Student-athletes can create a realistic list of target colleges and improve their chances of connecting with college coaches when they know which schools are the best athletic fit. The first place to start? Gymnastics levels and skills. College coaches have a list of desired qualifications and prioritize scholarships to gymnasts who can make an immediate impact on the team. Our gymnastics recruiting guidelines lay out the different gymnastic levels and skills needed at each NCAA division level.
|Requirements||Tier 1||Tier 2||Tier 3||Tier 4|
|High level D1 team||Low level D1 team||D2 team||D3 team|
|Scores||9.900 or higher||9.800 or higher||9.500 or higher||9.300 or higher|
|Level||10 or elite||10 or elite||10||9 or 10|
|Competitions||Junior Olympics, National,|
International, and Regional Competitions
|National, International, and Regional Competitions||National and Regional Competitions||Regional Competitions|
The NCAA follows the same skill requirements and scoring methods as Level 10, which is why college coaches recruit gymnasts who are training at this level, or close to it. Typically, these athletes place well in regional and national competitions, with top gymnasts competing in the USA Junior Olympics Gymnastics program.
In gymnastics, your level refers to how developed your skills are and your scores are a measure of that level. Ranging from 1 to 10, each level has a series of requirements that a gymnast must complete during their routine. The most advanced and professional levels are 7 through 10, with 10 being the most difficult.
After a gymnast can perform all the skills at Level 10, the next step is joining an elite program. NCAA gymnastics programs follow Level 10 scoring requirements, with some minor modifications, so most collegiate gymnasts are already competing at a Level 10 or elite level when they’re recruited by college coaches.
At college meets, individuals receive a score for each event they compete in. Every college gymnast starts at a 9.500, but if they complete bonus combinations or certain additional gymnastics skills, then .5 worth of bonus is added, making their starting score a 10.0. Typically, all Division 1 gymnasts start with a 10 and aim to score a perfect 10. However, deductions are made based on execution and overall performance. Here are the average scoring abilities based on division:
Compared to the USA Gymnastics Junior Olympic Program, the NCAA scoring modifications result in slightly fewer deductions. That’s why it may seem like collegiate gymnasts achieve higher scores in each event—even perfect 10s—compared to their Junior Olympic counterparts.
Gymnastics recruiting is extremely competitive as there are only 81 NCAA colleges in the country with women’s gymnastics. Therefore, coaches tend to be selective and start early—as early as middle school.
Most coaches find recruits through elite training gymnasiums with top youth development programs, where gymnasts compete and place well in international and national competitions before high school. But the biggest draw for college coaches are Level 10 or elite gymnasts who compete in the USA Gymnastics Junior Olympics Program. In fact, most gymnasts who go on to compete at the college level were once Level 10 gymnasts.
Coaches are also interested in dynamic gymnasts who are strong across all four apparatuses and can compete all-around. They like to find gymnasts who are solid in all four events so they can help mold the athlete’s specialization in college.
But really, it comes down to what the coach needs and what the recruit’s strengths are. For example, if a coach has a senior graduating who is their top scorer on vault, then they need to make up those points with a recruit who has similar skills. That’s why we always recommend looking at the athlete roster at your top colleges. Here, you can see the current gymnasts’ scores, specialties and training history. This will give you a better picture of that coach’s ideal recruit and where they scout athletes.
NCAA college gymnasts follow Level 10 scoring guidelines. To compete at this level, gymnasts need to do the following skill requirements on all four apparatuses, as well as have 3 “A” valued gymnastics skills, 3 “B” valued gymnastics skills and 2 “C” valued gymnastics skills from the NCAA Gymnastics rules in their routines. Here are the requirements per event, as well as some examples of skills that gymnasts use to fulfill these requirements in their routines. Keep in mind though that these are just examples and there are several skills out there that gymnasts can incorporate into their routines:
|Vault||Gymnasts perform two vault routines from the NCAA vault chart.||Vaults that start from a 10.0 value include Yurchenko 1 1/2, Yurchenko 2/1, Tsukahara 1/2, Handspring Pike 1/2, and Front Handspring, Handspring Pike.|
|Bars||Gymnasts are required to include two flight skills, one skill with a longitudinal-axis turn, and a salto dismount.||Skills such as straddle back, overshoot, pak salto, toe shoot to high bar, schaposch, and maloney are common flight skills at this level.|
|Beam||Gymnasts must include one acrobatic series, a dance or dance/acro combination, one dance skill showing a 180-degree split, a full turn, and a “C” valued dismount, or a “B” dismount directly connected to a “D” acrobatic skill.||Some common beam skills include a back handspring plus a layout stepout (or loso) series, switch leap to a split jump series, straddle jump, sissonne, split leap/jump, basic full turn, L turn, layout 1.5, layout 2/1, double tuck, and double pike.|
|Floor||Gymnasts must complete four requirements: an acrobatic combination featuring two saltos, three different saltos within the routine, a dance passage with a minimum of two different leaps, jumps or hops, and the last salto in the routine must be at least a “C” valued salto.||Examples include front layout to front layout, a rudi, a split leap to a full popa, a front 2/1, a switch leap, full turn, double turn, and triple turn, front tuck, front pike, and back layout 1.5.|
Using these requirements as a baseline, gymnasts can attempt to get a 10.0 starting score by earning bonus combinations and skills. Typically, all Division 1 gymnasts do start at a 10.0.
