Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Level 4- State Meet and Gymnastics 101

Emma competed in the Level 4 State Gymnastics Meet this past weekend. We had a wonderful time and could not be more proud of her hard work and determination in this oh-so-grueling sport. I'll just say for the record; that for neither love nor money....would you find me "choosing" to subject my body to such cruel punishment, but..... She loves it.

Go figure.

Gymnastics 101
Let me give you the skinny on how gymnastics works. I had no clue. Honestly, I thought you made up your routines, picked the coolest music and the shiniest leotards, did the best tricks you could manage and try to get tha' 10. You know like... the one with the pointiest toes and the most flips wins?

No quite.

That doesn't happen for a long, long time. When you start on the competitive team, every single routine (on all four elements) is identical... all the way up through level 6. There are age limits for the highest levels so that small children cannot compete at the elite level until they are know like 9. Here are the age requirements in the state of Virginia:

Minimum Age For Competition

Level 4- Must be at least 6 years old

Levels 5, 6, & 7- Must be at least 7 years old

Levels 8 & 9- Must be at least 8 years old

Level 10-Must be at least 9 years old

Basically, in the world of elite gymnastics, our 10 year-old Emma, who is working through Level 4, is like Methuselah running a marathon. In her gym however, she is a very average age for her level. Only two girls are younger than her and the rest are the same age or older. In the more competitive gyms, she would be among mostly 6 & 7 year olds.

There are truly two different groups of gymnasts. In one group there are those who are willing to sacrifice everything for their dreams of being an Olympian. 8 hour practices each day, with months spent in training away from home, and even schooling at their gyms. Nothing else matters but gymnastics.... not even donuts. (here was where they would have lost 10-year old me).Then there are those who love the sport, love the challenge, love the team environment and relish in the discipline. Age matters very little and while some may set their sights on college level gymnastics, the Olympics are not the goal. In the same way that every track & field runner doesn't intend on taking on Michael Johnson, there are gymnasts who never consider the Olympics to be their goal. Don't get me wrong, now. There is some dreamin'....

After you go to a beginner or intermediate class for 6-12 months where you learn basic stuff, like cartwheels, proper forward rolls, flexibility, etc. (most girls have done this at some point...),
and you still want to stretch your ligaments into shapes that they do not belong and you desire to fling your body haphazardly into the air AND the idea of several hours of practice still sound appealing....then you move on to Team Level competition. Basically, if your coaches say you are ready to be on the team, you are placed within a certain level based on your ability. This is across the board with USA gymnastics. The same girls you watch on the Olympics all started on the same lower levels and worked their way up.

Level 1-3: Mostly non-competitive. Level 3 will have some exhibition meets (depending on where you live) and maybe even a couple of competitive meets. I don't even know what the criteria is for Level's 1 & 2 but at Level 3, you begin learning your routine for each element. Bars, Vault, Floor, and Beam are all exactly the same. Each time you advance one level the routine takes on a higher degree of difficulty but the actual choreography stays very much the same. For example....on the floor routine, what is a
round-off for Level 3 becomes a round-off, backhandspring for Level 4 and that becomes a round-off, backhandspring, back-tuck for Level 6. Once you reach Level 7 (no easy feat) then you can choreograph your own routines. Now it gets fun. There are required elements on each event, but you have the opportunity to show off your having a floor routine with the theme song from Pirates of the Caribbean and flashing cheesy grins at the judges.

Level's 4-10:
Competitive teams travel to various gyms (usually once a month) and compete with other gymnasts on their same level. Medals are given for each event for their age group and then overall medals are given for the total highest score (40). Competitions are fun. They are. But they are tedious. Remember that all 100 gymnasts are doing the exact. same. routine. as your child. You usually wait about 45-60 minutes between elements before you see your group again. Sometimes this is a great opportunity for nachos. Other times, it is agonizing because your 4-year boy....well your 4-year old boy is present. Enough said. The other tricky part about gymnastics is the judging. What might look like the most exquisite routine you have ever seen, with the highest kicks and the most elegant arms mean nothing. You are not judged for that. The routine has required elements and at this level, your only job is to meet the requirements. No more. No less. The gymnast starts with a 10 and is deducted for each and every mistake. Foot pointed in the wrong direction. Slightly bent leg or arm. Hold particular pose for less than one-1 thousand... two-1 thousand seconds...etc., etc. All these are deductions. Plus the obvious bobbled landings and falls are all taken into account. Gracefulness and sweet smiles are yet to be rewarded. But when they are.....GOLD MEDALS HERE WE COME!!!
Here is a more in-depth look at the requirements. I have mostly no idea what any of it means. I know that Level 10 means you get to wear the red, white, and blue leotards and carry the torches every 4 years :)
Level's 1-6
Level's 7-10

Here are pictures from her meet. We spent the weekend in the Host Hotel because....well we needed a break from all the wiping and cleaning and sweating that made our house presentable for prospective buyers. By the way....the house is sold. Done deal. There are glitches on the other end and none that I care to divulge at this time. Prayers would be lovely.

Anyways....we stayed the weekend and had a marvelous time. I'll post on that too. Too many posts. Too much going on around here. Brain about to explode. I would concede to the fact that writing a 75 minute post about the in's and out's of gymnastics was probably not the wisest use of my time....but I needed to think about something other than contracts and contingencies and where to hide the dirty underwear.

Emma scored her personal best all-around score. She placed 13th on the balance beam out of 51 girls with a score of 9.4...(but who is counting?) Her team scored 3rd in the state out of 28 gyms!!! That is such a great accomplishment!

Emma made a deal with Dad that if she scored 36 or better, he would carry her on his shoulders into the Cracker Barrel....and he did :)



Wendy said...

It was good for me to read this. Bre wants to be a gymnast and I really don't know much about it. She has just been in some little tumbling classes so far. I needed this education! :)

Sounds like a fun time together!

Leslie said...


Tiffany said...

Way to go Emma!!!! I'm so proud of you! I think it's cool that your dad carried you in on his shoulders! Where did your dad's bushy locks go? I think his new hairdo is awesome!

Thanks for the d.e.t.a.i.l.s Kim! You are a true teacher in every way, and I love you for it!

Praying for your deals to happen so that God will be glorified....selling your house in one week is a great start...glory!!!

Christina said...

Congratulations Emma! I took gymnastics for quite a while when I was young, but got out because of injuries. But it's a great sport and I loved it.