Rec Op and Prep Op

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Exactly what is Rec Op and Prep Op?

We have heard lots of things about Prep Op, but nothing about Rec Op. And what we have heard about Prep Op is not very clear. We have been told that it is simply "fun team". we've been told that it is used to help a gymnast move from level 6 to level 7. we've been told that a gymnast who does Prep Op cannot move to regular Optionals levels 7 - 10. Also, I read on the WA state website that college recruiters will NOT look at Prep Op gymnasts.

So, can anyone explain exactly what it is and the benefits of such a program?

thank you

Geoffrey Taucer

Staff member
Gold Membership
Jan 21, 2007
Baltimore, MD
A lot of what you're asking seem to be more matters of gym policy than actual USAG rules.

The Prep Op program varies from state to state, and how it is handled within a gym varies a lot from gym to gym. Some gyms (like mine) have the team compete both compulsory and prep-op; my girls compete compulsories in fall, then for the spring prep op season we put together routines designed to get them ready to move up to the next level next fall. Essentially, compulsories are our serious competition season, and prep op is a bit more relaxed and geared toward development of higher skills.

Some teams in NC only compete compulsories, some only do prep op, and then go from prep op to level 7, 8, 9, and 10. In North Carolina, you are not required to do any compulsory levels; you can qualify for L7 through the prep op system. I don't know if it works that way in other states.

As for Rec Op, I have no idea, but I'd guess that's more of a question for the coaches at your gym.
Aug 21, 2007
are the same things. My daughter used to compete rec op here in Wa and she moved to compulsory this season. Rec op is more fun for the kids, they learn tricks sooner, when competing the judges aren't as harsh and strict. A lot of rec op gymnasts are prior compulsory ones who still love gymnastics BUT don't want to to work as hard. Does that make sense? From what I have seen, the compulsory meets kids have stressed about, the rec op, they miss a trick and laugh about it.
I hope this helps.
Aug 21, 2007
I disagree with you on this

That's more a result of how the coaches and parents handle it than how the system is actually set up.

There is no pressure to make it to the next level in rec/prep op. There is novice and advanced. Not will I make it to level 5 or whatever the next season. If you have the right skills you can compete advanced. You don't have to qualify for state competitions. If you go to 3 meets (that is what it was when my daughter did it) you automatically qualified. It is a more fun atomosphere.
umm...i have nevr heard of rec. op. but im in prep op. its like rec. but u compete.
u don't train as much as other girls and its less expensive. anyone can be in it but u have to be 10 or over. there are like 3 different levels: gold ,silver, and bronze. thats how it is in my state:Wisconsin

gym law mom

Proud Parent
Dec 23, 2006
These programs are really different depending on what state you're in. I would say here in CO, they have rec op. They have L4 and L5---girls do the compulsory routines and then they go to optional a, b, c. As everyone else has said, less hours for practice, meet season is completely seperate from USAG club season, judging is alot more relaxed and it is not as expensive. They do have their own state meet, but I don't know if they have to get a qualifying score or not. As far as I know, you can't do this program for say L4-op a and the skip to L7 in USAG. This program gets girls who did USAG team and didn't like it or didn't want to put in all the hours, kids who want to gymnastics, but have other activities and this is their 2nd sport. Some girls do it just to learn the skills so they can compete in high school and may also do this team(they compete April-June). Many stay at the same level for several years---there is no real push to get alot of new skills or move up if they don't want to.


Thank you for all the answers. When we were in SC there was prep op but no rec op. The prep op girls competed Dec thru April. GA is where we heard that it is used to get them ready to move to L7 - I imagine the coaches use it as you do at your gym Geoffrey. I like your way of using it as spring comp season for your compulsory girls.


At our gym we use it kinda like Geoffrey's gym. Last year my dd competed Level 5 in the fall and then did Prep Op 2 in the spring. We don't compete Level 6 at our gym, so we also use it to replace level 6. Right now my dd is considered a Prep Op2 because she needs her giants to go to level 7. So we also use it for those girls who don't quite have the skills to do level 7. As soon as one of the girls gets the skills required for level 7, they are moved to that level. We pay more than compulsories but less than the optionals. So I guess you would say that we use prep op kinda as a crossover level between compulsories and optionals.


