Gymnastics Levels [A “Must Read” Master Guide for the U.S.]
When it is the matter of gymnastics in the U.S., its governing body known as the United States of America Gymnastics (USAG) regulates everything. This governing body has defined the different gymnastics levels and programs.
For the citizens of the United States, there are two categories into which the programs of gymnastics are split. These are Junior Olympic (JO) and Elite. With 10 levels governing it, the JO program features sequential progress as per the skill level as well as age.
It is clear that a gymnast needs to learn the skills of the current level prior to moving to the next one. After the 10th level, he/she will step into the Elite program that accelerates the athletic training for those who are recognized as remarkably talented.
It is only the Elite gymnasts who are allowed to be a part of the national team and become eligible for participating in the Olympics. Similar advancements exist for both the genders.
Achieving the Primary Skills (Lvl 1-3)
The JO program for women features developmental levels, which mark the lowest levels. The same levels for male gymnasts are known as basic skills achievement.
For women, the developmental levels are 1 to 4. Similarly, for men, the basic skills achievement levels are 1 to 3. In case of kids, it is essential to fulfill the age criterion of at least four years for 1 and 2 levels, five years for level 3, and six years for level 4.
It is vital to note that there is an upper limit to the age criterion. This is because these levels are formed keeping in mind the beginners irrespective of their age.
According to USAG, levels 1-3 aim to make gymnasts ready for facing competition. Although most of them do not compete at these levels, a few routines involved are such that they may end up competing while demonstrating them.
Several clubs have placed gymnasts in recreational sessions while developing the skills required during these levels.
Of all these three levels, level 3 is not a mandatory competitive level. Thus, there is no score to be achieved for moving to level 4.
Level 1 emphasizes elementary skills such as stretching, jumping, rolling, and naive descends. It is essential for a gymnast to know how to hit the springboard, do an arm circle, and jump on a mat perpendicularly for the vault of Level 1. Investing in a durable gymnastic mat will help your gymnast be more confident when practicing these skills.
As a gymnast, you also required to know how to do a back-hip circle, pullover (usually of two foot), casting, and a push away descend on gymnastics bars that are truly uneven. Exercises to be shown includes cartwheels, to and fro rolls and jumps.
Even dismounts on the balance beam and basic stretches are a part of these levels. Balance beam skills encompass split jumps, running steps, side-handstand dismounts, pivot turns, and partial handstands. You are even required to perform some more advanced turns and jumps, backbends, and headstands. Here are some good balance beams for home practice if you are intending to get one.
All gymnasts are required to develop their basic skills shown in Level 1 for progressing to the next levels.
The Mandatory/Compulsory Levels (Lvl 4-6)
It is clear from the aforementioned details that the first three levels do not have any mandatory formal requirements.
However, a few levels after them are considered compulsory.
The mandatory or compulsory levels are 4 to 6 for male gymnasts and 5 to 6 for female gymnasts. They are the levels at which the gymnasts are required to present the normalized routines that are designed to test their primary skills.
Usually, the same routines are performed in each event. The gymnasts have to show their basic skills, techniques, and body positions grasped from 1 to 3 levels. Events include uneven bars, vault, balance beam, and floor exercise. Getting these equipments at home for your kids to practice will help them achieve their goal faster.
To progress from the developmental levels to the compulsory ones, the age of the kids must be at least 7 years. They also need to fulfill the minimum score standards at the former level. If the minimum score is achieved, the gymnasts can advance through the compulsory levels at their own comfortable pace.
It is the first compulsory competitive level. This means that from progressing to level, you are required to adhere to the minimum standards as well as gain a minimum score. All gymnasts are required to complete this level by learning a particular routine for each event.
This level mandates mastering the beam skills that encompasses pivots, leg swing mounts, and more complex dismounts as well as jumps. The bar requirements include front-hip circles, pullovers, tap swings, cast to horizontal, and glide swings. The vault is the handstand back flat.
