With so many different labels for different gymnastics groups and programs, it can be hard to keep them all straight. Two of the ones that you have possibly heard about are NCAA gymnastics and elite gymnastics, and these two options are both for somewhat older gymnasts but other than that they are very different.
Essentially the main difference between NCAA gymnastics and elite gymnastics is that the NCAA is simply a gymnastics program for colleges, while elite gymnastics compete internationally as full-time professionals. This is basically the same difference between being a professional of any sport compared to simply playing it while you are in college.
There are a lot more differences to these two gymnastics things than that, but most of these revolve in some way around that main difference. Knowing what these differences are can help you to know if either one of them might be something that you are interested in.
However, one thing that is important to know is that these two are not mutually exclusive of each other. It is perfectly possible for an elite gymnast to play in the NCAA, and it is perfectly possible for a NCAA gymnast to become an elite gymnast.
The NCAA stands for the National Colligate Athletic Association, sometimes simply referred to as college gymnastics, and is in a way simply a program of gymnastics. One of the reasons why this is lesser known is that it never dominates the news like things such as the Olympics do. While some of the college gymnasts can be elite gymnastics as well, this is not a requirement. However the lowest that you will likely see in the NCAA gymnastics is probably level 9 gymnasts.
As mentioned it is a college sport program that a gymnast can do while they are trying to get a college degree and, that being the case, it is not done by professional gymnasts. It is no surprise that all of the gymnasts that participate in NCAA gymnastics are all college aged, with some of the youngest being 18 years old and others being in their early 20s.
Another feature that it is very important to know about NCAA gymnastics is that it never made the point system change like elite gymnastics did. This means that it uses the good old 10.00 point system where 10.00 points is the maximum that any gymnast can score if they do a perfect routine.
For this reason most of the scores that you will see at the college competitions will top off with a 9.9s taking the top places, especially at the regional and the national competitions. This is also the reason why you will not see nearly as many of those impossibly hard moves attempted here, because the gymnasts and the coaches are focusing on getting perfect routines that will score well.
This all adds up to their really being no point to trying the extremely difficult moves, since these will not add to the score and yet, if they are done with the slightest mistake, will instead result in a deduction. Sometimes a gymnast who wants to make a “wow” impression will do one of these, but only if she feels confident that she can do it perfectly.
The season for NCAA coincides with the college year, with a few post-season meets if the college team made the cut. The in-season meets are scored by two judges with the score of these two being averaged out. The post-season meets are scored by four judges with all four scores being averaged out.
During the season the sheer number of competitions there are can be quite a bit intense, since in most cases the college teams are competing every week with only an occasional week off to recuperate some. This makes for a pretty hectic schedule between competing, traveling, and keeping up with their school grades enough so that they are meeting their grade minimum.
Unlike the elite gymnasts who can train almost non-stop, most NCAA schools do cap the number of hours that the gymnasts can spend training at around 20 hours per week. Often this is more than enough though since, in the absence of having to add a lot more difficult moves, all that the gymnasts really need to do is work at perfecting their routines.
Because of this fact, it is much easier for the gymnasts to get comfortable doing their routines and it lets them work more on the expressions. This comfort also helps the gymnasts to clearly look more relaxed as they do their routines which makes them more fun to watch.
These teams are a different size than elite gymnastics, with the NCAA being comprised of usually 6 members to each team. Out of these 6 gymnasts, only the scores of the top 5 are counted which helps to give the team a better score should one of the gymnasts mess up their routine.
Finally, NCAA gymnasts have much more of a team spirit than elite gymnasts sometimes. Individual awards are still given at each competition, but these are of secondary importance to the team since it takes the whole team succeeding to move up the ranks and to make it all the way to the NCAA National competitions.
As a general rule you will see a lot of high-fives, hugs, and other things at the end of each team member’s performance. Just as often you will also tend to see the team members doing some of the movements of the routine on the sidelines, especially after a few meets, since they will know each other’s routines pretty much by heart.
When you see gymnasts performing on the news or on TV, it is generally elite gymnasts who are performing. In fact, to make it to the Olympics you pretty much have to be an elite gymnast for a while first, so all of the gymnasts that you see there are elite gymnasts.
This is because it is the elite gymnasts who are the professionals of their field, with gymnastics being their one occupation that takes up around 40 hours or so of their time every week. However, as tough as it sounds, there is actually not really an age limit on how young you can be in order to become on elite gymnast other than the fact that you first have to graduate from being a level 10 gymnast which you can be at 9 years old.
That being the case, elite gymnasts are quite young, with most being still in their teens. On average most tend to retire for one reason or another around their mid 20s. A handful continue to do gymnastics through college so that they can pursue another line of work and then gradually slacken off after they get their degree as they look for a job and start working. This is made even easier to do thanks to the fact that elite gymnasts are often offered full or partial scholarships due to their gymnastics skills.
As mentioned, the elite gymnastics changed the way that it did its point system, now being virtually open-ended when it comes to how many points that a gymnast can get for their routines. Now there are two separate scores for each event which are a difficulty score and an execution score.
