It’s NOT All About the Numbers…

It’s NOT All About the Numbers…

By Dr. Alison Arnold

2013–2014 is an exciting time for USA Gymnastics! Every eight years USA Gymnastics Women’s Junior Olympic Program Committee creates new routines for the Junior Olympic levels. That means, new skills, dance, and the best part of all…new music!  With all the changes this year, USA Gymnastics is also implementing a new numbering system for the levels. There will still be a total of 10 levels, but it will now be 5 compulsory levels and 5 optional levels. Remember all of these changes are affecting every gymnast in the country — not just your gym. All USA Gymnastics Junior Olympic Women’s program coaches and gymnasts are in the same boat and this new structure will make our system stronger for the future!

With the changes, gymnasts who were Levels 3, 4, or 5 last year, will be the same number this year if they are moving up, but they will be doing new routines with more advanced skills. If you are competing the same skills for one more year, then your number will go down one digit, but you will still be doing the same difficulty of routines. The numbering is just different!

Here are some examples to help you understand. If you are a Level 4 and moving up a level, you will be still be called a Level 4 in the new system. The difficulty of the new Level 4 is the same as last year’s Level 5. So even if your number stays the same, you are still moving up!

If you are currently a Level 4 and need to master the Level 4 skills, you will be called a Level 3 in the new system. I know it sounds confusing but the most important thing is — don’t get caught up in the numbers!  The numbers are just labels.
Here are some tips to help you think about the renumbered levels and remember why you do gymnastics.

Keep focusing on getting better. It doesn’t matter what the number says, what matters is you are improving your basic shapes and skills.

Gymnastics is a journey. You are just in the beginning of your gymnastics adventure!  Keep learning, listening, growing, and improving, and you will go far in this sport.
Your coach will always put you in the best level for you.

Remember what gymnastics is all about — having fun with your teammates and pushing yourself to get better every day.

Don’t compare yourself to others. You are on your unique gymnastics path. Trust your coaches that your path is the perfect one for you!

Remember to learn the important stuff as well as the gymnastics stuff. The important stuff is hard work, being a leader, and learning to use all obstacles as fuel to make you stronger. That’s what gymnastics is all about: learning life lessons.

Gymnastics is not like school where you usually move up every year. Many times gymnasts repeat levels throughout their career. It’s more important to master a level than to move up pre-maturely. Moving up before you’re ready can lead to bad habits, fear, and struggles in competition. Your coaches know what is best for you in terms of your gymnastics and your confidence. Believe in yourself and in your coach.

With the new level numbering system, it’s important parents help their gymnasts understand that staying in the same level is actually a move up!  And moving down a level is actually repeating and building confidence in the level they were in last year!  Remember, it’s not about the numbers, it’s about the skills and confidence.

Not everyone can flip and fly like you do. Celebrate how lucky you are to do gymnastics every day!

To purchase Dr. Alison Arnold’s technical materials in the USA Gymnastics store go to