Here, a gymnast runs towards the vault right from the springboard and then step on a tumbling mat kept on the other side.
At this level, you as a gymnast are assessed as per the way in which you show the skills and the manner in which your routine matches with the guidelines of how exactly it is supposed to be done.
This is another compulsory level. A few gymnastics clubs prefer not to emphasize compulsory gymnastics, as they do not necessarily compete in such level meets. Rather, a few clubs go with the Elite program if competing is on their radar.
Well, these rules are optional while mastering the skills of 4, 5, and 6 Levels. Nevertheless, prior to competing at Level 6, it is necessary for the gymnasts to compete in one meet at least to move ahead from 4 and 5 Levels.
When in Level 5, you are required to know how to perform stretch and straddle jumps, back extension roll, and front handspring.
The routines with uneven bar must encompass skills such as half-turn and under swings dismounts, high bar jumps, and kips. Several new gymnasts at this level exert while performing with the beam’s mount.
This is an entry level for voluntary competition. It is the only level for gymnastics, which can be bypassed with a qualifying Level 5 score.
Voluntary or optional levels are those wherein a unique routine exists for each gymnast. Thus, no gymnasts are assessed based on the routine’s specifics. Rather, they are evaluated as per the skills showcased along with the routine’s performance and the overall level.
For each event, these voluntary levels feature routine requirements. Thus, it is necessary to include them when the coach or choreographer is directing the routine. Otherwise, the gymnast will have to experience deductions.
In Level 6, the focus is on the execution of basic elective skills. Both 5 and 6 levels feature the front handspring vault.
The Optional Levels (Lvl 7-10)
The optional levels mark their beginning from level 7 for both the genders and continue until level 10 (inclusive). During these levels, the gymnasts need to demonstrate routines of their own opus. However, some skills are mandatory at each level.
Level 7 is looked upon as a transitional phase for those gymnasts progressing towards Elite. Unlike other levels, these levels include more guidance than normal in composing the routines. Further, more competitive opportunities are available at each level.
Levels 7 to 9 belong to optional levels of gymnastics in the United States. All gymnasts perform their own composition while in these levels. The skills required are minimal. The executives group the skills and rate them as per the difficulty level. This rating happens through a letter system in which A represents the easiest skill and E is the toughest one.
Level 7 seems to be a blend of optional and compulsory. This is because of the more specific requirements and yet a distinct routine for each gymnast. An example of more specific requirements can be to show a back layout in any of the passes. In this level, each gymnast is required to showcase five A and two B skills.
These are optional levels in which each event has a distinct routine for each gymnast to follow. Gymnasts are allowed to select the skills through which they can fulfill the requirements.
At Level 8, a gymnast is required to showcase four skills each of A and B difficulty level in each routine. Levels 7 and 8 do not mandate E skills.
For Level 9, the requirements are more complicated. The gymnasts need to showcase one C’s, four B’s, and three A skills.
Level 10 is the last JO level. Here, a gymnast needs to perform two C’s, three B’s, and three A skills. After presenting all the skills required at this level, a gymnast can choose to go for the Elite program.
The Elite Program
This program has a regimen that is totally different from the JO program. It aims to coach the skilled athletes as soon as possible so that they can be eligible for the national team.
While not needed, several probable female gymnasts are recognized via the USAG’s Talent Opportunity Program (TOPs).
To pass TOPs testing, it is necessary for kids between 7 and 11 years to be active gymnasts. Regardless of whether the kids have participated in TOPs, they are qualified to go for the Elite’s lowest level when they are between 10 and 13 in terms of age.
Junior Elite is the next level for those between 11 and 15. Then comes Senior Elite, which is for any gymnast whose age is 16 and above.
The different gymnastics levels may look complicated at first but they are actually quite straightforward. After reading this post, they are pretty easy to understand right? If so, feel free to share this post with your friends who are also interested to understand the many levels of gymnastics.