JAG offers two competitive options for our Artistic Team gymnasts, USAG's Junior Olympic (JO) Program and USAG's Xcel Program. The JO and Xcel programs both offer wonderful opportunity to train gymnastics at all levels and participate in competitions. One program is not inherently better than the other—they both offer different advantages and disadvantages. As such, each child may find benefits competing in each program at different times during their gymnastics career and even simultaneously. The coaching staff will determine what best meets the needs for each child on an individual basis.
USAG is the governing body for Junior Olympic and Olympic-bound gymnasts. JAG participates in both the Junior Olympic Program and the Xcel Program. The Xcel Program offers more flexibiity than the Junior Olympic Program. For example, a gymnast competing Xcel is not required to compete All Around and could compete on select events and not others, whereas a gymnast in the Junior Olympic Program is required to compete on every event and must complete certain requirements on each event on a given level before advancing to the next.
The Junior Olympic Program is broken down into levels (2-10) and offers some of the strongest, most challenging competition at each level. Athletes competing at levels 2-5 compete Compulsory routines; each child competes the same exact routines on each apparatus and uses the same floor routine music. Athletes competing at level 6 and above, compete Optional routines; each gymnast competes their own unique routine on each apparatus and can choose their own floor routine music, though there are still requirements regarding what types of elements and skills must be included at each level.
The Junior Olympic Program is a highly demanding program, requiring a lot of time and dedication. Due to the levels of precision and difficulty required to execute routines, Junior Olympic Program gymnasts will typically train between 9 and 20 plus hours per week. Former JAG gymnasts competing in this program have gone on to compete at the college level at such institutions as Brown University, UCLA, Cal State, Michigan, and Penn State.
The USAG Xcel Program is an alternative USA Gymnastics competitive program offering individual flexibility to coaches and gymnasts. The goal of XCEL is to provide gymnasts of varying abilities and commitment levels the opportunity for a rewarding gymnastics experience. The Xcel Program was created as a national program in 2013. You can start competing at a lower skill level in the Xcel program and participate in optional routines earlier when compared to the JO program.
There are five divisions in the Xcel program - Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond. All of the Xcel divisions have optional rules, which mean that there are only 4-5 routine requirements and each gymnast can have her routine choreographed for her personality and individual strengths and weaknesses. Judging in the JO program can be more strict and produce lower scores than what the gymnast may have in Xcel. With higher scores your gymnast may feel better and be more motivated to stick with the sport.