Level Requirements for USAG Gymnastics
In the United States, the Junior Olympic system governed by USA Gymnastics is the reigning competitive system for young competitors. The system is divided into 10 levels – five compulsory and five more advanced optional levels. Each compulsory level establishes minimum performance requirements to ensure the safety of young gymnasts 6.
The Compulsory Levels
Levels 1 through 4 correspond respectively to ages 4 to 7. Level 5 also applies to gymnasts age 7. To graduate from one level to the next, a gymnast must perform certain skills on the vault, bars, beam and floor. For example, a 4-year-old has to perform a straight jump on to a 16-inch mat, kick up to a handstand and then fall to a flat back to complete the requirement for the Level 1 vault. The level of difficulty increases for a 5-year-old in Level 2, who has to now jump into a handstand, according to the USAG. By age 7 in Levels 4 and 5, the gymnast has to do a handspring over the vault table.
Preparing for Competition
The first three levels are considered developmental. Young gymnasts forge a solid foundation of basic skills. By the time a gymnast reaches Levels 4 and 5, they’re able to enter into competitions. For example, the floor routine for a 7-year-old at Level 5 requires some tricky maneuvers, such as a forward flip or salto, a straddle jump and a 360-turn in forward passé. Before she can advance to Level 6, she also has to do a round-off into a back handspring and then a back flip.
Advancing to Routines
Levels 6 and above are optional 4. Each level has guidelines or restrictions on difficulty, and the gymnast can invent her own routine within them. USAG assigns a letter value to each skill, ranging from the easiest as “A” to the most difficult as “E.” For example, a routine in Level 6 must have at last five A skills and one B skill. To complete the Level 6 beam, she must do one acrobatic move that begins and ends on the beam. It also requires a 180-degree jump or split, 360-degree turn on one leg and a minimum of an A-ranked dismount.
Level 9 still puts a few restrictions on D- and E-ranked moves. Gymnasts must meet special requirements on the bars, beam and floor. For example, a Level 9 balance beam routine must include an acrobatic series, a 180-degree split jump and a 360-degree turn on one foot. The restrictions drop off when a gymnast reaches Level 10. It also means she can try out for the Elite program, which is necessary to get an invitation to the Olympic trials.
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