Anon Misuse of XCEL

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Feb 16, 2022
793
Posting anonymously here because I’m hoping it will encourage people to give an honest response!

I’ve read about so many different approaches to the XCEL program in gyms across the country. Many times, people will also comment about XCEL not being used as intended by USAG, which was made to be more of a “recreational” track. It got me wondering, what do people consider to be the appropriate use of XCEL, and what factors cross the line?

Is it when gyms go over a set number of hours practicing? Is the type of coaching? Is it when gyms use XCEL as a replacement for compulsories? How many travel meets are required?

I’d love to hear some thoughts on this as it seems to vary greatly between regions and gyms , and people seem to have strong opinions about it!
 
Feb 16, 2022
793
I am in the PNW, and I personally love the way I see Xcel done in our area. I especially love the program and philosophy at the gym I coach at. We used to do both Xcel and DP, but decided to streamline our focus post covid.

Pretty much all of our kids do other sports and activities, and we intentionally strive to be a relatively low cost program. Silver and Gold do 2.5 hours 2 days a week, with golds having an optional 3rd day (8 out of 20 opt in). Platinum is 2.75 2 days a week, with the optional third day (2 of the 15 choose this). Diamond is 3 hours 3 days a week, but we do flexibly work with the kids who do high school gym as well. Platinum and diamond do one travel (plane) meet a year, and we keep it to about 5-6 meets total, including an in house meet and state.

We use our recreational curriculum well, and its goal is to bring kids into Xcel team. We have first year silvers who are 8, and others who are 13. There is room for everyone.

As someone who grew up in a more rigid DP (then JO) program, I really enjoy seeing these kids just do gym for fun. If we do have kids who are more serious or seem like they would be a good fit for DP, we have strong enough relationships with other gyms and can recommend DP to them. Some of them have come back.

We do pride ourselves on attention to details and strong basics, which starts from those low rec levels. Our teams consistently place in the top five at state, with platinums winning just last year.

I think it would be frustrating to me if DP kids were using Xcel just to get to optionals while training triple our hours. I don't currently notice it around here though.
 
Feb 16, 2022
793
I really really wish xcel had some sort of practice hour cap. I think that would solidify making it truly more for the recreational yet competitive gymnast and might even deter gyms using it as a means to sort of bypass the compulsory levels.

Nearest me, one gym competes DP and one Xcel. I checked with the xcel gym considering a switch for my daughter so she could try some other activities. The xcel gym actually practices their silvers the exact same hours as our 4s. Essentially the option for us to dial back a bit, which I thought xcel would be, doesn’t exist.
 
Feb 16, 2022
793
Interesting discussion. I'm aware that several top gyms in my state have transitioned from compulsory DP to Xcel in recent years. I don't know if this is a way to "fast track" or bypass some elements of DP though, as I haven't been involved in DP at all as a parent. DD's gym is Xcel - Levels 8-10, but not long enough for current Xcel gymnasts have made it to optionals yet. I do like that Xcel allows for older, less "conventional" gymnasts to participate. DD started the sport late. I doubt a gym doing DP would have given her a chance. She's able to work with her strengths in Xcel, where she may have struggled in those areas with compulsories.

I can't speak to the number of Xcel practice hours for other gyms, but DD's Xcel Silver group practices 9 hrs/week. I think that's about mid-range? Her gym's Xcel levels are all very competitive, and many of the girls do other activities besides gymnastics.

Hypothetical questions:

*Does the rise of Xcel mean the eventual devolution of the DP compulsories, or can they co-exist? Are they meant to lead to the same end (optionals)?
* How does AAU fit in? Is it the true recreational gym program now? (since many Xcel programs train like compulsories now)
 

ProudGymnast

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Feb 16, 2021
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I think a prime case of mis-use of xcel I see in my area is when the "elite" gyms send their older level 7 and 8s to diamond because they no longer are on track to elite or a college scholarship. Or anything along those lines. Also when gyms use xcel as a threat- "If you don't get these skills I am moving you to xcel," "At this rate you'll have to move to xcel because you aren't good enough for dp" Or anything similar to that.
 
Feb 16, 2022
793
I think a prime case of mis-use of xcel I see in my area is when the "elite" gyms send their older level 7 and 8s to diamond because they no longer are on track to elite or a college scholarship. Or anything along those lines. Also when gyms use xcel as a threat- "If you don't get these skills I am moving you to xcel," "At this rate you'll have to move to xcel because you aren't good enough for dp" Or anything similar to that.
I don't think that moving older level 7 and 8s to Diamond is a misuse of the Xcel system at all. I think it is a fantastic way to keep kids in the sport and allow them to have time for high school sports or other activities. From our gym (not an elite gym) we just had 4 Diamond seniors compete in their last state meet. One was a former level 8 and two were former level 7s. But for the opportunity to compete Diamond, they would have all stopped gymnastics years ago. Instead they decided to give Diamond a try.

