Level 4,5,6 routines - designed for small girls?

DON'T LURK... Join The Discussion!

Members see FEWER ads



It seems to me that the compulsory routines are better suited to smaller, younger girls. That the routines were designed for smaller, younger girls.

I've noticed at meets, included state finals, that the older girls (11+) score lower than younger girls, and the top scores in those age groups is always lower than the top scores in ages 10 and below.

I don't think the "older" girls are any less skilled. Statistically - there should be equal distribution of high scores no matter what the age group.

Statistics doesn't work very well here because many very talented 11+-year-olds are already in optionals, and that's generally not the case with 6-8-year-olds. Therefore, you're missing a large chunk of the talent pool with the older girls, and probably less than 2% of the 8-year-olds. The girls in the older age groups in compulsories generally started gymnastics later than the younger kids, which can benefit some and hinder others. Older gymnasts generally listen better and goof off less than the little ones, but they also often have to play catch-up with strength and flexibility.

Also, in my state, the gymnast with the highest AA at L5 state was 11 (2nd highest AA was 11 as well), and the one with the 2nd highest AA at L6 state was 12, so clearly that isn't always the case. The gymnast with the highest AA in each level only came from the youngest age group in two levels- 6 and 9.
We fall into the started late category. I have to agree with everything that gymcat said, but I don't think that you can totally discount the 'cute factor' all together.

As far as equal distrubution of scores, my 'opinion' is that meet awards should be 'all age' at every level. If you are a level X, then you are a level X no matter how old you are. There is no need to break it down into 2-4 age groups if everyone is required to perform the same compulsory routines and skills.
Well I know it's not supposed to be like this but I think that the "Cutie points" have to be looked at too. There is nothing cutier than a tiny 6yo doing her first meet. I think too the judges do take more "optional deductions" on the older kids because they are older and should be able to focus more. You know the deductions that have a range where they can take "up to" such and such deduction.

Also the older girls just starting out from my observation tend to be less flexible and a bit more fearful doing the routines.
The highest scoring L5 in my states was 12. One of the top 6 scorers was 14, so I think you never know. The 14 is not on the tall side, but the 12 year old is. She has great lines. I think they really look for that in the older girls And, I think most older girls have more power for the vault, helping their AA. But yes, I also believe in the "cute factor" points.
I agree with most of what has been said. I have seen amazing 6 year olds score well and seen amazing 12 year olds score well, too. I do think that the level 4 bar routine would be harder for an older girl maybe because of that darned shoot through, longer legs seems like it would be harder. Otherwise, I think the routines are pretty equal opportunity, as long as your coaches know the little things that are important in the scores.

I do disagree with the cute factor comments. My DD is very cute, IMHO, and that hasn't helped her one bit. At her first few meets, she was at the bottom of all the age groups. Being cute and little didn't matter.

That said, I think as a state, judging is pretty tough here. I have seen many routines on YouTube from other states that were very similar to my DDs that scored much, much higher, so I think it depends where you are. I hate hearing about the cute factor because it makes it seem like the little "cute" ones don't work just as hard as the older ones to learn the skills, routines, etc, that they just get higher scores because they are cute.

