Roll Bama Roll Gymnastics Primer

With NCAA Regionals (and the confusion of placement along with them) and National Championships coming up I wanted to post a sort of "Reference Page" for when we're talking about our awesome women out on the floor, vault, balance beam, or uneven bars. Why is it so hard to score a perfect 10 these days? What did the judge see that *I* didn't see that caused her to lose points? And what the living heck was THAT move?

I'm not expecting a lot of questions or comments here, just wanted to have it posted so that I could refer back to it without you guys having to go fling yourselves out into the interwebz and get lost between NCAA & Olympic scoring, rules & judging.

Don’t know a “handspring” from a “kip?” How about a “round-off” from a “salto?” Well, here is a quick look at the sport to get you acquainted with the basics.

In team competition, a total of six gymnasts compete on each of the four apparatus. At least two judges on each apparatus score the gymnast’s peformance, with the judges’ scores averaged to reach the athlete’s final mark. The team score is comprised of the five best scores per event. The overall meet score is the combined team score of the four apparatus.

The four events in which each team competes are vault, uneven parallel bars, balance beam, and floor exercise. Each round of competition is called a “rotation.” A set rotation for each team is drawn before the meet begins.

Composed of a runway 78 feet long, a springboard and a vaulting horse measuring just under 49 inches tall. Unlike the other events, vault has no specific requirements and each vault has its own start value. Gymnasts perform complicated vaults in different body positions such as tucked, piked or stretched. Judges watch for proper body alignment, form, quick repulsion, the height and distance traveled, as well as the number of “saltos” and twists. Generally, the more “saltos” (a flip or somersault) and twists, the higher the difficulty value of the vault. In addition, gymnasts strive to "stick" their landings by taking no extra steps.

A gymnast used to be able to take two actual tries at the vault but instead now can take up to three "runs" at the vault before completing one true vault to be scored. This is why you may sometimes see a gymnast run towards the vault then veer off to the side of the mat at the last minute, she can do this twice before the third time she must complete the vault for a score. In the past she could do two complete vaults then drop the lowest score.

Often a crowd favorite, the uneven bars demand excellent upper-body strength, split-second timing and an aggressive approach. The routine should flow from one movement to the next without pauses, extra swings or additional supports. Three release moves are required: one that goes from the low bar to catch the high bar, one that goes from the high bar to catch the low bar, and a third that releases and catches the same bar. Several other elements are required in the routine, including moving the gymnast's center of gravity in toward the bar. Perfect form, straight body lines in the vertical position and a stuck landing are essential.

Just four inches wide, the beam challenges athletes because they must execute routines that give the impression that they are performing on the floor. The routine may not exceed 90 seconds and must cover the entire length of the beam. Gymnasts must use acrobatic and dance movements to create high points in the exercise, consisting of two or more elements performed in a series. Gymnasts also complete several requirements other than the acrobatic and gymnastics series. For example, she must complete a turn of at least 360 degrees on one foot or knee and she must perform a leap or jump with 180 degrees forward split of the legs. Not completing one of the requirements means a 0.2 deduction.

The floor exercise gives gymnasts the chance to express their personalities through their music choice and choreography. Gymnasts often get energy from the crowd and they usually welcome audience participation in clapping to the beat. Throughout the routine, the gymnast must harmoniously blend these elements while making versatile use of the 40-foot by 40-foot floor space, changing both the direction and level of movement.

The quality of grace may be disguised by movements of playful theatrics, but look for a dancer-like command of music, rhythm and space. The gymnastics elements should flow freely into each other while the leaps cover impressive distances and the turns add excitement to the music.

The floor routine is choreographed to music, lasting no more than 90 seconds and covering the entire floor area. There are several special requirements, such as an acrobatic series with at least two “saltos” and one dance direct connection with a minimum of two leaps, each taking off of one leg.

The judges work from a base score, or start value, from which to evaluate each gymnast’s performance. Depending on the difficulty of the routine (for example, combining difficult skills in succession), bonus points can be awarded to the gymnast’s score.

Routines are composed of different elements that vary in level of difficulty, ranging from A (easy) to E (most difficult). Certain events require specific levels of difficulty or numbers of routines from a specific difficulty.

  • The team score for each round results from adding the top five individual scores on the apparatus, with a perfect score being 50 (however scores of 47-49.000 are more realistic). The four scores are then combined for the final team meet total, with a perfect score equalling 200 (usually 195-198.000).
  • The athlete’s scores for the all-around are computed by adding each of their scores on the apparatus, with a perfect score of 40.00 (usually 37-39.000).

For every bonus point that can be earned during a routine, there can also be deductions from a gymnast’s score for various mistakes. Some common examples include:

  • Fall from an apparatus – 0.5
  • Step out of bounds (floor exercise) – 0.1
  • Heavy brush of feet/hand touch on floor exercise – 0.3
  • Presentation to judge omitted (before or after routine) – 0.1
  • Intermediate swing (uneven parallel bars) – 0.3
  • Concentration pauses longer than 2 sec. – 0.1
  • Exceeding/finishing under time limits – 0.2

Other deductions can be taken for such items as bent arms or legs or separation of legs when not a part of a specific skill. These deductions will usually not be more than 0.3 points.

I am positive that I have left things out so if you do have any questions let me know. I'd love to be able to spend these next few weeks of competition leading up to the National Championships discussing the beauty, grace and athleticism that is needed for this sport... but I also welcome any time I get to talk about kicking some butt!

Until next time,


FanPosts are just that; posts created by the fans. They are in no way indicative of the opinions of SBN and the authors of Roll Bama Roll.