Frustrated With Gymnastics Lack Of Innovation

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LittleLady

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Feb 3, 2009
215
Vermont
The lack of innovation in Women's Artistic Gymnastics is frustrating to me. The same elements have been used for over 20 years now, with the exception of a few (very few) elements that are original. Watching competitions, especially on TV, I can tell what a female gymnast is going to perform before she does it. The two gymnasts who really revolutionized the sport of Women's Artistic Gymnastics like no others, were Olga Korbut and Nadia Comaneci. They both sent gymnastics into a new direction. I think the sport is due for another groundbreaking change into a new direction. Watching optional routines, in my opinion, has become as interesting as watching compulsory routines. Dance on balance beam and floor, has for the most part, been reduced to arm waving and choppy, bottom shaking movements. Too much thought and pause happens before tumbling passes and important beam elements. Uneven bars, although the flight elements may be difficult, is also in need of innovative elements. Nadia's, bar, beam & floor routines were seamless, fluid and graceful. Olga had great expression with original elements, like Nadia, and performed routines with elegance, gracefulness and expressive charm. Gymnastics is a sport with far too many possibilities to have become creatively stagnant the way it has. I'd love to see a change! Women's Artistic Gymnastics could very well make more gains in popularity and participation if and when it does.
 

eeyoretumbles

Member
Jul 13, 2008
234
rainy washington
Watching the American Cup today, I was a bit frustrated. The commentators were saying how a fall would now be a whole point deduction, because FIG wants the big skills to be only thrown when they know it is perfected, and they would rather see perfect form and elegance. While some of that makes sense, doesn't that discourage big, original, and fun skills to be thrown?
 

LittleLady

Member
Feb 3, 2009
215
Vermont
I watched the American Cup too. I believe there's a lot of frustration with judging. The best remedy is to stop training gymnasts to execute skills that everyone else is doing. It's a waste of time, unless it's a basic skill for a foundation for harder elements. Train gymnasts to do original skills with as much time and effort that's being put into the common elements done by all gymnasts. The gymnast who perfects the "original skill" and executes it well in competition will get noticed and score higher. You have to start somewhere when it comes to changing something. I appreciate your input!
 

Linsul

Active Member
Sep 19, 2008
876
Pripyat
I agree with you LittleLady. I do think that difficulty is up there, but originality has taken the furthest seat back. In my opinion, it has to do in large part with the general disdain for dance. I don't want to label coaches or gymnasts, I know some do see a place for it, but in my experience it has been loathed by both groups a good 85% of the time. I've even had a parent get mad at me over dance when teaching kids coupé and passé despite both being used frequently on floor and beam; and both being on the evaluation sheet for gymnasts at that level!

In between all the high flying and twisting there has been vanilla yawn inducing choreography more often than not. There are plenty of amazing leaps, but the footwork is just getting from point A to point B when it could be so much more. I think Nastia winning the AA has changed the perception of dance a bit for sure. The value of grace, poise, and presence along with stunning athletic ability was showcased like no other with her in my opinion. On a good note I know plenty of die hard anti dance coaches have started putting up ballet bars and mirrors to address this. My hats off to them, they're putting the 'artistic' back into artistic gymnastics in a big way.
 

Aussie_coach

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Jan 4, 2008
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You won't see a lot of innovation because tthe code of points does not reward it. There are many things girls could put into their routines but its all deductions. A lot of what you might have seen in the past looks great but every second the gymnast is on the floor doing things that aren't worth the big points they are facing deductions.

There are many new elements that the girls could introduce without being the first to do something daring, new ways to perform turns and leaps but for the most part they will be worth an A or nothing at all.

With all the changes that have been introduced to the code of points for 2009 you will see even less innovation. Such as a full poimt deduction foor a fall, and the fact that only 8 elements will count instead of 10.

One positive change is that on beam and floor only a maximum of 5 acro/tumbling skills will count for their difficulty score and they can do only a maximum of 4 tumble passes. This may bring more emphasis back on their dance and artistry and it may bring out more original dance moves.
 

MdGymMom01

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Mar 5, 2008
2,236
North America
I think Nastia winning the AA has changed the perception of dance a bit for sure. The value of grace, poise, and presence along with stunning athletic ability was showcased like no other with her in my opinion. On a good note I know plenty of die hard anti dance coaches have started putting up ballet bars and mirrors to address this. My hats off to them, they're putting the 'artistic' back into artistic gymnastics in a big way.