I completely agree that Xcel should not be used as a threat!
 
Feb 16, 2022
793
USAG created XCEL specifically because many areas of the country (mainly states, but some gym regions as well) were developing their own alternative/co-existing programs and USAG wanted to control it (and I believe- cash in as a result). In light of this, for those areas that had already established programs, they continued to use Xcel as they had their prep-op programs, which often was used as an extra season (compulsory in the fall, prep-op in the spring), an alternative to compulsory (prep-op for a few of years, then jump to level 7), or as a transition when they weren't ready for the next level but didn't want to repeat a compulsory level (4,5,6, prep op, 7,8). That's one major reason why you see different areas of the country treat xcel differently.

As for misuse - I agree with proudgymnast above. I also think it's misuse when a gym has both DP and Xcel and treat them exactly the same (similar hours, coaching, intensity of training) but they use their xcel team for those gymnast whom they predict won't score as well as the others, are too old for their liking, don't fit the body type, etc. If you are going to have both programs running in your gym, then use it to give an option for less hours/intensity
 
Feb 16, 2022
793
I really like how our gym uses Xcel. The gym offers DP levels 3-10 as well as all Xcel levels. There is fluidity between the two programs and we often get girls in Xcel who were in DP and wanted to quit gym all together. Our gym owner asks them to try a week or two in Xcel before quitting. Most choose Xcel. I've also seen a trend of older (high school age) optionals who are either injury plagued or just burned out switching to Xcel (usually Diamond) for less hours and more flexibility in routines/skills.

A While Xcel isn't as rigorous as DP (the max practice hours are 12 which is the same as DP 4 while L6+ train 16 hours minimum and more the higher level), it is still treated as a serious competitive program in that there is a focus on conditioning, form, technique, new skills, etc. We've competed against gyms where I'm astounded that there are no serious injuries, their form is so bad on things like vault (i.e. elbows so bent their heads are just an inch or two from the table), so I appreciate that proper technique is taught and that girls do not perform skills that cannot do safely. It is also less expensive than optionals and some people choose it because it fits their family's budget better. I've also seen girls move over to Xcel because they are missing a few skills to progress in the DP journey but don't want to do another year at L4, etc. They can move back if they get the skills to move to the next DP level, but compete and uptrain as they work towards them rather than being stuck with the same skill set and compulsory routines for another year.

I don't know if this is the "ideal" way to use Xcel, but it works for us. It feels like DP and Xcel exist side by side so that each girl can choose or compete in the program/path is best for them.
 
Feb 16, 2022
793
I don't think that moving older level 7 and 8s to Diamond is a misuse of the Xcel system at all.

In the context of the rest of her comment it sounds like the gym did it more because they didnt want older DP gymnasts not because those older gymnasts wanted less hours and more options. Maybe they wanted to stay level 8 till they graduate they should have the opportunity to do that. If the gym uses the program as a threat they probably move kids out of DP if they stop progressing which may or may not be what the gymnast actually wants.

I don't really think it matters if gyms use it to skip the compulsory levels some kids do better with options on skills and Xcel offers that. I think people get frustrated when you have a high hours vs. low hours because its not fair to the girls who use it more recreationally vs those going high hours to skip to higher levels. I get the frustration but the same thing happens in all sports and there really isnt a way to regulate it. In DP you have girls that go high hours and girls that dont, girls that get privates, or home school or any other variety of ways to gain an "advantage". Same happens in all sports. You can have baseball players in rec that get tons of private lessons....why dont they just play travel ball? There is no way to make sports fair unfortunately.

I do think its unfortunately when no gym in the area offers a lower cost lower hours competitive experience whatever it may look like. Because that pushes kids out of the sport. Looking for competitions to be "fair" will get you nothing but heartbreak though.
 
Feb 16, 2022
793
I love the xcel program. Our daughter is talented but was bored out of her mind on the L3 team at her old gym. We moved her to xcel and she is killing it - or should I say excelling (ha). The flexibility has been ideal for her, and she's now working on mostly L5 skills as she prepares to move back to the optionals track next year. She doesn't do any other activities and doesn't want to, but xcel allowed her to see her potential in gymnastics.

Also, it bugs me when I hear people share antiquated philosophies on xcel as it relates to college scholarships or elite potential. Just like many things in our world, gymnastics is evolving. Xcel is part of that and as it becomes more and more commonly used as a "training ground" before JO, I think we'll see more gymnasts with xcel beginnings at the college level and beyond.
 
Feb 16, 2022
793
I really like having the option of the Xcel program, though. 5 years ago, Xcel was almost unheard of in our state. Now it's huge. 2 sessions of Bronze, Silver, and Gold at state, one day was all Bronze & silver. Girls who wouldn't have competed because of the hours needed for DP, our could front tumble but not do back handsprings, or who also liked soccer are now all competing! I think it is super exciting gymnastics has opened up like that.

