Female gymnasts compete at 10 levels. Girls in levels one to three are generally considered recreational gymnasts who aren’t involved in competitions. Once girls gain the skills to move up to levels four to six, they can compete in what are called “compulsory” competitions. All the athletes competing at those levels do the same routines. Once girls progress to the highest levels of competition, they perform “optional.” That means they get to create their own routines and select their own music.
Levels One to Three
Girls in the first three levels of gymnastics work on basic skills, such as forward and backward rolls, cartwheels and handstands. Metro Gymnastics Center in Tigard, Oregon, says its beginner level program focuses on teaching basic body positions and foundation skills. Girls learn skills on balance beam, uneven bars, vault and floor. Metro Gymnastics and many other gyms also offer instruction on trampoline and tumble-tracs. There’s no official competition at this stage, though some gyms may host in-house competitions for fun and experience.
Levels Four to Six
Once girls reach level four, they can begin to take part in state competitions. Competitive gymnasts may attend several classes a week for several hours at a time. The precise skills needed at each of the upper levels is outlined in the Junior Olympic Code of Points, which is available through USA Gymnastics, the National Governing Body for the sport of gymnastics in the United States. USAG’s Luan Peszek offers a broad outline of the skills needed at each level. She says level four gymnasts do a single-leg shoot through mill circle on bars, a handstand on beam and a round-off back handspring on floor. On the vault, girls do progressions for front handsprings. By level five, gymnasts do a tap swing on bars, a cartwheel on beam and a round-off two back handsprings on floor. Once a girl gets to level six, she’ll be doing a flyaway dismount on bars, back walkover on beam and round-off back handspring back tuck on floor. Peszek says girls in levels five, six and seven do a front handspring on the vault.
Levels Seven to 10
Girls who reach the upper levels of gymnastics can expect to spend some serious time at the gym, developing skills and choreographing their own routines. Luan Pesczek, of USA Gymnastics, says at level seven girls will be doing a giant and clear hip on bars, a back handspring on beam and a round-off back handspring back layout on floor. Girls competing at level eight will be doing a turning element in a handstand position. They do a two-flight series on beam, and they do a two-flip acro series on floor. By level nine, Peszek says they do a release move and catch on bars. They do an aerial/salto skill on beam, and they do a round-off back handspring twisting salto. Those who make it to level 10 will be doing at least two releases on bars, a series and salto skill on beam, and a double twisting or double flipping skill on floor. At levels eight, nine and 10, Peszek also says they start doing a bigger vault.