Gymnastics competition: Where should I start?

June 29th, 2008 by rikfeeney

The coming Olympic fever for gymnastics will create a strong desire to become a part of a competitive gymnastics team for many aspiring young athletes. Tomorrow’s Olympic Gold Medalists may be glued in front of the television in August 2008, but you can be sure after the last medal is awarded many young athletes will be hounding Mom’s and Dad’s to start gymnastics.

Your first job will be locating a gymnastics program, whether it is a private club, a YMCA, a recreation center, or a multi-sport complex that has a competitive gymnastics program.

The qualities of of a safe and effective gymnastics program will be discussed in another blog. Right now, here is a brief background on the various levels of competition in women’s gymnastics.

In the United States, the governing body for the sport of gymnastics is USA Gymnastics (United States Gymnastics Federation). Many competitions that lead to championship meets are sanctioned by USAG.

The JO or Junior Olympic program is a system of training / competition that starts at Level 1 and progresses through Level 10.

Level 1 is the beginning or novice level with skills you may associate with a class level programs. Level 2 is the beginner level of competition sanctioned by USA Gymnastics and seems most popular in states that have strong AAU (American Athletic Union) programs, although directors of Invitational Competitions are adding in competition at Levels 2, 3, & 4 nationwide because there are so many athletes enrolled at these levels.

Level 4 is the first competitive level where a gymnast will perform a back handspring on the floor – a milestone for any gymnast. Level’s 4,5, & 6 have compulsory routines – that is – specific skills are arranged in a sequence with point values assigned for each skill the gymnast must perform in front of a panel of judges at a USAG sanctioned meet.

Level 7 is the first chance at performing optional routines, although there are still some specific skills and guidelines that must be followed.

Level’s 8,9, and 10 are considered truly optional in that the coach and gymnast can now work to the gymnast’s strengths, in regard to skills performed, although there are still guidelines applied to create routines that can have a start value of up to 10 points. Gymnast’s at these levels have put in many hours of hard work and are quite talented.

Most gyms throughout the country are involved in the “Junior Olympic” program which includes the levels listed above. There are special training programs designed for athletes who demonstrate exceptional talent to help streamline the training process. In future blogs, special training programs like the Hopes and TOPS programs will be discussed.

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