I totally agree Linsul. I, too, think that Nastia winning the AA in Beijing is saying that the judges are looking for more artistry and dance in gymnastics. It is called "Artistic Gymnastics" as opposed to acro or rythmic ;). I love seeing the graceful balletic moves of Nastia and some of the European gymnasts. It is just more entertaining to watch IMO. Just from personal experience, having my dd in Ballet class has GREATLY improved her floor and beam routines since she started gymnastics last April. Though she is just a Level 4 and she has only had 3 meets so far, I am definitely seeing a difference in her gracefulness, poise and presence while she performs.

I still love watching old gymnastics videos of the 1990's gymnasts such as Svetlana Boguinskaya, Henrietta Onodi, Lilia Podkopeyeva, Tatiyana Gutsu, Natalia Kalinina and Shannon Miller to name a few. Thier artistry, grace and elegance and expressiveness is breathtaking to watch!
 

I-Heart-Beam

Active Member
Sep 9, 2007
964
Scotland
I thought the revised Code was a way to make gymnastics more artistic because they had more time for dance/artistry, and it is forcing them to rely less on the tumbling.

But look at the bars routines in Beijing- Yillin, Tweddle, Liukin and Kexin- there was rarely originality like that from so many gymnasts. Vault has also gotten more interesting, especially in the last quad. Floor sucks now, with a few exceptions, and I totally agree with the horrible beam choreography.

There's too many restrictions to have real creativity IMO. Why have a long aerobic dance sequence when you can stand, wave your hands about and smile and get the same value, and save your energy for the crazy big tumbles that will increase your value?

1983 USSR Worlds team was the best ever IMO. Followed individually by Oksana Omelianchik.
 
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LittleLady

Member
Feb 3, 2009
215
Vermont
Great responses! I look forward to even more hearty discussions. The new Code Of Points has made room for more artistry. But who has the guts to actually put innovation into action? With a point off for a fall, my suggestion is quite simple. Don't fall. Is it any more disheartening to fall on an element 1,000 or more gymnasts are performing than falling on an element that is original or maybe very, very few are doing? I see more exciting, entertaining moves done by people on sidewalks in commercials, or ballet performances and dance competitions than I see at the highest levels of gymnastics! Creating routines from the elements only listed in the Code Of Points is boring. Maybe we need to buck the system before we see the system change. I read somewhere that " A great gymnast will perform a routine that looks different from her competitors. It will have something special about it. Risky tricks, an artistic flare, or skills that are simply unique from others performed in competition." Wow! That says it all. I might also add that old ways die hard. Too many people do not embrace change easily. It takes patience and persistence to move in a new direction. Passion and willingness to move forward are commendable traits. Let's keep this discussion going. I love it! :)
 

Linsul

Active Member
Sep 19, 2008
876
Pripyat
I totally agree Linsul. I, too, think that Nastia winning the AA in Beijing is saying that the judges are looking for more artistry and dance in gymnastics. It is called "Artistic Gymnastics" as opposed to acro or rythmic ;). I love seeing the graceful balletic moves of Nastia and some of the European gymnasts. It is just more entertaining to watch IMO. Just from personal experience, having my dd in Ballet class has GREATLY improved her floor and beam routines since she started gymnastics last April. Though she is just a Level 4 and she has only had 3 meets so far, I am definitely seeing a difference in her gracefulness, poise and presence while she performs.

I still love watching old gymnastics videos of the 1990's gymnasts such as Svetlana Boguinskaya, Henrietta Onodi, Lilia Podkopeyeva, Tatiyana Gutsu, Natalia Kalinina and Shannon Miller to name a few. Thier artistry, grace and elegance and expressiveness is breathtaking to watch!

Yay!! Level 4 is GREAT to start dance with, it will coexist with her gymnastics training from the start. Physically she will likely have amazing extension from it, which is a beautiful departure from the norm. Likewise her dance will only be improved from the strength she'll get from her gym workouts. It's a win-win imo! She'll also have a great amount of knowledge to take with her to optionals if she chooses to go that far. Her own input will probably be highly valued when it comes to her routines.