My niece competed Prep Op 1 last winter/spring between her L3 and L5 compulsory seasons. She did so well in L3 and Prep1 that her coach skipped her past L4 and into L5. She just finished up The L5 competition season and will be competing in Prep Op again. Here in TN, there are three levels to Prep. At Ashleigh's gym, the PO1 team is made up of the girls who competed in L3 during the fall. PO2 is L4 and possibly L5s. Whether the L5 girls make it to PO3 depends on the skills they pick up during the competition season. One nice thing about Prep is that they can move forward/backward during the competition season (within certain guidelines). Ash's coach has given the girls certain "goal" skills they need to master in order to move to PO3. Not all gyms compete Prep. Some stick to compulsories. The girls like it though because they don't have to wait until Level 7 to pick their own music and they can switch around their routines to highlight their best skills while working on new stuff all the time in practice. Ashleigh learned so much in Prep 1 last year, she's very excited about being Prep 2/3 this year. I wouldn't really say it's for girls who don't want to work as hard though... not at all. Prep practices can be just as hard, if not harder than the compulsories. They are constantly working on multiple skills and the routines are ever-changing. It's alot to keep up with. And because of the weight certain skills hold, there is a push to get the harder stuff... instead of just learning one or two "newer" skills, they are learning several!

As for using Prep to get to Level 7... actually that is kind of what happens here. Ashleigh's gym does not have a Level 6 team. Her coach, while realizing the importance of the compulsory routines much prefers Optional competition where the girls can use their individual talents. She says compulsories build "gym robots" who all look, act, and move exactly the same. Optionals allow the individual gymnast to shine. Girls at her gym compete three compulsory levels (3,4 & 5) then when they are good enough, they "score out" and go to Level 7. They stay at Level 5 until they are ready... this is where the Prep competitions come in. They will compete at the Prep Op 3 level and be required to make a certain score on each event and the all-around. If they don't, they are back in L5 that fall... if they do, they are L7.
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Prep Op is like compulsory but instead of just working one level you work different levels on different events. For instance, prep op silver is level 4 and 5 combined (which is my level) i do a level 5 bars routine, level 5 floor, level 4 vault and level 4 beam.). There are also less practices and a little less pressure. Our gym competes prep ops. There are prep op novice, bronze, silver, gold and platinum. bronze is 3 and 4. silver 4 and 5. gold 5, 6 and 7. platinum is 8 and up. also in prep op you all dont have to do the same routine so it is a little more "fun", but still it is hard work. Im sure prep op differs at other gyms, but this is how mine does it.
Oct 6, 2007
Pittsburgh, PA
Prep op has been such a blessing for me. At 15 and competing level 6 last year, I had just gotten to the point where I hated gymnastics. I wasn't ready for level 7, and let's face it; I'll be a junior in high school next year. My schedule is already jam-packed with gym and a possible musical here or there, and I would not be able to train as much as a 7 should train. So in stepped prep-op. I love it! It has allowed me to work harder skills without being in the gym 20 hours a week, I don't have to deal with compulsory requirements (and at my age... compulsory was just awful. :p), and I can just have fun again. That's the best part. :)

So that's kind of how my gym treats it. If you aren't ready for 7 but you're done (or just are not capable of competing) with 6 or compulsories, prep op it is. If you don't want to dedicate your entire life to the gym, prep-op for you too. It's worked out really nicely. I'm planning (at the moment) on just finishing up at prep-op. But who knows, level 7 my senior year is a possibility. :)

Deleted member D3987

There is no pressure to make it to the next level in rec/prep op. There is novice and advanced. Not will I make it to level 5 or whatever the next season. If you have the right skills you can compete advanced. You don't have to qualify for state competitions. If you go to 3 meets (that is what it was when my daughter did it) you automatically qualified. It is a more fun atomosphere.

i'm sure geoff will correct me if i'm wrong. but my interpretation of his quote is that it is tongue in cheek, as he is a coach, and due to him reading this:

"they miss a trick and laugh about it.":)
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