Repeat level 4?

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May 8, 2009
Region 8
Wondering if most gyms have girls repeat level 4? None of the girls from our 1st year level 4's are advancing to 5 even though many scored 34 - 36 at several meets. They are all 8 years old. All the 2nd year year 4 are moving up even though some are even worse than the 1st year. Just wondering why they should repeat if they have all their skills and did avg. to well over the seaon. My DD is bored already w/the routine and wants to learn more things. I know she will do very well as second year 4, but does she really need to do the basics again. What's the point. She can do most of the 5 requirements without even being taught. I can see the self esteem part and getting her form perfect, but level 4 seems to me like a training level. Thought???:confused:


It sounds to me like that might be a gym policy. You're right, what's the point? Most of the Level 4 skills are never done again, especially on bars. When does your season run? Why not start them training the Level 5 skills over the summer and see how they do and then decide? I can see a lot of girls quitting out of sheer boredom unless they're really dedicated. Maybe you need to talk to the coaches or the gym owners and get their perspective. Good luck!


At our gym a girl needs to get two 35's at 2 sanctioned meets in that season or a 36 at a sectional or State in addition to having the skills to move up a level. Most gyms do try to just do one year at L4 in my area. I know this year in our gym only about 1/2 the girls from 4 are moving up to 5 and only 2 from 5 are moving to 6. Sometimes too alot has to do with maturity at practice and meets. they may have the physical skills but may not be mentally ready for the next level.

I would talk to the coach if you feel your DD is ready to move up and get their take on it.
Hi Flip - welcome to CB.

It's a very common question. I certainly can understand your DD's frustrations, repeating L4 all over again, but I've learned that meet scores aren't really a good indication of skill mastery at the lower levels. Judges can be very generous at these levels.

For example, we have an L3 girl on our team that scored a 9.8 on vault last season, even though her legs were wide apart, and a 37.5 AA. While her scores were great (surprisingly), this same girl struggles with pull-overs on UB, has yet to master a ROBHS, is very mechanical and uneasy on the high beam. Basically, she hasn't mastered all of the L3 skills, has limited physical ability, and despite this, she's is moving to L4 anyway.

That said, my suggestion now is that you cherish her current meet scores for the moment, and look critically at her physical abilities and skills mastery as many L5's will also train L6 skills. As you know, these require significantly more strength and capabilities. So it could be that the coaches don't feel comfortable from a skills/safety mindset to advance the 8 yr olds.

However - I will say that coaches holding back athletes - just because they don't want to break up the team, or want a strong L4 team staring the next season is beyond my comprehension, bordering on selfishness.

If an athlete has proven they have the skills and capabilities and has the desire and passion to take on more challenges, they should be permitted, even mid-season!!

This very common practice of holding back athletes goes contrary to the USAG core philosophy of "The program allows the gymnast to advance at her own pace, competing at more than one level in a year, if she so chooses."

NO WHERE in the rules does it say "At the coaches discretion". If someone can prove me wrong on this, please tell me where, because I've looked, and I can't find it anywhere.

The program overview also clearly states:
- There are no minimum scores to advance to Level 5.
- No mandate scores are permitted at any level. The Jr. Olympic program’s purpose is to provide competitive opportunities for all athletes, regardless of their age, ability level, or training commitment in terms of hours and/or finances.

Ref: :: USA Gymnastics :: Junior Olympic Program Overview

But -- there are things your DD can do to advance her own skills non-competitively just to keep thinks fun and interesting.

My 9yo DD supplements her competitive class with advanced (non-comp) tumble class. The rules are significantly different in tumble. She can do whatever SHE feels comfortable doing. The tumble coach constantly encourages her to try new skills. So, she's working on all the A & B level Salto's she'll need in L6 and up. The FUN stuff! This keeps her happy and progressive, and the comp coaches really have no say in what she's allowed to try. If they did, we'd simply signup for adv. tumble at another gym.

