Posted on 23 May 2012 by admin
It’s an Olympic year and new changes to the men’s JO program are about to be implemented across the country. Changes include the usual routine tweaks to the compulsory levels (4-7), but the major ones are being unveiled for the optional levels. The key phrases being bandied about are “we’re going to slow things down,” and “we’re going to clean things up.” The long-term thinking is not necessarily concern about the American men’s program not having enough skills, but rather not having good enough execution.
The optional levels are going to be expanded to the following:
Level 8 (11-12)
Level 9 (13-14)
Level 10-A (15-16)
Level 10-B (17-18)
Level 9 will remain identical, except for the new age group (13-14). Level 8 will become a new age group (11-12), allowing many more younger kids the ability to begin their optional career. Each event will still require 8 skills, which is identical to Level 9, and can include as many element groups as a gymnast and their coach decide, although they will only get credit for 3 element groups. In essence, Level 8 will be a somewhat watered-down version of the current Level 9. Levels 9 and 10 will continue to require 5 element groups for each event routine. Another change will be that Level 8 & Level 9 gymnasts will only be able to perform one vault, while Level 10 gymnasts will be allowed to perform two vaults. Only one roll-out Floor skill will be allowed for Level 10 gymnasts.
The creation of the new Level 8 division is a tacit realization that an increasing number of 11-year-olds were competing in the current Level 9 (12-13) division. 10-year-olds will still be allowed to compete in this optional level only if they achieve a qualifying score at Future Stars. Gymnasts younger than 10 will not be allowed to compete in Level 8.
The major change sparking the emphasis for cleaning up execution scores will be the creation of a multi-tiered competitive format at the state, regional, JO Nationals and VISA U.S. Championship meets. At the state meet level, each state will be allowed to choose between two options–A) compulsory routines only or, B) compulsory routines and optional routines. Option B would create a scenario where optional level meets will require two days of competition. All regional meets will be required to hold two days of competition for all optional gymnasts to compete both optional and compulsory routines. In addition, the JO committee has added an execution bonus of .2 for routines with .8 or less in deductions, and .1 for routines with deductions between .9 and 1.2. Also, a stick bonus of .1 has been increased to .2 for every event.
The new regional meet format will create two tiers of qualifiers for JO Nationals–Junior Elite and Junior Olympic. The two competition days of optional and technical (compulsory) routines will be judged separately and be given equal weight in the final scoring. Approximately the top 20% of gymnasts will qualify for JO Nationals in the Junior Elite division. Only these gymnasts will be eligible to compete for spots on the Junior National Team. The remaining qualifiers will compete in the Junior Olympic division at JO Nationals. This new format will generate more JO Nationals qualifiers than in the past. The bottom line is that in order to qualify as a Junior Elite, a gymnast must perform both optional and technical routines.
The technical routines for Levels 8 and 9 will be identical. In addition, the routines for Future Stars (Age 11, 12, & 13) will match the technical routines for Levels 8 & 9. The technical routines will become progressively more difficult in Level 10. The main purpose of the technical routines will be to stress the importance of achieving excellence in basic fundamental skills. The long-term objective is to create a competitive environment to foster improved execution scores at the international level, as our gymnasts move up the ranks.
JO Nationals and the VISA U.S. Championships will both feature two days of separate optional and technical routines. Event Finals will be eliminated from the JO Nationals format, and instead focus on producing all-around winners. There will be separate winners for each tier (Junior Elite and Junior Olympic). It is surmised that perhaps the individual event champions will be determined strictly from the second day’s optional routines. The VISA U.S. Championships, currently a single-day competitive format, will become identical to the JO Nationals format. Gymnasts competing as 14-year-old Level 9s can only qualify for VISAs at the National Qualifier, which will become a two day competition (one day for technical routines and one day for optional).
Other than routine revisions in the compulsory levels, the biggest change will be removal of the pommels for Level 7 gymnasts. This is probably a change that has long been pondered, and will generate improved proficiency of circle skills. The base age groups will be Level 5 (6-8), Level 6 (7-9) and Level 7 (9-11).
This is a rough summary of what’s in store for men’s club gymnastics. Further details are ensuing, with perhaps descriptions of the new compulsory routines. While these changes are liable to generate some consternation and confusion, the long term goals and vision are very sound. Slowing things down and stressing the importance of improved execution of basic skills will produce long-term dividends for the sport.