It may be a factor in some areas, but not here in AZ. I have seen plenty "cute little girls" doing L4-L6 and if their routines weren't good, neither were their scores.
I definatly believe in the cute factor! I am 14 and i am a level 6, and last year as a level 5, i felt SO stupid doing the floor routine...the music just sounds like it is made for little kids! I didn't do to well on floor just because i was embarrassed with the routine! But now, as a L6, the music and routine is a little more mature, so i like the level 6 routines :)
but my little sister is a level 5 and she has bent legs all the time (just like me, haha) (well, thats because mine don't straighten all the way, and she just doesn't have the flexibility to straighten hers either) and her beam routine in level Rookie this past season was VERY wobbly and everything and wasn't very good and she got a 9.4! I did one as a novice that i thought was equally good and got a 8.575! ARGGG!
and then she keeps rubbing it in my face and i tell her that the judges score easier on younger kids and she gets mad at me!
i just don't know what to do...it is SO annoying!!!
I don't think that the "cute factor" will give you tons of points, but I do believe that it does help a little. I mean, if they have a bad routine, then they'll get a bad score, but if it is a fairly good routine, then that is where those "cute points" might give them an extra tenth or two. I also definately agree with gymkat about the talent distribution. Just my opinion.
Well, you have to remember that the pool of talent at higher ages is much smaller. The big scorers are 9 - 11, because they are at an age at which they can concentrate very well, and also have the largest number of girls at their level. In my experience, 10 - 11 is the highest scoring group, followed by 12+. Young girls just can't concentrate. Although I'm sure judges are quicker to take deductions on a larger girl, simply because of the overall impression she gives. Like, why aren't you an optional by now? I doubt it's a conscious judgment, though.

Bars is harder for older girls in L4 because of the glide swing. Holy crap, I got tons of deductions on that. Although they did move the bar up for me, I had to bring my legs much higher than any other girl, which resulted in a knee bend. Luckily my kip is very good for L5 next year.
I think the young girls for some reason score higher not only in the compulsaries but also the optionals. If you look at level 8 or 9 the younger girls also have higher scores. I think it is plain stupid how they break up the age levels. I have seen my daughter have a lower score than her friend and because she was in a different age group my daughter got a medal and her friend didn't. I have also seen girls qualify at our gym to regionals who had lower scores than girls who did not qualify. In both this cases it was the younger girls who suffered because they were in the more competitive groups and the younger groups scores were much higher. I think they should forget about age groups and go strictly by level.
Wellll... can I just say that it's much more difficult to flip my body around at my age/size than it was when I was younger? I'm even short for gymnastics standards, but it's definitely more difficult to learn skills and keep healthy when you're fully grown than it is when you're pre-pubescent. Plus, it's not always the case that the younger age groups score the highest-- I competed against 5th- and 6th-year L9s as a Sr. C. Is it a better idea to have the 16-18-year-old 6th-year L9 compete against the 11-year-old L9? You're talking HUGE physical and mental differences between competitors.
Hi gymkat,

You could take it a step further and look at competitive gymnastics at the highest level. You might say that Nastia competing at the age of 18 at the Beijing Olympics was fully grown, while some of the Chinese gymnasts still had a way to go to reach puberty (to try and put it nicely).

They both appeared to have the needed skills, artistic appeal for the international judges and mental toughness to compete as equals. If there is an advantage, I would have to say that it goes to the young, fearless, physically gifted and mentally tough athletes who have the benefit of exceptional coaching and supportive parents.

While there is no universal conspiracy against older athletes, it should come as no shock to anybody that young athletes that fit the criteria above are favored in our sport and the system is designed to promote their growth and build their confidence.

We have to try and remember that judges are ultimately fans of this sport and I don't think any of us can deny how heart warming and special it is to see a young gifted gymnast perform.

Whether or not this translates into 'cute points' or not is a grey area that really boils down to the individual involved and the specific circumstances, but we are all kind of trained through our past experiences to root for the young, cute and amazingly talented as a by-product of being fans of the sport itself.
I don't think "designed for small girls" is true. It's true that skills seem easier for the smaller ones - from a spectator’s viewpoint, but I’m not so convinced the same holds true from an athlete or judges seat.

We have a 5'5 12 yr old on our L4 team that always wow's the competition. As you could imagine, this is pretty hard to do at L4, where all the routines are same-ol-same-ol. yes, she's 'leggy', but her scores certainly don't reflect it.

I honestly don't accept 'cute points'. I have to believe the judges are professional. They also see so many of these routines over the course of a season, that they may in fact be immune to the cute factor.

