The Gymnastics Xcel Program Explained

The Xcel Program is a national USA Gymnastics program of gymnastics levels that runs alongside the Junior xcel programOlympic (JO) program. The Xcel program is a completely separate, alternate program.  I was talking to a gymnastics mom last week that wanted my help deciding whether her gymnast should compete in the Xcel program or switch to a gym that would have her compete in the traditional JO program. There are advantages and disadvantages to both programs, and some gyms choose to compete in it, while others don’t.gymnastics xcel levels

Some gyms see the Xcel program as an avenue for their less serious gymnasts to compete. Other gyms supplement their JO program with the Xcel program. While even other gyms focus on the Xcel program to produce well-rounded gymnasts, and then mobilize them through the compulsory levels.

This mom was confused about why her current gym would want her daughter to compete in the Xcel program. After talking to her, I realized that it can be confusing why USA Gymnastics created the Xcel program, but there are some definite advantages to it, along with some considerations.

What is the Xcel Program?

The Xcel Program was created as a national program in 2013; some states had a similar program known as the Prep Optional program. However, the national Xcel program has more levels and spans a much greater level of ability than most states’ Prep Optional program. You can start competing at a lower skill level in the Xcel program, than you could previously.

There are five divisions in the Xcel program: Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond. All of the Xcel divisions have optional rules. You can read more about the difference between optional and compulsory here, but basically optional rules mean that there are only 4-5 routine requirements and each gymnast can have her routine choreographed for her personality and individual strengths and weaknesses. Whereas, in compulsory levels the routine is already choreographed and every gymnast must perform the routine exactly the same. Because of that the judging can be more strict and produce lower scores than what the gymnast may have in Xcel. With higher scores your gymnast may feel better and be more motivated to stick with the sport .

In the Junior Olympic program the first Optional level is level 6, which is comparable in skill level to the hardest division in the Xcel program, the Diamond division. So without the Xcel program a gymnast could be involved in the sport for years, without ever getting to compete an individual, customized routine.

The Xcel Program Was Born

The Xcel program was created as a way to keep gymnasts involved and excited about the sport. If you think about most other sports, like for example soccer, as soon as kids join the sport they almost immediately start competing in games and tournaments. With gymnastics it wasn’t this way. Kids would join gymnastics and have to take classes for several years before they were invited to join a team program. The Xcel program allows gymnasts to start competing almost right away, by lowering the skill requirements for the entry levels. However, the Xcel program doesn’t just have basic entry levels. It also has more advanced levels that allow gymnasts to keep competing in the Xcel program as they learn more skills, but without the same pressure as competing in the JO program. The Xcel program is ideal for not only entry-level gymnasts, but also older gymnasts that are looking for a fun way to stay in shape and be involved in the sport.  And since high school gymnastics programs sometimes use similar rules as Xcel it can be a way to prepare gymnasts to try out for a high school gymnastics team.

The Xcel program is also for gymnasts that compete in the compulsory Jr. Olympic levels and would like to compete in an optional program during their “off” season. Compulsory meets are often in the fall, and there are usually some Xcel meets are in the optional spring season.

There are some advantages and disadvantages of the Xcel Program.

Advantages

  • Gymnasts get to have fun competing sooner.  Gymnasts get to have fun competing with the Xcel program as soon as they join an Xcel team. They don’t have to wait to be invited to a JO team.
  • Gymnasts compete individual, personalized routines.  Most athletes would rather compete routines that are customized to their age,  strengths, taste, and personality.  Is it more fun to do a floor routine to stuffy, instrumental music like in the compulsory program, or cute, fun music the gymnast has picked out? For example, an older gymnast could use a current hit song (without lyrics of course) as her floor music.
  • The Xcel Program can be less of a time commitment. The compulsory program can be unforgiving, with it’s routines that require gymnasts to learn an exact set of skills regardless of their strengths. Gymnasts can spend less time in the gym but still be able to learn skills that allow them to compete.
  • Gymnasts are not required to compete all four events. With the Xcel program gymnasts are not required to compete all of the events. Gymnasts can specialize in one or two events and choose to not compete the others.
  • Entry fees are capped at Xcel meets to make it more affordable. 

