Grips… It is a rite of passage for all gymnasts. It is the time when gymnasts begin to feel like the “big girls” and when they get to start learning the “big tricks”. So when is it the right time for gymnasts to get grips? Is it after a gymnast makes a certain skill? After a gymnast reaches a certain level? Chalk Warrior asked some of the top coaches in the country when they put their gymnasts in grips.
All About the Level
Some coaches have a designated time when their gymnast will receive her first pair of grips. Usually this is after their gymnast has completed a certain level. While some gymnasts may earn their grips before their peers, the level of the gymnast is a good indication if she is ready for grips or not.
“We put our kids in grips after level 4 (the day after state). [The] reason being is to develop hand strength and a feel for the bar [and to] learn how to jump from bar to bar and how to swing with less peels. Also, getting a kip seems easier without grips than with grips for the average kid. I also don’t want them spending any time adjusting grips in lower levels, they should be working on drills instead of “grip art”.
– Perry Davies, Girls Team Head Coach: Azarian Gymnastics (CA)
“We typically don’t require grips until the girls are level 5. We wait until then because that’s when we really start training giants and do more tap swings and it saves the girls’ hands from getting ripped up.”
– Ryan Kirkham, Girls Team Coach: Olympus Gymnastics (UT)
“Usually around level 4, when they start high bar skills. But if they have tiny hands, we will wait a little bit longer. Also, we recommend that they get the double buckle type because the velcro can slip when it gets clogged with pit dust and chalk.”
– Brandon Weder, Girls Team Coach: Salcianu Elite (NV)
“At MG Elite, we have our gymnast get their grips the day they finish Level 3 States.
When they start doing glide kips, tap swings & jumping to the high bar; I think it is very important to have grips. It helps protect their hands & it also gives the girls a better grip on the bar. Jumping to the high bar is super scary & dangerous. My hope is that the dowel in the grip will help give the gymnast a better grip on the bar. But just to be safe, we spot this for a very long time, teach the gymnasts the proper way to fall and always have a ton of mats underneath the bar.”
– Maggie Haney, Head Coach: MG Elite (NJ)
It’s the Skill
Whether it’s a kip, a clear hip, or a cast handstand, different gyms require different skills in order for gymnasts to get her grips.
“We always start with a very narrow grip, but the general rule is when you do giants, you get grips. I feel no need before then [because] the gymnast isn’t strong enough yet.”
– Craig Zappa, Girls Team Coach: ENA Paramus (NJ)
“We usually start grips once their kip is made successfully. So we do level 3 without grips, and then [level 4] with grips. Also because the hours will increase once you get older and better.”
– Cecile Landi, Girls Team Coach: WOGA (TX)
So When Is The Perfect Time For Grips?
Clubs and coaches around the US all have their own requirements for when grips are needed. There is no one right time for when a gymnast should get her first pair of grips, but the grips should definitely fit and be comfortable on the gymnast’s hands. Also, although gymnasts are generally eager to get their grips, there is generally no rush. Each gymnasts develops at her own rate, and will get her grips when she is ready.