than stellar). I honestly have yet to see a kid who by necessity of skill would benefit from moving up a level; those who do typically end up either burning out or getting passed in ability by the kids who put in their time.

Obviously there will always be exceptions, but I've seen it happen and it's usually to the detriment of well rounded skill development.

06-24-2013, 10:04 AM
I'm not athletic, so you can take this with a grain of salt, but I generally think until high school, that kids should abide by all the age guidelines in physical activities and that the experience shouldn't be about a constant push forward but rather about enjoyment, practice and, when it's a group sport, teamwork. Like, even if BalletBoy was amazing at ballet, it would never occur to me to ask the ballet school to move him up when promotion is based partly on age. He just has to wait.

I guess sometimes, for things like acting, art, etc. that I might get annoyed by age limits and expectations because kids can genuinely need more and less challenge... But then we can always just sign up for a different course somewhere else where the expectations are different. Maybe that's just a privilege of living in an urban area with lots of options though.

06-24-2013, 10:38 AM
I agree with Farrar; also in sports there are typically other avenues you can take, like a travel team or a sponsored league. Or if it's more individual like gymnastics the route to take may be just switching teachers or looking into adding in more competitions.

06-24-2013, 04:08 PM
It probably depends on what kind of activity in which this is occurring. The problem you're describing makes me think of gifted kids who don't fit well within their age groups for certain activities or subjects. In some cases it is in the best interests of the child to move them up or look around for other options that better fit their abilities. Other times it's great to keep them at age-level with the benefits that offers. I'm sure this varies a lot based on the child and the kind of activity.

Good luck!

06-24-2013, 05:06 PM
Without knowing all the details, it's kind of hard to address. I think what I would do is to schedule a private conversation with the couch or director. Explain your concern and tell him/her that you would like to set some specific goals for your child to work on to improve. Maybe this person will acknowledge that your kiddo needs to advance or maybe they will be willing to work on higher level skills without actually moving to a higher level class. This way, you are showing respect for the "rules" of the organization, but you're also advocating for your child. This is a tough situation. good luck!!

06-24-2013, 06:57 PM
I always wished for the opposite so that I could put my small, awkward son into a group of younger kids for sports. All team sports here are rigidly organized by birthdate cut-offs, and my son was always either the youngest or the middle-of-the-pack for his age. He was never the oldest kid on a team. It sucked because he was also one of the least athletic. He figured out by the time he was 8 years old that he "sucks" at sports and didn't want to play anymore. If he could have played with kids one year younger, he would have had more fun and been more their equal athletically.

06-25-2013, 02:54 AM
They are equally important i guess...with years of experience comes skill and decision making capabilities..but only with talent you still have to learn more..both are needed at some point..without either of them no one can stand.

06-25-2013, 09:30 AM
I think the vast majority of any physical skills, while aided by talent, need the instruction and maturity that only come with practice, instruction and age. Of course, there are the incredible exceptions.
I am trying to think of something that doesn't need technique....are you talking about a team sport or what?

06-26-2013, 08:38 AM
It's dance: ballet; tap; jazz; hiphop. Our youngest (almost 8 year old) was also invited to dance in a special jazz number with girls ranging in age from 10 (her sister's age) to 20. She did well and was then asked to perform a mini-duet with her sister.

If she isn't challenged during class, she loses interest and focus. This past year the instructor had her sit on the floor in front of other dancers to see if they could perform without her. This was brutal. I had to tell our kiddo to sit nicely, no rolling of her eyes while others were dancing. All she wants to do is dance, and not sit on the sidelines.

06-26-2013, 08:44 AM
I very much agree with what the other's have said. In your case however, it appears the instructors have already noticed her ability so talking to them about next steps is appropriate.

06-26-2013, 02:59 PM
Ah, dance. I can speak to this. It's a fact that age/maturity has a big impact on dance classes at your daughter's age and sometimes kids who are better able to listen / follow direction / remember choreography etc can be held back in a group setting by other kids who are not as strong yet in those abilities because of their young age. It is a group class after all, and the other students absolutely impact the group dynamic. This isn't entirely guided by age; having disruptive or distracting kids in a class of any age can take away from the time spent focusing on dance itself (versus behavior, participation, listening) but I'm certain this is more common the younger the age group. Of course there can be benefits to any person participating in any group (IMO) because any situation presents learning and growth opportunities for any of us if we are so inclined to view it that way.

Having said that, I didn't personally want to spend $$ and time so my daughter could practice her personal growth skills or have free play time during dance class. I have found there are plenty of opportunities for these things at the park, at the pool, at the library etc etc etc. So I shopped around A LOT for a dance studio where she could be grouped with other kids based on focus and experience level rather than age. We tried out or attended at least 4 dance schools before settling on the one she currently attends.

