Gymnastics is, in many ways, the sport of all sports. It began as early as Ancient Greece in Sparta and Athens where physical fitness was highly valued. In fact, gymnastics was viewed as a form of wisdom in these times. Training was considered an exercise of the body and the mind. While also used as a strict and formal training program for warfare, there was an aesthetic and independent side of gymnastics that eventually evolved into the sport it is today.
Gymnastics in the United States is governed by USA Gymnastics (USAG). They set all the rules for their member clubs regarding safety, certification, and education. They're also responsible for selecting the national teams for the Olympics. But gymnastics is so much more than what we see at the Olympics! There are five disciplines formally recognized and governed by USAG. They all use different equipment and have different rules that make them unique, but they share the distinctly gymnastic attributes of strength, flexibility, body awareness, and discipline.
Women’s Artistic Gymnastics is the most commonly known discipline of gymnastics. At the competitive level, the gymnasts perform on four events: Vault, Uneven Bars, Balance Beam, and Floor Exercise. The Junior Olympic program consists of 10 levels followed by Elite, which is the track to the Olympics. The Xcel program has 5 levels: Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond.
Simply put, recreational gymnastics is for beginners to advanced gymnasts who do not compete. Typically, recreational gymnasts attend classes 1-2 hours per week. Each gymnastics club designates their own criteria for what is considered beginner, intermediate, or advanced and they will generally have set criteria for advancing through the stages. This criteria can be based on skill evaluation, experience, age, maturity, or all of the above! It's up to the club's standards and the evaluation of coaches to determine when it's time to move up a stage.
When a gymnast reaches the satisfactory requirements of the club, she is invited to the pre-team or team depending on her age and ability level. This is where competitive gymnastics comes in. Competitive gymnastics is for gymnasts who (surprise!) participate in competitions. While gymnastics is considered a largely individual sport, the gymnasts represent the team as a whole and their score contributes to the overall team score of their level.
Competitive gymnastics is divided into two programs within the USAG: the Junior Olympic (J.O.) program and the Xcel program. The J.O. program is comprised of 10 levels followed by Elite, which is a gymnast's path to the Olympics. The Xcel program was established in 2013 as an alternative program with less rigorous requirements to enable more gymnasts to participate in and continue the sport. Xcel is comprised of five divisions: Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond. One of the biggest differences between J.O. and Xcel is the compulsory aspect. In the J.O. program, Levels 1-3 are considered Developmental and Levels 4-5 are Compulsory. All five levels have standardized routines that every gymnast at that Level competes. These routines are designed to build upon skills of the previous Level so the gymnast has a well-rounded base of foundational ability. We extensively cover all the techniques, elements and routines in our online Gymnastics Education Classes. Once the gymnast meets all of the requirements of age and mobility, she enters the Optional phase of competitive gymnastics which is comprised of Levels 6-10. It is in these Levels that each gymnast has a custom routine built around her strongest skills.
In the Xcel program, all divisions are Optional with custom routines tailored to the gymnast's strengths. As with Optional levels in the J.O. Program, there are generally 3-4 requirements for each event and the gymnast's routine must meet these to attain the best score. In addition to having less strict requirements, Xcel programs often require less time in the gym and less financial commitment. The most important thing to note about Xcel and Junior Olympic is that while they do share similarities, they are different programs and one is not better than the other. Choosing what is right for the gymnast depends on what her goals are.
Kalamazoo Elite Gymnastics Academy is accepting interest in our 2021-2022 Competitive Season and we will be hosting tryouts in early Spring 2021. Please contact our Head Coach Ashley at firstname.lastname@example.org.