Two weeks ago, our team returned from USAIGC West Coast Championships in Palm Springs, CA. The meet was a success: a number of our kids became West Coast Champions. Some of our gymnasts and parents were surprised by the lower scores, as they thought their daughters would qualify for World Championships as all-around competitors based on the scores they had received during the regular season. Although I was somewhat surprised at some of the actual scores, overall I was encouraged that the judges were as critical as they were for a number of reasons.
- This was a Championship meet. Judges should be more discerning at the end of the season, especially when a World Championship berth is on the line. Qualification should be difficult and earned.
The judges’ high expectations showed our gymnasts that they were not a shoe-in for the next tier of competition. Trying one’s best doesn’t equal success in real life, nor should it in a gymnastics meet. Handling both success and defeat gracefully requires character growth.
- Perfect scores were not the standard. In fact, there were only fourteen 9.0’s on bars the entire meet out of 453 gymnasts. Each gymnast had to earn every score.
The scores, particularly on bars, were much lower than we had been used to. However, they were consistently low, meaning no team was favored over another. In fact, my gym had nine individual bar champions, despite lower scores than expected. Compared to the competitive field, we did really well. No matter what the score, it was the effort that counted.
Although we had a couple of close scores, I did not petition any of them. I am a strong believer in letting the chips lay as they fall. It is important that my gymnasts understand that they may lose by a very close margin. Learning to handle the outcome is one of the best lessons I can teach my gymnasts. It is important to me to have well-adjusted gymnasts (my daughter included) who can handle disappointment and not crumble under the pressure of a setback.
- The USIAGC rules were adhered to. The main reason my husband and I left USAG was that they did not enforce their own rules. At West Coast Championships, USAIGC’s rules were respected and followed. Scores were consistent among athletes and clubs throughout the meet. When a gymnast achieved a high score, she earned it, and she deserved to be on the awards stand, unlike what we found to be so common in USAG.
Those gymnasts who earned a 10.0 start value, who added difficulty to her routines, and who executed each of her skills well, were rewarded in the end, as should be the case. Judges simply left room at the top to allow for exceptional gymnasts at Championship meets.
The scores were what I have been looking for since we began USAIGC two years ago. They reflected the values that USAIGC strives to uphold in their Rules and Policies.
- Winning all-around championships was not necessarily the focus of this meet. Each score was earned on the merit of each individual routine; all gymnasts had the opportunity to qualify as event specialists. This allowed the best of the best on each event to qualify to World Championships, not just the best all-around gymnasts.
While 60% of our club’s all-around gymnasts qualified for World Championships, 77% of our gymnasts who didn’t qualify as all-around competitors qualified as event specialists. This is one of the basic tenets of USAIGC that sets it apart from USAG: USAIGC embraces the event specialist, encourages her, and rewards her. This rule emphasizes doing one’s best on each event, teaches gymnasts that it isn’t over if they happen to score lower in the all-around, and that there is still a chance to qualify as an event specialist.
We need to see this type of scoring at every meet throughout the season. Judges should be more discerning at Championships meets. However, they should ensure that the USAIGC’s intelligent rules are followed all season. This will make certain that our gymnasts (and parents and coaches) do not have a false sense of success leading up to the Championship meets.
More discerning scores will be better for our gymnasts in the long run. It will give them a reason to truly strive and improve, and it will give them a true sense of pride when they finally hit that 10.0 start value, add an extra upgrade skill, or a flight element to their routines, and get rewarded for their effort.