At the end of June 2018, our team traveled to Orlando, Florida to participate in the USAIGC World Championships. Each gymnast needed to qualify in her level in order to attend the meet. Some gymnasts were able to qualify as all-arounders, and others, as individual event specialists. Some even qualified in two levels, with the opportunity to compete in a total of six events! As a club, we had a fun time competing, as well as vacationing in Orlando. Many of our families made a family vacation out of the competition.
Overall, the meet was a very positive experience. It was the culmination of a six-month first season under USAIGC. We had a number of gymnasts qualify for event finals on all four events, and we had three World Champions on bars! The beauty of the meet was that it was anyone’s game, and all the gymnasts not only knew it, but they believed it. They had a chance, and they were excited to compete for their chance to win.
USAIGC differs from USAG in that it is an optional-only program. Kids are able to compete their strengths, and not just prescribed skills, in order to fulfill the requirements at each level. Naturally, as a gymnast increases in competition level, her options of skills to fulfill those requirements increases. This makes for well-rounded gymnasts, as well as for more creativity and individuality in the sport. Under USAIGC, my gymnasts work their routines, but they also work upgrade skills, trying to add them to their routines throughout the season, once they gain competence. This makes the season more interesting (for gymnasts and coaches), and gives them more goals to strive for.
USAIGC uses skill-based mobility rather than the score-based mobility in USAG. In fact, there is a mandatory move-out score of 37.85 obtained twice in a season. These attributes appealed to me from the very beginning, as that is how I already ran my program. I took the minimum score requirements delineated by USAG seriously, and as long as my gymnasts reached the requisite score, and was ready for the next level, I let them move on. It turns out that that is how the majority of kids wanted it; there have been only two kids in the six years of operating my gym at a competitive level who have wanted to be held back (and one of them was due to fear and not just so she could have high scores).
As coaches, once we switched to USAIGC, our gymnasts no longer felt “stuck” at a certain level until a specific score was obtained. This common-sense approach to mobility also allows gymnasts who would naturally be better at optional skills rather than the compulsory routines, to move at their own pace through the levels, or even begin competition at a higher level to begin with, without being hindered by an arbitrary skill set. There is no starting at the requisite Level 4 (or even 3, or 2), and working her way up, even if she has Level 7 skills. Under USAIGC there is no incentive for coaches or club owners to hold gymnasts back until they obtain a high all-around score (and team score), solely because of the mandatory move-up score.
Built into this system is an inherent scoring reward to those gymnasts who go above and beyond the basic requirements in each level. For instance, in USAG’s Level 7, it is commonly known that gymnasts should do the minimum requirements, do them cleanly, and get off the apparatus, otherwise her score will be hurt. I have even been told by a judge to hold a gymnast back and not allow her to compete a beam series just so she could score higher. The judge asked me if I had a reason to put it in her routine. I told her that I wanted the gymnast to gain experience competing it as a second-year Level 7, so when she went Level 8, she would be more confident. The judge didn’t like that idea. In USAIGC, my same gymnast is rewarded for performing a series in the Silver level (the equivalent level to Level 7), rather than holding back and simply doing a back handspring.
Because of this common-sense approach to competitive rules, my gymnasts thrive under USAIGC, and were extremely successful at the 2018 World Championships (and the meets leading up to it throughout the season). My kids are challenged, my parents are happy, and we, as coaches and gym owners, are elated to have such a positive alternative to USAG.