Meet season is right around the corner and every gymnast wants to maximize their scores, but when it comes to floor routine artistry, it can be hard to know exactly what judges are looking for. Check out these tips for putting together your best floor routine this season!
From the moment a gymnast steps onto the floor her attitude, facial expression, and body language begin to tell a story, and the best way to begin this story is by showing confidence.
One of the biggest ways to project confidence is having the gymnast keep her eyes off of the floor, says Nicole Langevin, owner of Precision Camps and Choreography, and a USAG certified judge.
“When it comes to artistry, keeping their eyes off of the floor makes the biggest impact,” says Langevin. “When a gymnast is looking down at the floor throughout the routine, they don’t appear confident.”
While there may be times when it makes sense for the gymnast to look down at the floor as part of the routine, in general Langevin suggests looking out at the audience, finding a spot to look at, or meeting the judges’ eyes.
Zach Stein, USAG judge, and coach at Reading Gymnastics Academy in Reading, MA says floor is his favorite event to judge, and also looks for the gymnast to project confidence in her routine.
“The shoulders should be pressed down, with a supported core, and the chin up to avoid showing a lack of confidence,” says Stein. “Basically, this means the gymnast should look proud and excited to be out there on the floor showing everyone what they can do.”
Focus On Footwork
While it’s easy to focus on perfecting the big tumbling skills, leaps, and turns, footwork is an area that is sometimes overlooked, but both Langevin and Stein identify as key to a good floor routine.
“Gymnasts can incur a deduction for moving through their routine with the feet pointed in towards each other, or not showing enough high relevé throughout,” explains Stein. “Here, we are looking for excellent turn-out, toe point, and relevé throughout the choreographed steps in their routine.”
Practicing good footwork may not be as exciting as working on the big acro skills, but those are the details that can help turn a good routine into a great one.
Many gymnasts believe it’s a requirement to smile their way all the way through a floor routine.
“I’ve had parents show me a routine and comment that they know their daughter lost points because she didn’t smile,” says Langevin. “Contrary to what some people believe, judges don’t take a smile deduction. If a kid is happy-go-lucky, more serious, or a little goofy, all of those things can come through in the routine.”
So, facial expression does matter, but that doesn’t mean smiling all the way through a serious routine. Gymnasts can show artistry through a variety of facial expressions.
Stein shares this point of view, saying, “When a gymnast can emote anything other than their ‘concentration face’, it presents confidence in their routine. While a smile may not always be fitting for a gymnast whose musical selection is of a more serious tone, we are still looking for some sort of personal expression throughout the routine. There is a deduction specific to personal expression under the ‘Artistry’ category and it is up to a one-tenth deduction.”
The key is for gymnasts to find their own style and let that shine through.
Stand Out In Compulsory Routines
Throughout the compulsory levels every gymnast competes the exact same routine to the exact same music as every other competitor. So, how can a compulsory gymnast stand out on floor?
“The trick to really standing out as a compulsory gymnast is to perform the routine exactly how it says in the book—down to every little detail,” says Stein. “There is an expectation for every single arm pathway and leg placement for every pose and step throughout the routine. When this is performed correctly, the gymnast should see an accurate reflection in their awarded score.”
Langevin shares a similar view on compulsory routines. “Gymnasts can stand out by doing the hard stuff and making it look easy,” she says. “It shouldn’t look like a struggle—it should look like they are ready for the next level skill.”
Choreography Should Match The Music
In Optional or Xcel floor routines gymnasts chose their own music, but do music choices impact scores? According to both Stein and Langevin, the style of music doesn’t matter to the judges, but it should fit with the choreography.
“The music selection itself doesn’t have an impact on the score but how the choreographed movement throughout the routine coordinates, or relates, to the music selection is definitely taken into consideration when determining the score,” says Stein. “For example, a gymnast whose music selection comes from a symphony orchestra probably shouldn’t be dancing the latest TikTok dances.”
Gymnasts and their coaches should choose a style of music that best reflects the gymnast’s personality, and the choreography should match that.
“We judge musicality,” says Langevin. “The choreography should fit the music and look like part of the routine, not just background music. Gymnasts should remember that they aren’t just getting through a routine, they’re trying to put on a good show.”
Don’t Be Afraid Of The Judges
While it is the judges’ job to score the routines, that doesn’t mean they are hoping to find deductions or hand out low scores.
“When gymnasts are waiting to begin their floor routine, remember that most judges want them to have the routine of their lives,” Langevin says. “Most of us were gymnasts at one point and we want them to do well—we aren’t there looking to get them. Most judges are good at their job. We like to see good routines. It doesn’t matter if we like that style of music or choreography. What matters is if the routine is done well.”
Remembering that the judges want you to succeed can help gymnasts set aside their nerves and go out on the floor with the confidence that allows them to compete their very best routines this season.
Jen Kula is a Massachusetts based writer, and mom to two gymnasts. She has published one novel, has worked for several magazines and websites including; MetroSports Boston magazine, Appalachian Mountain Club Outdoors Magazine, and Babyzone.com, and has an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College.
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