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Blog: TOPs A Camp

*** Interested in winning a free week at Flip Fest camp this summer. Check out our new podcast episode #8  at 19:07 for more details how how to entry our free week contest. Thank you to Flip Fest ***  #flipfestfullsets

Region 5 qualified 8 TOPs A athletes to National TOPs camp this year held at Flip Fest. This is a big accomplishment for these athletes as they are the best of the best in the TOPs program for 2018 season. In order to qualify to this camp, TOPs athletes have to test (physical abilities and skills) at the state testings and achieve a qualifying score to the National Testing. At the National Testing, the top 48 athletes move onto the TOPs A camp to work with our National Staff. It’s a great learning experience for both athlete and coach. We had our TOPs A’s blog about their experiences at camp.

**Missing is Caroline Moreau from Lakeshore Mount Prospect. We reached out to the gym but no response**


Carly Weinberg, Buckeye Gymnastics

I just got back from Nationals TOPs A camp. One of the things I really liked when I went to camp which was held at Flip Fest in Tennessee was the friends I met! One of my new friends is Adalyn. She is from Indiana and competes for DeVeau’s. We both stayed in the Cedar cabin while we were at camp. Our counselor in the Cedar cabin was Heather. We all had a lot of fun playing telephone. I liked all of the national staff coaches because they were so nice and supportive but one of my favorites was Tammy Biggs. Tammy coached the beam, which is my favorite event.  She was very positive and gave me great feedback to help me improve. Each cabin had to come up with a skit and on the last night of camp, we had to show our skits. The theme of our skit was jingle bell rock! So we named our cabin Jingle Gymnast!!! We didn’t win the best skit but we still had a ton of fun showing it to the rest of camp. My most memorable part about camp was winning first place in physical abilities! I felt so proud of myself. This was my third time at TOPs A camp. They have all had a big impact on me!

Tori (Victoria) Kitzmiller, Naperville Gymnastics

The day I left for TOPS National Team Camp this month one of my coaches posted a picture of me with a couple of quotes. I want to start by saying how much they mean to me personally. She said “USA Gymnastics Taught Me How to Shine” and I truly believe that. It also said “Find your best YOU at NGC” (my gym) USA Gymnastics and my gym have been everything to me throughout the past year. I came to NGC last December. I had just finished Level 4 and was training (hoping) to test out of level 5 and  hopefully make Level 7. My season started rough and ended at regionals REALLY WELL. It gave me so much confidence as I started training up skills for TOPS this summer. I felt so confident at National testing and was SO HAPPY when I heard that I made “A Camp” this year! The experience training with the National Staff at TOPS and other camps we attended this season was awesome and that’s why I feel it’s taught me to shine! My gym has helped me succeed from basically a level 5 to almost a level 9 in one year! The way the TOPS camps teach us to progress and learn made all the difference to me.  My coaches and lots of my teammates are really close with the Flip Fest Camp family but I had never been there until TOPS camp. My teammates were so excited for me and told me all about it so I was even more pumped up to go! One of my coaches was there about 3 weeks before TOPS camp and gave me great tips of things to bring that helped!

It was so much fun meeting girls from different parts of the country my age or a little older- all with the same goals! Making Elite that is! I didn’t think things would happen as fast as they have, but it’s made all of the hard work really worth it. Last year when I was at TOPS camp It was like I was there to learn and take it all in but this time I was there to show the staff how much I have learned and corrected since seeing them last. It takes a LOT of work to make the physical ability tests as close to perfect as possible and I still have a lot to learn and improve. I have learned this year that making it (the skill or Physical Ability element) doesn’t mean much if it’s not PERFECT like the absolutely best body shape and technique. Same with my event skills. I have been training to test the HOPES division when I turn 10 so there is never any point that I stop progressing and learning my skills since the optional routines are scored and judged based on the difficulty I have.

Being at the TOPS camp surrounded by some of the very best kids that will or already are competing in the HOPES/Pre Elite program motivated me even more! Knowing that the staff I got to work with and take corrections from also coach the very best gymnasts in the world like Simone, Morgan and Ragan really hit me on the 2nd day of camp. Coach Dan (Baker) was helping me with my vault and when I was able to make a correction (after a wipeout!) it made me MORE confident than ever not nervous like I would have thought I’d be! Because he was excited and believed in ME!

Working with Miss Tammy is always fun but challenging because she teaches us SO MUCH and talks about everything SO FAST we barely keep up but she knows So many amazing drills and ways to make skills perfect it makes learning from her so cool and exciting! Sometimes a little scary but pretty much EXCITING! Like what are we going to do next?! Oh! Wow! We’re going to do what with these bands on our arms?! Oh! We are going to jump on the high beam and do what?! So you can see why it’s always a challenge!

We got to work with Lumme (Luminita Garcy) who can coach EVERY event to the highest level possible and seems to always remember everyone she works with. She has a way to really make you feel special and important and make you want to do your VERY VERY best every turn no matter what!