In ballet this is or will become trickier than in other dance areas because of the physical development required before kids can safely go en pointe. My daughter will be in the ballet class this fall where girls begin to use pointe shoes. She is at least 2 years out from her feet being physically developed enough for pointe shoes so sometime soon the age/experience mismatch is going to catch up with her. Most likely, most or all of the girls in her class will be using pointe shoes by the end of the year and presumably moving up to the next level class next fall. I anticipate my daughter will be in this present class for at least 2 years before she will even be evaluated for pointe shoes (by xray and of course assuming she wants to continue with ballet that long). However, I am no longer too stressed about the issue because the age group of this current ballet level should from this point forward always be a good match for her focus- and maturity-wise just because the kids are all older now. I would expect your daughter's class should also be getting close to the age where they are all able to focus on dance during class time. I would anticipate some of your issue should be naturally resolving itself soon.

It is possible, though, that the dance school itself might not be a good fit for your daughter. If even with kids over the age of 8 or so you feel your daughter still doesn't fit well in the classes there, it might be that a different school with a different structure or focus might be a better fit for her. ?

Good luck! I know from experience that it can be awkward trying to find a good fit for your child without people assuming you are a crazy Tiger Mom. lol It can be tricky for parents when kids' abilities (in either direction) don't match up with their chronological age. Best of luck!

06-26-2013, 03:35 PM
A good studio/teacher wouldn't bench her during class because she's "too good." Can you go somewhere else? There are different paths with dance. Maybe she has just outgrown this particular studio. Does it lead to a pre-professional program?

With tap and jazz, perhaps there are steps you can master and then be too good for a class? I don't know. I can really only speak to ballet. My dancer is also 8 yo. He attends a very good ballet school that has a very solid boy's program and leads to a good pre-professional program so that route is open to him eventually if he wants it. While they do some choreography, the vast majority of what he's learning in his regular class and ALL of what he learns in his special boy's class is technique. Unless you were one of the best 8 yo dancers in the whole nation or something, I can't imagine a scenario where you could be too good for the type of exercises and work I see them doing. There's always room for improvement and I see the teachers pushing the kids to improve their movement and their bodies and so forth all the time.

If your dd is in a school where that's not the case... then I wouldn't think it's a very good school.

Stella M
06-26-2013, 05:09 PM
My dd14 did skip a grade at her dance school. She was 10. Her exam results actually improved, so I guess her technique didn't suffer.

The only time I think kids should be kept in age groups is in the case of contact sports. Actually, I think they should be kept in weight/height groups but age is the next best thing.

06-27-2013, 08:26 AM
Thanks so much for your help. And I don't like seeing our girl "benched" and our studio does not lead to a pre-professional program, so perhaps it is time to find another studio. I appreciate the guidance. I certainly don't want to be a crazy mom but I also want our girl to improve her skills...AND dance. Thanks.

08-01-2013, 05:07 PM
Here is my $0.02.

My son started ballet at age seven and showed promise straight off. By the time he was eight and we had moved interstate, so he was at a different dance school, he was the only boy apart from a couple of toddlers and a few late teens, so he was seen as "special". Whatever. Being the only boy, at the end of year dance concert, he was featured as he was the only boy in his age group and apparently rather good compared to most of the girls anyway, so he was doing well.

Then came along two other boys, new to dance, whose families paid the centre owner big donations (they liked to brag about it so it was no secret) and by the end of the year my son was in the back, given no proper dance time, and these two boys flopped about the stage as the featured dancers.

My son quit ballet as a result and I let him, as the principal suggested I pay a sizeable donation to get my son back in the spotlight. Ugh. No thanks.

So oftentimes talent is passed over for a variety of reasons. In your case, do talk with the class teacher and explain your frustration.

08-03-2013, 03:46 PM
Thanks everyone, and I did speak with our instructor. She agreed that our girl was talented and not getting everything she could out of the lessons. The bottom line was that the instructor was reluctant to move our youngest (soon to be 8) up a level because she thought it might take away the "spotlight" from our oldest (10). Both of our girls would be in the same level. After much discussion, with the instructor and our oldest, we start class next week with both girls in the same level. I hope it's the right move for everyone. This was the first time I ever questioned an instructor's or teacher's decision. Who knows...it may be my last....or the first of many!!! Thanks again.

08-03-2013, 03:59 PM
I know that at our ballet studio, talent and ability are taken into account along with maturity. If you have an excellent dancer, but who will roll around on the floor when she is sitting out, that would probably be considered.
My daughters are both in the same level and a year apart in age. It doesn't bother my kids, would it bother your kids?

08-03-2013, 10:06 PM
No. Both of our girls are fine. Our oldest was the first to say that sissy couldn't stay in her current level. They are both mature and handling the news well. Our youngest has been practicing and is eager for a new challenge.

08-03-2013, 10:43 PM
So glad to see a positive resolution! And good for you sticking up for your kid!