How many events in women’s gymnastics? There are four gymnastics events in women’s college gymnastics: vault, bars, beam and floor. During competitions, every team selects six gymnasts to compete in each of the four events, with each athlete performing two routines. The two scores are averaged, and then the top five scores from the team are added to get the team’s total combined score. In other words, teams are allowed to drop the lowest score.
While some events come more naturally to gymnasts than others, many collegiate gymnasts participate in multiple events. But only one athlete can be an all-around gymnast and compete in all four events. When college coaches look to recruit gymnasts, they tend to be more interested in athletes who are strong performers in many events. That way, if the athlete already has solid fundamentals, the coach can help mold the athlete’s specialization and skill development.
In the United States, the Junior Olympic (JO) program is the most used gymnastics program, and it has 10 levels, from 1 to 10 in order of increasing difficulty. Level 1 to 3 are considered beginner levels and help gymnasts prepare for competition. Level 4 and 5 are competitive levels where gymnasts learn compulsory programs, meaning they learn a specific routine to perform. Level 6 is when gymnasts start creating unique routines where judges evaluate them based on the gymnastics skills they’ve performed, execution and overall performance. Level 10 is the most difficult, and once a gymnast masters these skills, they advance to an elite program, which is essentially a professional level of gymnastics.
ELITE is the top level in gymnastics, which only 2% of all gymnasts reach. Gymnasts at this level represent the USA at international competitions, such as the Olympics. The NCAA follows Level 10 scoring requirements, so athletes must be Level 10 or ELITE to get recruited.
The NCAA follows the same skill requirements and scoring methods as Level 10, which is why college coaches recruit student-athletes who are training at this level, or close to it. Compared to the Junior Olympic Program, there are some modifications in the NCAA’s gymnastic rules that result in fewer reasons for deductions, so typically you’ll see college-athletes having higher scores than their Junior Olympic peers.
In an event, the highest score a college gymnast can obtain is a 10.0. All college-athletes start their routines with 9.500. If they complete bonus combinations or certain additional skills, then .5 worth of bonus is added, making their starting score a 10.0. From their starting score, judges analyze their routine and take note of any deductions. Some deductions, like falling, are worth more points, where others, like flexed feet, are minor point reductions.
Usually, you’ll find that all Division 1 gymnasts start their routine at a 10.0 and aim to achieve a perfect 10. The top Division 1 gymnasts score near 9.900 or higher. Other Division 1 gymnasts typically receive scores around 9.800, while Division 2 averages at 9.500 and Division 3 at 9.300.
NCAA gymnastics is truly a team sport where every individual’s performance matters. At each meet, six gymnasts are selected to compete in every event. The top five scores from each event are taken and counted toward the team’s combined score. Then, the combined score from each event—vault, beam, floor, and bars—is added together to get the team’s final score. Therefore, the highest score possible score a team could have is 200. Currently, the top 10 Division 1 college gymnastic teams’ scores range from 197 to 198. Top Division 2 scores come in at 190 to 192 and Division 3 land between 189 and 190.
Each gymnast performs two routines per event and their scores are averaged to get a final score. Essentially, every college gymnast starts at a 9.500. If a gymnast can complete bonus combinations or certain additional skills, then .5 worth of bonus will be added, making their starting score a 10.0. Almost all Division 1 gymnasts start at a 10.0. Then, deductions are made based on execution and overall performance. Some of the more common deductions are flexed feet, bent legs, leg or knee separation, wobbles, steps or hops, depending on the event. Top tier Division 1 athletes perform near perfection with scores 9.900 or higher. Other Division 1 gymnasts typically receive scores around 9.800, while Division 2 averages at 9.500 and Division 3 at 9.300.
When it comes to gymnastics scoring, there are a few things judges consider, including routine requirements, execution of gymnastics skills and overall performance for each event. First, there are a few different routine requirements that judges track, specifically special requirements and value part requirements. In gymnastics scoring, every skill has a value, ranging from A to E (E being the hardest), and gymnasts are required to fulfill certain values in each routine.
At the college level, as well as Level 9 and 10, there are also bonus combinations that must be met for a gymnast to start at a score of 10.0. Essentially, they start at a 9.500 unless they successfully perform five-tenths worth of bonus skills and combinations to reach a 10.0. Basically, if a gymnast is missing any necessary skills in their routine or performing skills that aren’t allowed, judges deduct points.
Then, judges look at execution and overall performance. This is where pointed toes, legs being separated, and uncontrolled landings come into play. Points are taken away when the gymnast fails to perfect their execution. Overall performance is a bit more subjective—judges consider pauses, confidence, smiling and other artistic dynamics that make up a routine.
Lastly, there are miscellaneous items, such as stepping out of bounds, that would cause a deduction in a routine. But if all requirements are met, then the scoring begins at a 10.0 value.