The only certainties in life are death, taxes, and gymnastics rule changes.

Every May, the committees at USA Gymnastics hold their annual meetings to update the rules and send out all the new changes. These meetings are typically held in conjunction with J.O. Nationals. This year, the meetings were virtual, as J.O. Nationals was cancelled due to COVID-19. But don’t worry, there are still plenty of new changes and updates for your viewing pleasure.

Here’s a rundown of the J.O. updates, broken down by event.

General/Vault J.O. Updates

Last year, we first heard that changes were coming to the leotard regulations. The new regulations state that backless leotards are not acceptable, and the definition of backless now includes a leotard that is open “no more than approximately 2 inches below the bottom of the scapula, and the open area extends past the vertical midpoint of the scapula”. These regulations were supposed to go into effect for the 2020-21 season, but the effective date has been pushed back to 8/1/2021.

General Clarifications

Next, we’ve got some common sense clarifications:

  • Judges must hear the coach or teammates giving verbal assistance in order to take the coaching deduction. This applies to all levels of J.O. and Xcel competition.
  • If a zero is one of the counting scores, the score range does not apply.
  • There is a clarification for a spot on the landing (this is not new). If the coach catches a falling gymnast, apply a 0.50 deduction for the FALL ONLY, and do not deduct for the spot. If the coach spots the gymnast on the landing, and then she falls afterward, apply a 0.50 deduction for the spot AND a 0.50 deduction for the fall.
  • Xcel coaches are allowed to submit inquiries at any meet, not just state meets.
vault updates

Level 6/7 Vault

  • If only one foot touches the mat stack, only apply the up to 0.20 deduction for leg separation. No other deductions apply for only contacting the mat with one foot.
  • The arms are no longer required to finish in a high position. The arm position is now optional, and no deduction should be taken for arm position during the post flight (second flight).
  • Distance should be evaluated using the following criteria: “size of the gymnast, type of vault, location of the center of mass upon initial contact of the mat stack, and overall trajectory of the second flight phase. It should NOT only be evaluated based on the distance from the table when the gymnast initially lands on the mat stack.
  • There is more information about Level 6//7 vault in this vault post.

Xcel Vault

  • Bronze and Silver gymnasts are allowed to place tape or chalk marks on the mat stack with NO deduction.
  • For Bronze Vault 2 and Silver vaults, the coach is allowed to lean against the mat stack if necessary for spotting, with NO deduction.
  • The deduction for under-rotation of salto vaults is now a flat 0.10 for Gold, Platinum, and Diamond.
bars updates


Compulsory bars: the deduction is 0.50 if the gymnast performs two or more consecutive extra swings. I didn’t think this was new, but there it is.

Optional Bars:

  • Element #4.101 (Long swing with 1/2 turn at min. 45° from vertical) was deleted from the example of a Higgins roll.
  • Examples of LA turns for Level 8 and 9 Special Requirements are listed: pirouette on the hands, turn in a flight element, turn from a long swing, or turn in an underswing with feet on the bar and 1/2 turn

Xcel Bars: If an element is performed that is not in the Xcel COP, the judges can award it a value of a comparable skill if they can identify the root skill. This leaves a LOT open for interpretation. Basically, just make sure that your skills are all IN the Xcel COP. Otherwise, you’re at the mercy of what the judges think your skill should be worth.

beam updates


Compulsory beam clarification: a cross handstand on beam is considered complete when the gymnast has stepped down onto the beam with both feet to a closed or lunge position. If she does not get both feet on the beam, a deduction for incomplete element could be applied.

Optional Beam Clarifications:

  • If an element is performed a third time as part of a dismount connection, it would not receive VP credit. It WILL be considered part of the dismount connection for composition purposes only.
    Example: Level 8 does a BHS stepout, BHS stepout acro series. Then her dismount is BHS stepout, back tuck dismount. She would NOT receive the 0.10 dismount composition deduction.
  • Leaps/jumps that require 180° split, but achieve less than 135° split, will be given “A” VP credit. They will NOT fulfill the 180° leap/jump Special Requirement.
  • If a leap/jump requiring 180° split achieves a split angle of 134° or less, earning an “A” Value Part, it will receive a deduction of up to 0.20 for insufficient split.
  • Clarification on flight series: The following series are broken if they are slow: backward acro series OR sideward to backward acro series with 1 or more flight elements. This isn’t new, but I think the clarification comes from the “1 or more flight elements” part since that wording is different than what was in the COP. This is also in effect for Xcel beam.