Coach Ivan is someone I got to work with (with Lumme, Vladimir, Dan and Antonia) at the Region 5 TOPS/Elite Camp last May at Buckeye Gymnastics in Ohio. His tumbling drills helped my coaches help me improve a LOT this summer. It was cool to get compliments from him because he probably remembers what I was doing back in May. He probably would actually laugh if he saw video.

Vladimir is a great bar coach and I am glad he is really picky about all of the little details because I knew what he would dislike going into the TOPS Camp this time! IT made me really focus on correct shapes in the new skills especially even though I still have a long way to go!

I love to dance and still take dance classes a couple days a week even though my training hours are pretty long so working with Antonia was SO fun. The style of dance she gets us to do is really dramatic but fun at the same time. She always makes every kid feel like they did a great job even if it wasn’t really that great. That is what I love so much about everyone on the National Staff right now. They have a way of letting you know what you do needs to be right and it’s not really acceptable to do things sloppy or wrong but they make you feel so proud to be there that you dig deep and are able to do things better than you thought possible.

I loved that we still got to stay in cabins with girls we got grouped with and the chaperones were helpful and really looked out after us. My counselor was really nice and made sure I had time to be at the gym early to roll out and get a little extra stretching in before our line up each morning. Flip Fest provided REALLY good meals and we could always make a big salad with protein. Some kids were worried about the food but that was definitely nothing to worry about.

The cool thing about TOPS National Team Camp is that USA Gymnastics runs it like a Developmental Camp. You have to test your physical abilities on the first day just like the Devo camps. They told us that the warm up, the rotations and the way they run it is just like it except at TOPS Camp you don’t have to verify skills.

All I was thinking about on my last day at Flip fest for TOPS camp was how lucky the girls are who have been invited to the Developmental Camps or the Invite Camps USA Gymnastics holds. How amazing it must feel to come back down to Flip fest every few months to train with 35-40 other kids all sharing your common goal. Wondering just how far I am away from where those kids are at-what more I need to do in my training to get there and will making it to test HOPES this season be enough to the staff to consider me for a Developmental Camp? All I could do was give 100% every turn no matter what, would they notice me? Did I work hard enough to prove I was worth a shot?

We finished our “closing ceremony” and did our group dance, we said our good byes and headed back home to get back to our training. All the time thinking in the back of our minds “when would I get back down here again?” Next year as a 10 year old in TOPS? It felt like that would be forever.

Well yesterday my question was answered when my coach got an email letting us know that I was given a spot in the January Developmental Invite Camp! What a perfect way to end 2018! Well, I guess a perfect ending will be a great 1st Level 8 meet this weekend too! I can’t say enough how happy I am and how grateful I am to be a part of USA Gymnastics Developmental program. I pray that everything they do can keep going.

The opportunities I have gotten have been life changing so I hope all of the up and coming kids trying to make elite get the help from the National Staff and keep getting to train together at the camps.  I know I CAN NOT WAIT! It’s definitely the biggest thing that’s happened to me in my gymnastics career so far! My last hope is that my teammates and my older sister Matti (she’s 11 & is healing up from a knee injury) can also join me at a HOPES Qualifier soon! Thanks Region 5 for the chance to share my experience this past year about the TOPS program and camp!

Jillian Luif, Legacy Elite

I had so much fun at TOPs A National Camp. I learned a lot from the coaches. My favorite events were beam and trampoline. My camp counselor was very nice. I made lots of new friends. We had a pillow fights in the cabin, and made skits to perform in front of the coaches and campers. I hope I get to come back next year and learn more skills.

Adelyn Flessner- DeVeau’s Gymnastics

Picking a specific highlight about camp makes for a very difficult decision. In the end, I decided to highlight three things that stood out to me the most. First, bonding with my cabin mates was fun. When we were making our skit and realized that everyone wanted one thing, but we just couldn’t decide, we easily came together as a group and decided. There was no fuss, and we figured out how to make it look pretty in the end (but not without a few fails along the way!). I had fun making our shirts and laughing about the mistakes we made. I liked the little things like walking to the cafeteria together and “staying quiet” during horizontal time. Every night before bed, we jammed to Carrie Underwood and Cardi B. The cabin experience was a blast!

The next thing that stands out to me is working new skills. On every event, there was a drill or a special kind of coaching that has made a difference in my gymnastics even in this short time since we’ve been back. I feel more confident that I’ll get skills sooner, and am grateful to have had the experience with the national coaching staff. I’ve met some of the national staff over the years at different camps I’ve gone to. However, it was fun to work with new kids and coaches on different events. I liked everything about the time in the gym including the lineup at the beginning and end of each practice. By the last day, we finally figured out how to thank the coaches! “Thank you, Dan, coaches, and national staff, goodbye!”  You would think that those eight words are pretty easy to remember, but clearly not for us!

This experience was even more special because I’ve been doing TOPS for four years. When I was seven, I made the Diamond Team. When I was 8 and 9, I qualified for national testing but never made a team. Going to national testing was a very fun experience, but I really had a goal to make one of the teams. When we got the call from my coach the day the teams were announced, I didn’t know what to expect, but I was so excited to find out I made the A team. It’s been a long journey, and I can’t wait to see what gymnastics brings me next! I am so grateful for the staff at DeVeau’s School of Gymnastics (thank you Amy!), my parents, my friends, and all the people who support me in my gymnastics.