A friendly question here: why some gyms are now choosing to do Xcel to optionals instead of compulsories? After all, they are "compulsory" and you still have to score out of 4 & 5. And if you are going to require your gymnasts do most of the L3 skills in XS (i.e. kids have to be able back and front tumble, be up to level, etc, so they are on track for L4) ...why not L3? Do the coaches want their kids to learn other skills than the ones in the compulsory routines because they find they translate to optionals better? What would be an example of that?
 
Feb 16, 2022
793
This is an interesting thought, I’ve never heard of this done in another sport. What do you feel the cap should be? What is the rationale?
I think that the rationale would be to try to make the competition level more even. For instance, one gym does Xcel silver at 10 hours a week because they are doing it in place of level 3 and another gym's Silver team does 6 hours a week because they are doing the program as intended. Chances are the team doing 10 hours a week will outscore the team doing 6.

No competition will ever be fair but by limiting the hours this situation could be prevented. And Xcel could be used in the manner in which it was intended and not to bypass the compulsory levels.
 

JBS

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which was made to be more of a “recreational” track

When something has an entire rule book solely for the purpose of judging the athletes to rank them and give out medals... it's hard to use the word "recreational".

USAG has a vague overview of the Xcel program stating...

The USA Gymnastics Xcel program was developed as an alternative competitive program offering individual flexibility to coaches and gymnasts. The goal of Xcel is to provide gymnasts of varying abilities and commitment levels the opportunity for a rewarding gymnastics experience

In my opinion... my athletes have a more rewarding experience competing in Xcel Silver than Level 3. Xcel Silver allows us to do less hours than Level 3 and we can still up-train more towards Level 4. There is less pressure in Xcel Silver. For our program... this has worked well.

In no way... shape... or form are we going against that overview above.
 
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Feb 16, 2022
793
At some gyms there is a limit to the time, resources, and coaching available and as such they could do either Compulsory or Xcel but have a hard time making both work, so as such use the more flexible Xcel as a way of training both lower level gymnast and recreation/multi-sport focused gymnasts in the same group.

At our gym the girls that have JO6+ aspirations get an extra training day to refine skills that they will need in the future, but both groups compete together in order to maximize available resources.
 
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Feb 16, 2022
793
In the context of the rest of her comment it sounds like the gym did it more because they didnt want older DP gymnasts not because those older gymnasts wanted less hours and more options. Maybe they wanted to stay level 8 till they graduate they should have the opportunity to do that. If the gym uses the program as a threat they probably move kids out of DP if they stop progressing which may or may not be what the gymnast actually wants.
Yes. Its not by choice of the gymnasts, its a way of ridding the team of any gymnasts who aren't young hotshots topping the podium so they can have a full team of elite track girls. This specific gym I am thinking of treats it as a "lesser than" program, rather than another different, but still valid option. Sorry if I was not clear.
 
Feb 16, 2022
793
There are the Xcel girls that are competing xcel instead of compulsories.
Then there are the girks who do it as an a fun/rec thing.
They compete at the same meets. You can guess who tops the podium. It is an interesting scenario that Xcel has opened up. Is this fair? Nothing's fair. Different gyms have different views of what xcel should be. But all in all, I like this "second track" USAG has created. Do you think that maybe someday the programs would blend? That xcel or an xcelish curriculum would BE compulsories? So like optionals all the way through?
 

RTT2

Proud Parent
Oct 9, 2015
883
I don't have a dog in this fight and think both DP and Xcel are good programs, but I was under the impression that Compulsories exist for a reason- I thought the idea was to create a progression of skills with a very solid foundation of basics that build with DP each level. Xcel seems to have the ability to bypass some of the skills that are necessary to continue through the DP levels. I guess if there really isn't anything that important about the skills that need to be mastered in DP, and Xcel can teach exactly the same form and technique then I'd think it might be just as well not to have every kid have to go through the rigid requirements of Compulsories where everyone does exactly the same routines.
 
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Feb 16, 2022
793
I don't have a dog in this fight and think both DP and Xcel are good programs, but I was under the impression that Compulsories exist for a reason- I thought the idea was to create a progression of skills with a very solid foundation of basics that build with DP each level. Xcel seems to have the ability to bypass some of the skills that are necessary to continue through the DP levels. I guess if there really isn't anything that important about the skills that need to be mastered in DP, and Xcel can teach exactly the same form and technique then I'd think it might be just as well not to have every kid have to go through the rigid requirements of Compulsories where everyone does exactly the same routines.
Gymnasts still have to score out of L4 and L5, so they have to be proficient at the same skills even if they did xcel instead of compulsuries.
 
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