Beam mounts are classified as follows:

  • “Not Acro”: 1.103, 1.203, 1.303, 1.403, 1.106, 1.206.
  • “Dance”: Add 1.204 and 1.304 to those already designated with a “D”.
  • All other mounts are considered “Acro” and may be considered for Acro Composition.
floor updates


  • If the gymnast does not land on her feet first on her last salto, she will no longer receive the 0.30 deduction for no dismount. She will still receive the 0.50 deduction for a missing Special Requirement.
  • Clarification on concentration pauses: a 0.10 deduction will be taken for pauses of 2 seconds or more.
  • Xcel Floor: Remove “prior to elements or connections” from the concentration pause deduction, and update the deduction to read pauses of “2 seconds or more”.

Rules and Policies J.O. Updates

Meet Formats

  • Updates were made to the total number of gymnasts that are allowed to start on the same event (Flight A and Flight B combined). The total number of gymnasts allowed in a session or a rotation that has Level 6/7 and Level 8-10 has a limit which is in between the Level 6/7 numbers and the Level 8-10 numbers.
  • Traditional and modified traditional format meets with only Xcel Diamond and Platinum gymnasts may have 64 gymnasts in a session (previously 56).

Matting Updates

  • All levels 1-10 and all Xcel divisions may now place a mounting mat (not a springboard) on an 8-inch mat.
  • For Level 3 vault, a sting mat may be used on top of the mat stack. However, the sting mat may not be used on top of an inflatable mat. A mat placed on top of an inflatable mat must be a minimum of 4″.
  • R&P will be updated to match the Code of Points in its description of the Level 6/7 vault apparatus.
  • The thickness of the floor mat was updated to 1 1/4 inches to 7 1/2 inches.

New Regulations for Medical Staff at Meets

For meet directors, there are new guidelines to determine the level of medical personnel required at a meet. There are also guidelines which regulate the number of medical personnel required, based on the number of athletes competing in the meet.

  • Level 8-10, Elite, and Xcel Diamond must have an ATC, EMT, paramedic, sports med fellowship trained MD/DO, or sports certified PT. One medical staff must be present per 64 gymnasts competing at once, and one per venue.
  • Level 4-7, Xcel Gold and Platinum must have a medical professional with first aid training (Nurse, PT, ATC, MD/DO, EMT, Paramedic). One medical staff must be present per 100 athletes competing at once, and one per venue.
  • Level 1-3, Xcel Bronze and Silver are not required to have medical personnel on site. The coach or meet director should be comfortable providing basic first aid.

Mobility, Qualifications, and Video Review

  • Level 10 athletes no longer have to petition to compete in the Xcel Diamond Division.
  • 1 judge panels are allowed for mobility purposes at all Xcel Divisions. A Level 7/8 rating is required to judge the Platinum and Diamond Divisions.
  • Meet directors can receive a sanction violation for violating or changing any procedures in the judges’ compensation package.
  • Due to COVID-19, states and regions are allowed some flexibility when deciding whether to allow gymnasts to use 2020 qualification scores to qualify for Fall 2020 or Spring 2021 State Meets.
  • Video review is now allowed at ALL sanctioned competitions, for all optional levels and Xcel divisions! This is great for the benefit of the gymnast.
  • The guidelines for video review have not changed. Video review is only allowable to determine whether the judges missed an element that would affect the Start Value. It may NOT be used to appeal judges’ determinations of degree assessments, such as degree of cast, split angle, turn completion, etc.
general updates

Miscellaneous J.O. Updates

  • Beginning August 1, 2021, the Level 4/5 judges test will be offered online ONLY. The committee is working to provide online testing for optional levels as well.
  • National and Brevet judges who will be taking the next course will not have to log as many clinic hours and volunteer hours due to the pandemic. The new requirements are 1 qualifying clinic, and 6 hours of volunteering.
  • CPE requirements for judges have been reduced as well. See the USAG website for details.

All of the minutes containing the J.O. updates can be found under the Women’s Program tab on the USA Gymnastics website.

If you want to catch up on last year’s J.O. updates, take a look at these posts:

What’s New in 2019-2020

Preview of 2021-2029 Compulsory Skills