In a perfect world, we’d be getting ready to watch gymnasts take the stage at the 2020 Olympics in a few weeks. While that might not be the case this year, we can still take away some important information from the Olympic rules that can help us guide our gymnastics training after we get back in the gym to train again. In this article, we give you a few tricks from the Olympic Rules that will help you as you move forward in your training this season.
Before we begin, be sure to check out our upcoming SkillTrakker Olympic-Inspired Challenge as we guide you through creating your own routines and performing them for our virtual SkillTrakker meet. You’ll learn what you should be focusing on during your routine so that when you get back into the gym you will be way ahead of the game.
And now here we go. Here are four takeaways from the Olympic Rules to keep in mind when you design and perform your routines. With practice and hard work, you too can get your routine Olympic-ready!
#1 You Don’t Have to Be Good At Every Skill To Be a Great Gymnast
You might assume that gymnasts have to be really good at every skill in order to compete successfully at the Olympic level. But in reality, there is one little secret that elite gymnasts know that many other gymnasts don’t know – you only have to master some skills and not all of them!
In the FIG Code of Points, Olympians only get difficulty value for eight skills on Floor and Beam at the Olympics. Only eight! That means that even they don’t have to be able to do every skill well – only eight of them! Instead, they hone in on the skills they are naturally good at and then, making sure to hit all the FIG requirements, they perfect those skills. For example, if they’re better at front tumbling, then they put more front tumbling passes in their routine. They don’t have to master the over 300 Floor and Beam skills in the JO Code of Points! Isn’t that a relief to know?
So how does this help you? Well, just like Olympians, it means you should spend time mastering a few skills by using the power of repetition. In practice you might feel like you need to master every gymnastics skill because you are learning them all. But in reality, if some skills are harder for you to do than others, focus on the skills you are better at. Just be sure to master at least one or two skills from each skill group required in your routine so you meet all the routine requirements.
Along the same lines, one thing you can practice a lot this summer while you’re home is mastering one of the basic gymnastics shapes. Whether it is the split shape for a split jump or a tuck jump, wolf jump, or straddle jump, you don’t have to be able to do them all well but you can work on doing at least one of them beautifully. This will help you impress the judges while also guiding your routines to focus on the things you are good at.
#2 It Pays to Show Off Your Dance
Speaking of jumps and dance elements, does your coach ever tell you to “show off your dance?” Or maybe he or she tells you to “smile and look like you’re having fun?”
This is called artistry in Junior Olympic rules and in Optional & Compulsory levels, as well as Xcel, there is up to a .3 deduction for artistry that judges use to separate great routines from the rest. This is why your coach tells you to do those things during your routine.
But that deduction doesn’t just go away when you compete at higher levels! In fact, in the Olympic rule book it explicitly says that a gymnast must demonstrate her ability to transform her routine into a performance. Here’s a quote from the FIG rules:
“The gymnast must demonstrate creativity, confidence of performance, personal style and perfect technique. This is not “what” the gymnast performs, but “how” she performs.”
So it’s not just what you perform but how you perform it. When coaches say “show off your dance” this is what they are referring to. If you haven’t seen her perform, check out Katelyn Ohashi’s perfect 10 routine for a great example of what artistry looks like.
It’s important to note that you shouldn’t look like you are “faking” your expression. This might take some practice to get the hang of and for it to feel more natural for you to do during your routine. That’s what practicing at home is for! You can videotape yourself doing a dance-through of your routine and see how many times you smile or change your expression throughout your routine. And then you can decide which poses or dance moves you want to infuse your personality into through a change of expression. This is also something we are going to be working on in our Olympic Challenge in SkillTrakker in June.
#3 It is important to create big traveling leap passes
We often talk about how important your leaps are, especially when it comes to getting deductions on your beam and floor routines. But did you know that it’s not only good form that counts. You must also show traveling movement during your leap pass. According to FIG rules, gymnasts are required to do a leap pass that is “connected directly or indirectly (with running steps, small leaps, hops, chassé, chainé turns) with the objective of creating a large flowing and traveling movement pattern.” So flow and distance are important in your leaps, not only now but also at a higher level of gymnastics.
How can you fulfill this requirement in your leap pass? One of the keys to having bigger traveling leap passes is to utilize chassés and long leap-y steps to give your leaps power and to make your leap passes bigger. A great way to practice this is by practicing chasse step leap, and step step leap where the last step is a long leap-y step for power. In SkillTrakker we call this “leaping into your leap.”
“Leaping into your leap” is the perfect thing to practice in your backyard this summer. So get creative this summer and experiment with how you can do your best leap with a large flowing and traveling movement pattern. We’ll be practicing the “leaping into your leap” drill during the SkillTrakker Olympic-Inspired Challenge in June.
#4 Dance is just as important as tumbling!
As a gymnast it’s fun to tumble and throw big skills. But don’t forget about your dance elements. You might not believe this but according to FIG rules, for the 8 highest difficulties counted on floor and beam there must be a minimum of 3 dance and 3 acro elements. Since 3 of those high difficulty requirements are dance, that means you can’t just get away with throwing hard skills and then forgetting about all the rest of your routine. Dance really counts which means you should spend time practicing your dance elements.
Did you also know that one of the things judges are looking for in Olympic gymnastics floor and beam routines is change of level, direction and rhythm? It’s not enough to just go through your routine in one direction or using the same movement pattern. Your routine must show a change of level (up and down), change of direction (forward, backward, and sideways), and change of tempo and rhythm (fast and slow). This is the same in the JO upper levels. Therefore, it’s important to pay attention to these movement pattern changes in your routine when you are first creating it as well as when you are performing it.
There you have it. Those are 4 takeaways from Olympic rules that you can use to guide your gymnastics training today. Even though we might not get to watch the Olympics this summer, we can still train like Olympians! Join us in June for our SkillTrakker Olympic-Inspired Challenge and practice these things we talked about above.