Disadvantages

  • There is no direct mobility from Xcel levels into the Jr Olympic Levels. Even if a gymnast has competed all the way through Diamond in the Xcel divisions, which would be similar to a level 7,  in order to compete at level 7 she must pass out of levels 4 (the lowest required competitive level) , 5 and 6. She can just compete in one meet at each level to mobilize, as long as she earns a minimum mobility score.
  • The Xcel Program doesn’t emphasize progressions the same way that the compulsory routines in the Jr Olympic program do. The JO compulsory program was created the way it was partly because its a system that has been proven to create great gymnasts. If your goal is to obtain a college scholarship, then the compulsory program is probably the best way to learn the proper progressions and discipline you need.

Xcel Gymnastics Skill Requirements:

I’ve linked to the Xcel Gymnastics Skill Requirements for each Xcel level below.  You can also check out GymnasticsHQ’s Skill Progression Checklists for Xcel Bronze & Silver, and Xcel Gold, Platinum and Diamond.

Xcel Bronze Requirements

Xcel Silver Requirements

Xcel Gold Requirements

Xcel Platinum Requirements

Xcel Diamond Requirements

Each gym and coach uses the Xcel program in their own way, and the program offers the flexibility to do so. Hopefully this information about the Xcel program can help you decide whether it is the right program for your gymnast.



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13 comments… add one
  • Gia Maioriello March 2, 2017, 7:27 pm

    could you recommend any gymnastics summer camps like overnight or all day?

    Reply
    • Sarah Blair March 12, 2017, 7:36 pm

      One really good camp is Flip Fest in Tennessee. I’m going this summer and it’s so much fun!! Your gym may also have special team camps or overall gymnastics camps at your gym. Hope this helps!
      Flip Fest: http://www.flipfest.com

      Reply
      • Tasha May 20, 2017, 9:19 am

        My daughter goes to the International Gymnastics Camp in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. She had just finished competing Level 5, yet even scoring out her strength as Level 5 wasn’t enough. We were deciding whether to go to Level 6 or spend another year mastering the skills. We sent her to IGC for 1 week. She got to meet several olympians inclusing her favoeite – Courtney Kupet. With the training she received and her dedication in attending every open gym; she came back mastering her Level 5 and Level 6. So, when we returned she practiced with Level 7 and competed that year as a 7. All of this when 1 year. She placed 11th in State in her class and age. It is a little more expensive than the other camps out there but the coaches, olympians and dedication, it is well worth it. You won’t be disappointed. Level 8 – here we come.

        Reply
      • Janie May 30, 2017, 1:25 pm

        C3 gymnastics has really fun summer camps. They do excel too.

        Reply
  • gymnast March 27, 2017, 10:39 pm

    do you know any good gymnastics camps in Louisiana?

    Reply
    • Tasha May 20, 2017, 9:24 am

      The University of Louisiana (LSU) has a summer camp. Was one of our considerations this year. We normally do just International ($1,195) (7 days overnight) in Philadelphia. Her favorites were LSU, Bama and Auburn; and of course Florida. We can only do 2. This year in International and University of Alabama ($650)(4 days).

      Reply
  • Xcel gymnast April 8, 2017, 6:53 pm

    I joined Xcel at 10 years old I’ve competed for 1 season and when I’m at the gym I am not respected by the coaches or the J.O. Level girls because I’m in Xcel. If you are a gymnast joining the competitive team I highly recommend joining the J.O. Team if you have a choice. I have done non competitive gymnastics since 3 and I always wanted to be on team but now I feel like I am not respected as an Xcel athlete

    Reply
    • Taylor July 24, 2017, 2:11 am

      I was Xcel, but I also trained with some J.O. ‘s, just because your gym i rude doesn’t mean every ones is. So dont tell people not to join Xcel just based on your experience.

      Reply
  • Cae April 10, 2017, 7:33 pm

    How old do you have to be to start Xcel? Does this t depend on your gym?

    Reply
    • Megan Eisnor-Janosz April 20, 2017, 3:24 pm

      Yes this does depend on your gym and some gyms you do have to be invited and go through classes first others you don’t

      Reply
  • Beatriz May 13, 2017, 2:48 pm

    I am so confused right now, my daughter just turned 5 and she was invited to JO level 2. I have read so many options and have talked to other parents. Some of my frienfs moved to different gyms and her friends’ moms chose Xcell and stayed in the same gym. I know my daughter loves gymnastics but the commitment is 7h a week for a future kindergarten makes me scared. I am not a savior on Gymnastics so I don’t want to rush her. She wants to show her routines to other people too. Ideas?

    Reply
  • Janie May 30, 2017, 1:27 pm

    Is there any gyms in Pa thats have excel?

    Reply
  • CiCi August 31, 2017, 3:02 pm

    Can a Xcel Gold gymnast move to J.O level 4?

    Reply

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