Presence by far is the greatest intangible in any sport that requires public performance. She'll have an edge for sure. Speaking of presence, there's one optional meet I saw in California that sticks out greatly to this day. It was Wildfire gymnastics girls on floor. I think they were L7 or L8. One was a tiny little girl, she was adorable, clearly in the competition zone though with no smiles. When her music started, it was string instruments playing 'over the rainbow' she just came to life. It was such a sad and wistful rendition, one that didn't require her to be all bubbly and smiles. Her tumbling was excellent, and her choreography was designed to show not only her great ability, but that she could break your heart with a flick of her little wrist. Nobody was watching anybody else, I felt a little bad for everyone who was on other events while she was on floor.

The other girl was her opposite. Very tall, very muscular, very clearly enjoying the meet and ready to show off. Her music was from Pirates of the Caribbean. very epic sounding with a great drum beat. Her tumbling was huge (and awesome!) and her dance was grand, sweeping, and aggressive. Totally different from her teammate, but no less watchable. In both routines there was no wasted music, no hand waving, no 4-7 second tumbling pass prep, they were all out and breathless by the end. A total joy to watch, the whole crowd freaked out when they were done, and they scored very well. Judges are people, and it is a subjective sport. If you're able to make a judge glad they showed up just to watch you that can't hurt a score!

Great responses! I look forward to even more hearty discussions. The new Code Of Points has made room for more artistry. But who has the guts to actually put innovation into action? With a point off for a fall, my suggestion is quite simple. Don't fall. Is it any more disheartening to fall on an element 1,000 or more gymnasts are performing than falling on an element that is original or maybe very, very few are doing? I see more exciting, entertaining moves done by people on sidewalks in commercials, or ballet performances and dance competitions than I see at the highest levels of gymnastics! Creating routines from the elements only listed in the Code Of Points is boring. Maybe we need to buck the system before we see the system change. I read somewhere that " A great gymnast will perform a routine that looks different from her competitors. It will have something special about it. Risky tricks, an artistic flare, or skills that are simply unique from others performed in competition." Wow! That says it all. I might also add that old ways die hard. Too many people do not embrace change easily. It takes patience and persistence to move in a new direction. Passion and willingness to move forward are commendable traits. Let's keep this discussion going. I love it! :)

Honestly I think the innovation will come from the athletes. Coaches of course would have to be willing to fan that innovative flame and guide them. I don't think it will happen anytime soon, but you can see it in the works if you look hard. At a summer training camp last year I saw the competitive girls modifying gymnastics moves for fun at open gym time. When they gathered to talk it was a critical evaluation of each others routines they've had over the years. These girls are not without thought, they will find a way to input meaningfully, they're working it out. Even the most somber girl in the gym is still a girl. They don't squeeze into comp leos and throw themselves at the mercy of judges just to blend in. I think the younger ones will see the code of points frustration from the older girls, and hopefully come to the conclusion that they don't work hard to fade into the background.

**EDIT** I think the code of points being so strict and unforgiving is a pretty unmerciful blow being dealt to coaches. They have to decide what goes into routines in the end, and having wiggle room made that easier. With things as they are, I say change will come from the athletes because their voice will matter more I think. In the end it is their routine, their score, their risk to take. I see them flexing not only their creative ability in open gym, but skill-wise as well. One girl listened to coaching of a toe-front on bars all season for her teammate. She internalized all that and got hers over the summer, teaching herself from what she remembered and her teammates watchful eyes. She took it to competition the following year. These are smart, driven, capable, thoughtful, creative, and brave girls. As they get older one can only assume that when in doubt, they will voice their thoughts to their coaches and take ownership of their performances hopefully.
 
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B

BlairBob

Far too often, many gyms scrimp on routines for the L7 which really makes them boring. Sometimes some gyms have all L7 do the same routine and music...gag. It makes it cheap and easy to train but way LAME. It's nice to have a good optional choreographer for L7 and L8 or to pay for someone instead of just be LAME.
 

eeyoretumbles

Member
Jul 13, 2008
234
rainy washington
I also agree with the dance aspect. I started at a gym when I was three, and for level 4 went to a very good gym that was always number one, then left because I didn't like how much pressure there was, and I just wanted to have fun, and went back to my original gym. But mentioning the dance, it's funny because they always had us do ballet positions, and a TON of dance. When I went back to my old gym, I was shocked about how much dance they didn't do, and I really don't want to brag or sound snobby or anything, but how far ahead I was because of how the dance helped me.
 
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