That's my opinion at least.
My best to you and DD, and again, welcome to Chalk Bucket.
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Sep 19, 2008
Honestly, that seems pretty weird to me. Obviously, they might not have mastered the skills even though they are scoring well, as mentioned above. However, this doesn't really seem to be the case from what you're saying, at least not to an extent where it wouldn't be worth to do some uptraining over the summer and then see if the kids make the jump or whether they're better off doing L4 again.

Generally though, just skill-wise, L4 doesn't seem to be the level worth repeating. L5 is big and important, because it has a lot of really important skills. FHS over the vault, kips, tap swings, cartwheels on beam, multiple backhandsprings and front handsprings. If I were a coach I'd try to get them to that level as soon as they can do the skills savely (with decent technique, obviously) and then stay at that level until those fundamental skills are perfected. Mill circles and shoot throughs however? Not really.
Sep 19, 2008
There's a VERY big difference between Level 4 and Level 5 routines. Scoring well in L4 is really great, but has little bearing on L5. They don't need to be perfect L5's to start obviously, but if they are lagging on big skills, or are behind on 1 or 2 events, then I could see holding them back to L4 another year and up training. Competing L4 again can easily be done while up training for L5.

I realize that nowhere in the rules does it say 'at the coaches discretion' but that's because USAG can't speak for individual gym policy. They may compete in USAG sanctioned meets, but program differences are varied by gym. This is a good thing, it gives everyone options so they can find a gym that best suits them. Personally speaking I do not agree with holding kids back to keep a team together or pad scores. I will not however, move a kid up if I'm reasonably sure her scores will bruise her self esteem or damage her confidence in her ability. In the case of L4 vs L5 I think the differences in the skills make that a real possibility. I would rather have them go into it well armed with solid skills than with a sink or swim mentality.
Linsul, I'm very pleased to read your post from a coaching perspective. In the St. Louis area, there seems to be a univeral attitude of teach & refine ONLY what is nessesary for competitions at the current level, and no more - regardless if the athlete is capable or willing to do more. I know my DD finds this policy very frustrating and demotivating. Her coaches are in fact discouraging them from doing anything other then the core skills.

For example: Nastia just started L4. She already has her kip. She's been told it looks good. So she asked if she could try a Kip to Cast handstand. "Absolutely not, you'll start doing those things late in Level 5". Why not at least encourage her to TRY? Why stomp on her motivation just because it's not 'required' yet? It just makes no sense to me. Her assistant coach was harshly scolded for allowing her to do squat-on's during a private, despite the fact that she did it, and was very happy with herself.

I realize that nowhere in the rules does it say 'at the coaches discretion' but that's because USAG can't speak for individual gym policy. They may compete in USAG sanctioned meets, but program differences are varied by gym.

This is where I take issue.

If the gym is a 'member' USAG gym, they they are supposed to abide by the rules and regs set forth in the USAG policy, not limiting only to the sanctioned competitions, but also the core principals layed out by USAG. The GYM agrees to this when they sign up. If the gym owner doesn't like it -- they have the option to NOT renew membership in USAG. Plain and simple.

Where gym's should differentiate from each other is in the quality and level of training. Gym "A" could focus mostly on rec, with adequate coaching staff, a moderate facility and tuition program that is affordable to most that care to attend. Where Gym B. could have a top-notch coaching staff and full facility, and of course charge accordingly.

The way i'm reading it, USAG program rules are RULES, not guidelines. Where am I going wrong?

In the back of my head, it also appears that some gyms 'hold-back decisions' are structured around the idea of holding onto athletes as long as they can to squeeze another year's tuition and make the gym look better (synthetically) at competitions and other public PR events. Of course this idea can't be proven, as the gym will always produce 'saftey concerns', which is an impossible card to trump.

Anyway, i'm venting more then anything now. Sorry for the hijack.
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Proud Parent
Feb 19, 2007
Everyone has had very good comments and responses here. I just wanted to add that some of the gyms in our area have a policy (I don't even want to get into the discussion of whether it's "right" or "wrong"... it is what it is) that a gymnast must spend 2 years at each level regardless of their accomplishments during the season.
Feb 26, 2007
It's so odd to me that as L5 is the first level that a gymnast MUST compete in order to progress that gyms would hold girls back at L4, or in Tim-dads case not allow her to advance despite having one of the tougher skills.