Anyway, I'm sure Russia's Svetlana Khorkina would challenge the notion that smaller girls score higher due to size over athletic talent.
Last edited:
Hey TD,

I can remember when Elizabeth was an 8 y.o. level 4 there was an 11 y.o on her team. The 11 y.o. was head and shoulders taller than everyone else. She also had several years of professional ballet school and was a nationally ranked rhythmic gymnast (top 3 I think) looking for a sport change. She was so incredibly graceful and flexible that the routines and skills came very easy to her and she took them to an entirely different level than the younger girls (my dd included).

She would consistently score 9.6 - 9.9 on every event, so much so, that we would just tell her to stay up on the top of the podium instead of having to get up and down 5 times.

I even remember that at one meet, one of the judges came over to her and had her get back on the beam and demonstrate her scale for her a second time as she was just so blown away at how she could do this (and in the middle of a competition no less).

Unfortunately, at a meet one of the coaches or parents from another team (it was a few years ago and I can't remember for certain) came over and blasted her out for being to old and too good to be a L4 and she quit. Our gym tried to get her to come back, they were going to score her out to L7. She came back a few times and tried but her heart just wasn't in it anymore and she ultimately quit for good.

Anyways, the point I was trying to make is that there really aren't any absolutes in this sport. It's tough to make blanket statements either way and call them fact, when in fact, they are just personal opinions.

To that end, I apologize to everyone for not making it clear that I am only stating my personal opinion which by no means should be taken as a statement of fact.
Last edited by a moderator:
TeamDad- Who was that coach? Where is he now? I'm wanna kick him!
I bet he's just jealous because his girls probably sucked and the 11 y.o didn't.

I am 5'6 and I am just going to admit right now that my legs bend. A lot. There is just so much air resistance, I really have to work to keep them straight. I'm 12 years old and level 4.
All the short kids, they want to be tall like me, but I just tell them, "you know that skill you just did? You might not be able to do that if you were tall."

A believe in cuteness points. Even I would have trouble taking points off for a 3 feet tall 6 year old. I think some judges succumb to this and some don't. It really depends and I have noticed the older kids get scored lower unless it's level 7 and over.
Remember that even at elite, there are age groups: junior and senior.

And yeah, L4s are cute, but you don't have time while judging to sit and say, "Awwww..." Really. Judges don't sit in their room between sessions while cackling evilly and finding ways to inflate the little kids' scores; they talk about their own cute kids and grandkids. :)
fishchimes - believe me, I had the same reaction. There was a formal complaint and it was handled, but unfortunately the damage was done. The good news is that the girl's younger sister is still on Elizabeth's team and is also a beautiful gymnast. Her L6 beam work is some of the best I've even seen and is a real treat to watch. She used to have some video on youtube, but it's gone now. To bad.
Sheesh. What an awful story! I'm glad to hear something was done about that coach. I'm sure you would have liked to have seen more "unpublished" punishments. I know I would. :)

FWIW: Elizabeths video's are on Nastia and my favorites list. They have in fact softened her (a little) to the idea of taking basic ballet classes. They are always a pleasure to watch. So make no mistake, your DD is very much a mentor to others.
Thanks Tim, that's really nice to hear. I'd definitely like to share this with Elizabeth:) she'll be thrilled to know that she is a mentor to your dd Nastia. Elizabeth works very hard to be her best at both ballet and gymnastics and your comments will mean the world to her.

She had kind of a disappointing ballet season this year in that she didn't get chosen for any performances, so it was all work and no play....or all meat and no gravy so to speak. One of her friends asked her if she would be a flowerpot with her and she was thrilled to do it even if it meant missing some practices right before states. I'm going to see the show on Saturday, it should be very cute and I've heard that the costumes are amazing.

Oooops did I say 'cute':D
I think being littler helps when the person who made up the routine made it up with a seven year old in mind!

I also think that the tinies get a bit of an easier time on it though. I'm having deja vu, was a similar thread on here before?

DON'T LURK... Join The Discussion!

Members see FEWER ads

Gymnaverse :: Recent Activity

College Gym News