General Categories for Exemplary Compulsories

 It’s no secret that compulsory routines can be tiring to watch. The same routines, the same music, over and over, all day long. Once, I was judging a meet and the guy running the floor music actually fell asleep. I mean, I had to get up from my table, walk across the floor, and wake him up so he could start the music!

So, how do you avoid Sleepy Routine Syndrome? Sometimes it’s hard to figure out how to make those compulsory routines stand out. The answer can be found by looking at general, or overall, categories of deductions.

“Generals”, as judges sometimes call them, are deductions that are used to separate the best routines from the very good ones. They are deductions that are taken after the routine, by looking at the routine as a whole. There are general deductions that apply to each event. There are also some deductions that differ when looking at compulsory vs optional routines. The purpose of these deductions is to separate the very good routines from the exceptional ones. Here, I will review the general deductions on bars, beam, and floor, for levels 1-5.

1.       Dynamics (BARS, BEAM, FLOOR) – up to 0.2. The goal of any routine is to make the difficult skills look effortless, to perform each skill and position to the maximum, and to perform the routine with consistent energy.  If the skills look sluggish or the gymnast does not appear tight and extended during connections between skills, a dynamics deduction can be taken.

2.       Sureness (BEAM) – up to 0.2. Sureness refers to the gymnast’s confidence throughout the routine. Does she look visibly nervous? Are her legs shaking? Does she move uncertainly from skill to skill? If she looks generally unsure of herself, this deduction could be applied.

3.       Releve (BEAM, FLOOR) – up to 0.2. This deduction is taken if a gymnast does not step in releve when indicated and does not perform pivot turns in a high releve position. If the text does not specifically note that steps must be performed in releve, it is not necessary in that portion of the routine, but the deduction can be taken otherwise.

4.       Artistry (BEAM, FLOOR) – up to 0.15 each category. There are two categories established to demonstrate artistry in a compulsory beam or floor routine: quality of movement to reflect the gymnast’s personal style, and quality of expression (projection/focus). To receive no deduction for artistry, the gymnast should perform her routine with confidence and expression. Some points in the routines have optional focus or poses, and these should be choreographed so the gymnast can show them off to the judges. Some people may say it’s impossible to show artistry in a compulsory routine, but I can tell you it is definitely possible! Eye contact, facial expression, and simply putting all of your body into the movement are all ways for compulsory gymnasts to demonstrate artistry. Gymnasts should make sure they always know what each part of their body is doing during their choreography, and intentionally place each arm, hand, toe, and head into the correct position.

 Here’s one of my favorite examples of exceptional artistry and dynamics:

5.       Rhythm (BEAM, FLOOR) – up to 0.3. The routine should “flow” together without pauses or stops. The gymnast should demonstrate changes in rhythm and tempo throughout the routine. Skills should transition easily into choreography, and vice versa. “Choppy” looking routine? Pausing to think before a skill? Forgetting part of the routine and taking a moment to get back into it? All of these could incur a rhythm deduction. Also, there are certain parts of the routines in which the text states to move sharply, supply, etc. If the movement quality differs from that which is prescribed in the text, a deduction can be taken. See the “Breaking Down Floor” posts for more detail.

6.       Footwork (BEAM, FLOOR) – up to 0.3. The gymnast is expected to work on high releve throughout the routine. Each time a foot leaves the beam or floor, it should be pointed. Feet should be pointed in a straight visual line with the leg, and not sickled (turned in). The gymnast should also show turn-out in her foot positions. If the footwork is not up to these standards, a deduction could be applied.

7.       Body alignment/posture during connections (BEAM, FLOOR) – up to 0.3. This deduction refers to improper posture and alignment during non-value parts (choreography). Examples of poor posture could be standing and walking with ribs out, bottom sticking out, head forward, or shoulders up, to name just a few. The more instances of poor posture and body position that are visible, the greater this deduction would be.

8.       Text errors (BEAM, FLOOR) – up to 0.3. This deduction is applied when small or large errors are made which cause the performance to deviate from the text as written in the J.O. Compulsory Handbook. Examples of text errors are: arms in the wrong position, foot in the wrong position, standing in releve when flat feet are noted, incorrect head focus, performing the wrong pose, and so on.

9.       Not performing in time with the music (FLOOR) – up to 0.2. If the choreography is visibly off with the music, or the gymnast looks “lost” out on the floor, this deduction could be applied. The compulsory routines are designed such that specific poses and portions of the routine go with certain parts of the music. If the gymnast does not complete them at the prescribed time during the music, a deduction could be taken. There is an additional 0.1 deduction for failure to end the routine with the end of the music.

The best compulsory routines will have minimal, to no, general deductions taken at the conclusion of the routine. They will be energetic, artistic, display extended body position and footwork, and move confidently through the choreography with no pauses or stops. The gymnast will make the routine look easy. Especially since all the gymnasts in one level do the same routine, it really makes me take notice when I see one that exhibits these characteristics. What tricks do you use to make your compulsory routines stand out?