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Juneau's gymnasts prepare for new season

National governing body has implemented changes in sport

Posted: August 29, 2013 - 12:10am
Southeast Alaska Gymnastics Academy athletes take part in a clinic recently with guest coach Samart Turner of the Anchorage Gymnastics Association.
Southeast Alaska Gymnastics Academy athletes take part in a clinic recently with guest coach Samart Turner of the Anchorage Gymnastics Association.

USA Gymnastics (USAG), the national governing body for the sport, has rolled out new rules, new routines, and a revised code of points for their Women’s Junior Olympic (JO) Compulsory program according to Juneau’s Southeast Alaska Gymnastics Academy (SAGA) head coach Alexis Howard.

The rules went into effect this August and will remain through 2021.

Howard and co-coach Beth Landvatter have been working to mentally prepare the athletes for the changes, since returning from the State championships, back in March.

“We’ve known for a while that USAG was making changes to the code of points, and to the compulsory level structure, but we didn’t have very many details until the National Compulsory Workshop, held in Reno,” Howard stated.

Howard and Landvatter attended one of two national workshops in June, which was where the new codification, compulsory routines and level re-structuring were unveiled to coaches from all over the country.

In addition to changes to the skills required at each compulsory level, and the related changes to the scoring of those skills, the most significant change to the program is the restructuring of the levels. According to Howard the JO program has historically had six compulsory levels and four optional levels (levels 1-6, and 7-10, respectively). While there will still be 10 levels in the JO program, they will consist of five compulsory (1-5) and five optional (6-10).

“It is believed the new level system offers improved progressions within the levels, and smoother transitions from level to level, hopefully keeping the athletes motivated,” Howard said. “We have to be proactive and embrace the new material. It would be a disservice to our team if the coaches didn’t dive in and learn everything we need to so they can continue training productively. Our goal is to be in the best possible position, to help our gymnasts train, progress, and compete.”

That requires a lot of extra time in the gym, an abundance of reading, good communication with athletes and parents, and interaction with coaching colleagues around Alaska.

One such colleague is Samart Turner, of Anchorage Gymnastics Association (AGA), who conducted a skills clinic with the team shortly after the new code of points was issued. Turner was a gymnast for 14 years, prior to launching his coaching career nine years ago. He has coached at both AGA and Gymnastics Inc., in Fairbanks, initially coaching men’s gymnastics, and eventually moving to the women’s program. He is also an Alaska State judge for the men’s program.

“The team has their work cut out for them with all of the new routines,” Howard said. “There’s a lot going on, so it was a treat to break that up a little and have Samart come work on fundamental skills with the team.”

Upon returning from the national workshop, coaches got right to work teaching the new compulsory exercises, and assessing each athlete to determine the appropriate compulsory level for the upcoming season

Scores attained at the State championships will still factor into placement, but coaches now must also consider the new framework and work with each individual athlete to make sure they are competing at the level that will both showcase their abilities, and challenge the gymnast to improve.

“We have a learning curve as we implement the new system, and so does every gym in the country,” Howard said. “Our team has been in the gym all summer long, and I think that will result in a fairly seamless transition, and a great competition season.”

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