By Kaelyn Kane, Premier West Gymnastics 

 This year I made the 2018 Tops A National Team and I am excited to share with you my very first experience at camp. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy!

Are we there yet? December 1st finally came! Time for camp! We left the hotel, got in the car, and drove to Flip Fest.  It felt like it took forever but finally we got there! I couldn’t believe it, this was where some of the big girls like Laurie and Aly have trained, and now I’m here too! I felt a little nervous, but really excited!

When I got to Flip Fest it looked like a summer camp. It was on Lake Frances surrounded by a lot of trees and cabins.  My parents helped me find Oak, the cabin I would be staying in. The cabin was way bigger than I pictured it to be and I was the very first camper to get there. I picked a bunk and unpacked all my stuff. Before I knew it, the other girls were all here. They were so quiet at first, but it didn’t take long before we were all chatting! 

The start of camp The first part of camp was physical abilities testing.  I was a little nervous because coach Diane told me this test would be a little different than national testing. We would be doing some stuff I haven’t really worked much on yet.  It was time to start and I wanted to do my best. We met the National Coaching Staff  then lined up by height and listened to Dan Baker tell us what to do. He is really funny and is always making jokes. Tammy Biggs started the first warm up and it was a lot harder than what I am use to. We ran and jumped a lot.  I felt nice and warmed up after that. Testing  went really good. I was happy with how I did and so was coach Diane. When we were done, I was super hungry and  tired after all that hard work.  We went to dinner and then went back to our cabins to shower and sleep. This was my very first time away  from home and my parents left for the night. It was really dark outside and thundering pretty hard. I got kind of nervous, but I was so tired that I fell asleep fast! 

First official practice We had to wake up super early for breakfast and practice. I had butterflies in my stomach. First was line up then came warm ups. Tammy Biggs led the warm up and she moves FAST!  Then we started rotations. It was fun meeting all the new coaches and learning new drills and skills.  By the end of practice, I was ready for lunch and rest time. At camp you have to rest after lunch. Later that day we went to our second evening practice. I had a lot of fun at this practice especially on beam with Tammy. I worked on back handspring layouts and dismounts. I liked that she called me Blondie. I was tired after our second practice because I am not use to two practices a day! When we got back from practice and dinner I was ready for bed

Ready for more, I woke up early again feeling ready for another practice. Today I was excited to learn more. We went through our rotations and today I got to demonstrate on bars. I  got to use the strap bar which was really fun and new to me.  After morning practice, a guest speaker named Lisa Mitzel talked to us. She taught us ways to work through mental blocks and fears and this was helpful to me.  When we got back to our cabin after lunch, we had brand new sparkly leos and warm ups waiting on our beds.  I was so excited to wear them to our next practice. Before we started our second practice, we got to take pictures with our team and coaches. My favorite picture was with my Region 5 Team!  After our very last practice of camp, we had awards and skits. We had so much fun performing for the National Coaching Staff. This was one of my favorite parts of camp!

Time to go home I learned at a lot at Tops camp and worked really hard while I was there. I met so many new friends and really enjoyed working with all the National Coaching Staff. I was really grateful to have my coach, Diane O’Brien  there with me too. I felt proud leaving camp and will work really hard to earn the opportunity to go back next year!

Makenna Araiza, GymNasti Gymnastics

I just got back from National TOPs A camp at Flip Fest. Camp was so much fun learning new skills and meeting the National Team coaches. Beam was my favorite because we learned so many new skills. We also had fun at the end of camp doing silly skits for the coaches and playing games. One of the games was “Ivan Says” its like Simon Says but it was named after the vault coach. It was so much fun even though I got out of the game first 🙁 I made a lot of new friends and had a great time. I was so happy  my mom and dad could be there to watch. National TOPs camp was so much fun I can’t wait to go back

Mia Busser, Gymnastic Academy of Rockford. 

The first weekend in December, me and my coach, Jake, flew to Tennessee to go to the TOPs A National Team Camp. We had a lot of fun at camp!

First, when we got to camp we had to find our cabins and meet our roommates. Some of my roommates were from Illinois like me!

The first night of camp we did our physical abilities testing, had dinner in the cafeteria and had to get to bed early to get ready for the next two days!

Everything went really fast at camp! We had two sessions each day with some rest time in between. We worked on a lot of skills I already knew how to do and I got to work on some new skills too! All of the National Coaching staff made camp fun, but we had to work really hard and quick. Each day we did Bars, Beam, Vault, Floor, Trampoline and Dance.

On Monday night at camp, we had to perform a skit with our roommates for the National Coaching staff to judge. My cabin didn’t win and we didn’t win the award for cleanest cabin either! 🙁 During our break time between sessions we worked on our skit and got to make T-shirt’s to wear. Our cabin name for our skit was “Fantastic Narwhals” and we did a dance to “Jingle Bell Rock.”

I’m really happy that I made “A” camp this year and I’m going to work really hard again this season to make it back next year!

Thank you Dan and the National Coaching Staff. Good Bye!

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