The execution score is still based off of the 10.00 point principle, with points being deducted for any errors. However, the difficulty score is what gives this system its open end since it adds up the difficulty points of the maneuvers that are used in the routine. Because of this fact, these gymnasts are much more likely to try those beautifully impossible moves that people love to see in order to add more points to their score.
If a gymnast adds enough of these bonus points to her score, she could technically even fall during her routine and still place or even win if the other gymnasts did not have as many points in their routines.
While there is more pressure to do more difficult skills as an elite gymnast, there is less pressure when it comes to only having a short amount of time in between competitions. This is because on average elite gymnasts can have around a month in between their gymnastics competitions, giving them much more time to train and to add to their routines.
However, elite gymnasts do not always keep the same routines and this means that in this time they have to learn new ones with new moves to go in them. The result can often be that elite gymnasts are often much more serious when they are doing their routines and have less expression to them when compared to the college gymnastics.
Elite gymnasts do not always form part of a team like the NCAA gymnasts do, but when they do it is usually a team made of 3 gymnasts. This gives no room for any of the gymnasts on the teams to make any errors, since all the scores of all three team members are counted for the team even if one of them scored poorly.
Not only are elite gymnastics comprised of smaller teams, but even the competitions that might be technically team meets there is still a lot of competition between the different gymnasts even on the same team. One of the reasons for this is the fact that the qualifications for the Olympic Games look at the individual scores and the gymnasts are therefore all vying for the best scores more than they are trying to win for their team.
There is also less of a team spirit because the members of an elite team do not even train together sometimes or know each other’s routines very well. The main goal of a NCAA gymnast is to do well for the team, since the highest achievement they can get is for the team to make it to nationals, whereas when it comes to elite gymnasts their main goal is to make it to the Olympics most of the time, which they can do with or without their team.
What You Should Know About NCAA Scoring
As mentioned NCAA scoring uses the 10.00 point perfect score method form which faults are deducted, but from there it can get a bit trickier. This is because these college competitions are fairly subjective when it comes to scoring, meaning that if you get that handstand on the bars close enough to vertical that the judges may or may not give you a point deduction for it.
If asked, the NCAA gymnastics will say that they use a modified version of the higher JO level’s code of points and, while this is what is used, the scoring tends to be much more lenient in the giving out of these deductions.
When it comes to composing you own routine, this is quite easy and there are only a handful of requirements that need to be met. For example, the bar routine must include 3 A skills, 3 B skills, and 2 C skills with the specific maneuvers required to start off at 10.00 points being 2 bar changes, 2 flight elements, a C level turning element, and a C level dismount.
If done correctly, however, those 2 bar changes can be the same as the 2 flight elements should both of your bar changes involve the flight. While there is no hard and fast rule, both of these are preferably level C or higher. This leaves pretty much only level A and B skills that you have to include.
When it comes to the C level dismount, it is not nearly as simple as that since the dismount cannot be an isolated skill. This means that if your dismount is not part of any bonus combination then it basically doesn’t count. And, no, the giants that are often done before a C dismount do not count.
On the other hand, if you were to dismount with a D level dismount then this can count for this. The reason for this is because of the “up to level” rule which is something that I will get to in just a moment.
There are also 0.50 bonus points like the higher levels of JO as well with at least 0.10 coming from each of two ways. For the NCAA the connection bonuses are 0.10 for C+C only if both elements have flight, turn, clear hip, or something else. Other than that the connection bonus is automatically 0.10 for a C+D and a 0.20 for a D+D combination.
When it comes to value D skills, these earn a 0.1 and the E skills earn a 0.2 for each one that you include. These are necessary anyway in order to meet the “up to level” requirements which essentially is there to try to ensure that all the gymnasts have at least one or two difficult maneuvers in their routine in the midst of all their A and B skills.
In order to meet the up to level skills you must do at least one or two D or E level skills that vary some according to the event. For the bar routine, for example, you could do either a level D same-bar release or two D releases, or you could do an E release or two level E skills.
When it comes to deductions, as mentioned, these are pretty lenient when compared to elite gymnastics two of the main things that get points taken off tend to be the handstands and the landings. With the landings a small step can get 0.05 points deducted and a large step can get 0.10 off.
However, there are exceptions made even with this which can sometimes be referred to as the “college stick” landing. This is where the gymnast didn’t really stick their landing, but has the control to pretend that they stuck the landing by covering up with a salute or a bow. Usually when done well this will only get the 0.05 deduction even if you took a large step.
Hops on landing are for the most part the some way, with the same deductions. Gymnasts are also deducted for landing with their legs too far apart, especially if they stay apart without the gymnast bringing their heels together. However, this is one of the more lenient ones that can sometimes be overlooked.
Falls are one of the few constants, staying at the 0.50 each time. Other more optional deductions are flexed feet, lack of enough height, or what is called catching close on the dismounts. However, in all of this the NCAA judges tend to take into account the overall routine. If there is a little bent elbow here, a small amount of leg separation there, and some hesitation in a swing, a judge may say something like: “Well there were a few minor errors, but nothing that I am required to take off. However it wasn’t perfect so I can’t give you a 10.00 so we’ll go with 9.40.”