It seems that some gyms really make the most of the money they rake in by competing L1-L3 and this slows girls down in their progress to higher levels. Now the only reason it bugs me is that so many girls quit due to boredom, most girls would love to reach optionals one day but are held back in gyms that insist on them doing every level in a certain way.

I though the idea of USAG was that each child is supposed to be treated as an individual. The fact that Nastia can do a kip and a squat on but is being discouraged from casting to HS is just gobsmacking. Holding her back just for the sake of it and nothing else.

If my DD scored 35 AA and had the skills for the next level I would ask for a coach conference with my hubby and ask to have the reasoning explained to me. If it is all about gym politics and not my individual childs needs I would be far from happy.

The girls in our gym usually get to choose what level they compete, if the coach feels they are ready to move up. My youngest was offered the choice to stay at the same level as last year, and kick butt, or to move ahead and work hard to be in the pack. She took the latter choice and improved at every meet and is now ahead, skills wise, of those girls who decided to stay back. All the girls were happy with their choices, because they got to decide and it was all about them not team politics.


Proud Parent
Feb 16, 2008
In order to move from level to level at our gym our coaches have set very specific criteria for all events and conditioning. It is pretty much all the skills for the level that they would move to and about half of the skills for the next level. In order to move for the fall season the list must be completed by July 1, to move for the winter season the list must be completed by Nov 1.

Our gym skipped the compulsory season last year and started the girls competing in Dec in Minn, while WI was having the state compulsory meet. Our season went from Dec to March, so if our girls stay at their current level for the fall season they are really first year level 4's as none of them have been to state before. Yes some of these girls that my cont in fall as level 4's have scores 36 +, but they are still first year level 4s.

After hearing about move ups at some of other posters gyms, I am happy that ours is listed in black and white. Everyone has the same expectations.
Feb 26, 2007
I think momskazkids hit the nail on the head, most issues regarding gym seem to stem from a lack of clartiy and clear definitions. Hope the club owners are reading.
It's so odd to me that as L5 is the first level that a gymnast MUST compete in order to progress that gyms would hold girls back at L4, or in Tim-dads case not allow her to advance despite having one of the tougher skills.

Just a quick note: Nastia is just fine at L4. She's not ready for L5 - at all. Her work on the advanced skills are her OWN doing. The coaches disallow training beyond what is required. This is what frustrates her the most. Shes just trying to be the best she can be. She loves the challenges. This is awful hard to do when the coaches says "you cant do that for another 2 yrs." The "just because" rule.

You are correct about USAG. Every competing athlete is a member of USAG, and for that paid membership, they are protected and governed by the rules and code of ethics of USAG memberships (including clubs) with regard to gymnastic level and advances within the Jr. Olympics program.

Strictly speaking (although im not holding my breath that this will ever truely happen), but it's techincally up to the athlete to make the determination of advancement readiness - and not the coach. In L4, the only thing the athlete needs to do is show 75% proficiency to a USAG "professional member" in the skills as prescribed. Again, strictly speaking: this professional member doesn't even have to be the athletes own coach. Just a professional member in good standing.

That's it - nothing else. They do not need to "master" anything. Emotional stability is something the coach should warn a parent about, but they aren't really supposed to hold back because of it. (although I do agree with Linsul, but strictly from a rules position, she's not truely allowed to make that decision).

The downside:
Even though the athlete and/or member parent can contest the gym (USAG regulations and code of ethics are on their side) making such large waves in a gym can have negative results that USAG can't govern. (i.e. coaches/owner reactions) I think this is why few are willing to challenge this common practice of holding back. Fear of retaliation!

I wonder how many Nastia's, Shawn's, Shannons, and Carly's dropped out of the program because of boredom, frustration, and (frankly)club inspired BS?

But, like it was said above... "It is what it is". Nothing short of a athlete/parent gymnastics revolution is going to change the ways of SOME club owners anytime soon. Sadly. I truely feel for these kids. I really do.
Feb 26, 2007
Me too Tim-dad, sometimes I think the kids get lost in the politics. A real shame as it is supposed to be fun.


