Many of the same skills can be found in different gymnastics programs. Our experience has been with the USAG Development Program, formally known as the Junior Olympics program. However I have also learned a lot about the Xcel program, also part of USAG. Both programs have different benefits. There are other programs available, but comparing these two will hopefully help explain what to look for when choosing a gymnastics program.
In the beginning
In the beginning, learning about how a gym maintains safe coaching ratios, follows safesport practices, and safe equipment may be all you need. If you are starting with a preschool aged child, much beyond this may not be vital. Preschool classes should be fun. However, early corrections on shaping such as pointing toes, straight legs, square hips, etc, are an important foundation for gymnasts. Biggs unfortunately didn’t get many of these corrections early on. It has made it challenging to overcome many bad habits. Look for more posts to come on this.
Your child is advancing through recreational classes and wants to compete
If you have a child that wants to compete, what should you know? There are many factors to consider when looking at competitive programs. Some gyms only offer one track of competitive programs. Rural areas may have limited options. However, in a large metro area, the options may be overwhelming.
Factors to consider might be the age of your child, commitment of time and money, and interest in continuing other sports. Location and commute of course may be factors for families, but carpooling can help alleviate that.
Xcel vs DP similarities
Our gym offers both Xcel and DP. Both have USAG sanctioned competitions. Competition scoring for both is done by USAG qualified judges. Both are scored on execution of elements. Every flexed foot, bent knee, bent arms is a deduction. There are specified skills at each level to fulfill requirements.
Xcel vs DP differences, what is the end goal?
DP is a very intense program. There are a lot of practice hours, and competition judging is strict. For the early levels of competition, referred to the compulsory levels, all athletes are judged on very exact choreography. Every arm placement, foot placement, number of steps, etc is judged. The floor music and routines are the same nationwide. Requirements for every event are essentially identical.
Xcel is a more flexible program throughout the levels. There are choices of skills that fulfill each requirement that can be performed. Different gyms use different music. Often the practice hours are less than DP. For athletes that may want to continue with other sports this can be an avenue to still compete without choosing. If an athlete has limitations on a particular skill for some reason, this route offers more flexibility. Families that cannot commit the time and resources sometimes choose this option even when selected for DP.
What is the end goal?
Is the goal getting to compete elite gymnastics? How about a college gymnastics scholarship? Or is the goal to just have fun, learn determination and dedication, or make friends? Is the goal to rack up as many medals as possible?
Traditionally elite and college gymnasts come through the DP program. If that’s the ultimate goal, that road is a good choice. However, competition is tough, and in many states, medals can be hard to earn. The strict criteria of the judging leaves little room for struggle areas.
If the goals are more geared towards making friends, staying fit, learning life skills, the Xcel program can offer those opportunities. If the goal is to excel at competition and earn many medal, the Xcel program can facilitate that.
It seems crazy sometimes to be thinking that far ahead when you have a 6-10 year old. However, early choices can facilitate or impede the long term possibilities. Hopefully this helps understand the potential routes.
Success at any program
Regardless of the program chosen there are many similarities to achieve success. Check out my post here for natural solutions for common gymnastics ailments. This post discusses how to deal with fears in gymnastics, and ways to build confidence. https://completeperformancecoaching.com/ is a great resource for in depth mindset growth.
Here are some tips for the parents during the long gymnastics competitions. This post includes preparations for competition success for your gymnast. And this post covers the daunting task of competition hair.
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