Aug 14, 2008
TimDad, while I understand your POV and agree with some of your points, I would like to offer a different perspective.

The ability to do the skills is just one part of the equation. Many kids can do a ROBHS, but how many can do that skill combination with good form and most importantly in a TECHNICALLY CORRECT manner. Obviously good coaching will go a long way towards acheiving the above, but a gymnast also needs a certain amount of leg, back and shoulder flexibility as well as strength to do the skill correctly. If we allow gymnasts to move to Level 5 who have deficiencies in core Level 4 skills, we are setting them up for failure. Now if they are a solid Level 4 gymnast, as the OPs daughter seemed to be, small errors can be improved upon while training for Level 5. But,going back to my example of the ROBHS; technical errors in this skill will impair the gymnast's ability to tumble well all the way up to the Elite level. Some gymnasts are so powerful, that they can compensate somewhat for poor technique, (e.g. incorrect hand placement and closed shoulder angles), but think how much better they would be if these errors had been fixed early. The more a gymnast performs a skill incorrectly, the more that movement pattern is "hard-wired" into the brain, neurons and muscles.

I think that the outrage should not be that individual gyms in some cases hold-back compulsory gymnasts for questionable reasons, but that USAG does not REQUIRE coaches be properly trained as other countries do. The safety certification test is basically a 25 question "how not to get sued test" and certainly NO substitute for proper coach education. Look at Canada and GB's gymnastics coach education programs. They cover child development, anatomy and physiology, safety, technique, and the teaching of skills. The former Eastern Block countries required the equivalent of a college degree to coach I believe.

I do agree that some gyms MAKE kids do 2 years at Level 3 or Level 4 and I think it leads to boredom and kids quitting. Often gyms do this to be competitively dominant at the lower levels, but interestingly, these gyms tend to lose a lot of their kids by the optional levels. However, some kids DO benefit from repeating Level 4, but that decision should be made with the CHILD'S best interest in mind, not the gym's. There are always individual variables to consider because each child is unique. I have seen first-hand gymnast's that did OK at Level 4 really struggle at Level 5 - maybe they should have spend that extra year at Level 4. I have also seen gyms that make kids repeat when they scored 37+ the year before! Finally, I have had the misfortune to watch Level 9 gymnasts that looked as if they should go back and repeat Level 6 again.

So, always be aware of your gym's policies - ask questions - and ask USAG why they do not have REQUIRED training (other than safety cert.) for your child's coaches.
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Feb 26, 2007
So, always be aware of your gym's policies - ask questions - and ask USAG why they do not have REQUIRED training (other than safety cert.) for your child's coaches.

Good point!!!! In Canada only certified coaches can coach any child even at the rec level, in the US this is not so.
Sep 19, 2008
I don't want to ignore a thread I was quoted in and asked anything, but no good will come of my response. It looks as if it's pretty much been decided that lots of clubs are bad places out to get money and U.S. coaches are prone to uneducated random jerk fits spawned from a desire to hold kids back for funsies. For all I know this could be true, but not from my experience. All I have to add to that is people don't sue USAG when things go wrong, they sue clubs and/or coaches. If I saw trouble of the hazardous kind coming from moving a kid up, and they circumvented me for a sponsorship anyway, then clearly I am not the best coach for that gymnast and hopefully their sponsor is or can be.

TimDad, Nastia's situation is no good. I would recommend a summer camp or something where (hopefully) girls can try out new skills. Shoot, I let the advanced girls that are not competitive try casting to handstands on the strap bar. After they can handstand and come down chest first on a mat 20 times in a row for 3 weeks straight on a floor bar though. Then they have to do it 10 times in a workout on the high bar across the pit consistently. They also always have a spot of course. All the girls in our gym have become obsessed with the strap bar recently, they didn't realize how sore it would make them the next day lol.
The ability to do the skills is just one part of the equation. Many kids can do a ROBHS, but how many can do that skill combination with good form and most importantly in a TECHNICALLY CORRECT manner.

Hmm, I guess I assumed "doing the skill" always meant in a technically correct manner. But what happens if a few months pass, and they do get it. They remain held back for a year because the new season started and the gym doesnt like to promote mid-season. Just because of a few skills? I think this is why the 75% rule exists, or at least, in spirit. And the reason they can be promoted mid-season - if they so desire.

Yea Linsul.. I'm thinking the same thing about this thread. Not a whole lot of anything can come of it. Lots of venting (on my part mostly).

Nastia's first time of summer camp this year. Locally. She's not mentally/emotionally ready for 'sleep over' camps just yet. We'll see. I just want her to have fun, and not be told "she can't" without any valid reason. We'll see how this goes - if she survives. lol

A agree with the certification part. Especially for rec. When I see dance schools offering gymnastics... you know it's ONLY for the money. That's just scary scary.
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Proud Parent
Mar 9, 2008
Just throwing this thought into the mix...I can never relate to comments about gymmies being "bored". I know kids are all different some prefer the challenge of learning new skills, to "perfecting" the ones they have. But my experience with my DD is that she has never been "bored" in this sport. She totally LOVES matter what. She would do even the simplest skills until she achieves as close to perfection as she can. She is very self driven in her perfectionism (to a fault IMHO:(). She develops mental blocks b/c she thinks she is never doing a skill perfectly enough. She has always been at a gym where move ups are based on skills & technique...not AA scores. The coaches do individually assess each girl & they have skills lists to meet(or should I say master). The skills must be mastered prior to move return our girls do fair very well at meets(at all levels). But I also wouldn't say girls are held back just to win. I think move ups are done 'properly' at our gym, with a focus on how the child will fair at the next level. Struggling & losing at every meet is not good psychologically. Which is worse struggling or "being bored"? Depends on the child I suppose. A level that gives reasonable challenge, with attainable goals & success would be what I would want for my DD. If that means repeating a level, so be it. Many parents at our gym complain & question moves ups( I hate this time of year!!! Way too much gossiping going on!!!). Many think not moving up, means their DD is some type of failure & it reflects poorly on them somehow. So they defensively "blame the coach". But each child has a skills list & knows her move up requirements. I find it's the parents who cause more "issues" with move ups at our gym, not the gymmies or the coaches. The initial reaction of a parent finding out their DD is not moving up, is usually horror. Even if they don't express it to their child, the child senses the disappointment. But when I ask the same parents at the end of the repeated season if they are still upset...100% of them have told me they felt that the coach HAD done the right thing & that repeating was what was best for their DD. I'm sure gyms are all different...but this is how I've seen things play out at our gym. If a child TRULY LOVES this sport they will love doing any level, JMHO. Good luck!:)
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I think the USAG needs to require certification for all gymnastics coaches. At a prior gym, our gymmie's level 3 team "coach" was a former ballet dancer. the gym needed a level 3 team coach she is the only who applied so she got it.

Levels 4 & 5 weren't much better. 1 coach was a new adult gymnast w/6 months of gymnastics under her belt. Often they'd start practice w/o a coach - eventually someone would come along to "coach" them.
Sep 19, 2008
I don't think it's possible for USAG to mandate certs, but I don't know for sure. Seems like it might be in the realm of state or federal regulation to be honest. In any case, USAG provides many many educational resources and certs that gyms themselves can look for when hiring people. A lot of gyms pay for or reimburse coaches for these. America is not a coaching culture that idles in or glorifies ignorance. We communicate, collaborate, and re-evaluate often. There are also plenty of us who took or majored in kinesiology at school. It's helpful, but honestly I think of it as not as gymnastics specific as the USAG classes/certs. Personally I majored in business/psych with a minor in dance.

Before these USAG classes were available and kinesiology was a rarity in college, our athletes and coaches did better than just get by I think! Still, I think having the certs is awesome, and getting them because you want them and love your job says a lot more to me than a mandate. Spotting being the only exception, but I think learning how to spot is a given, and something best taught in the gym you work at if there needs to be a lesson.
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