This is a potentially signification change that had the potential to impact many teams and gymnasts. However, the changes were accompanied by a series of bonus tenth rules that essentially reward gymnasts that were already doing a higher level of difficulty. As a result, the changes will have less impact on gymnasts from the Top 10 teams. However, there will be a greater impact on lower ranked teams as there will be additional skills and combinations that will need to be attempted, which may in turn result in incremental execution deductions. As a result, we might see some increase separation in the Top 50 teams.
As a bit of background, the NCAA Rules Modifications are the changes that the NCAA makes to the base USA Gymnastics Junior Olympics Level10 Code of Points. As the years have gone by, these two rule sets have drifted apart, primarily with regard to certain special requirements on each event. The NCAA code has essentially become easier than the JO Code over the years, with fewer mechanisms to deduct for composition and a lower level of difficulty required in the NCAA. The NCAA still follows the same rules for execution, however, and they adopt almost all changes made by USAG's Technical Committee.
This discussion assumes you have a basic working knowledge of the current gymnastics rules, including the principles of start values, bonus points, and difficulty levels of skills (A to E).
Some of the bonus rules and changes added by the NCAA loosely align to principals called Compositional Deductions that already exist in the JO Code. These rules provide additional deductions for the content and composition of a routine. In the USAG JO Code, these serve to separate the effective max score a routine can received based on the level of skills above and beyond the base requirements, or that demonstrate mastery of a variety of skills and combinations. The NCAA also have Compositional Deductions, but they are much simpler and the demands on the athlete are much fewer. The new NCAA Code Modifications have now, however, installed a series of bonus tenth opportunities to achieve a similar goal. Instead of being deductions, similar elements of difficulty or skill combinations are now be added as additional bonus tenths. For example, in the JO Code there is a 0.1 deduction for a balance beam (BB) dismount such as a C done in isolation (no connecting element), such as a gainer layout full. The NCAA code says no deduction should be taken in this case. However, the new NCAA code now provides for a 0.1 in bonus for doing an dismount of a B level directly connected to a C dismount or for a C dance skill directly connected to a C dismount. These are the same skill level combinations that in the JO Code ensure that no deduction is taken for a simple dismount.
The NCAA changes are also intended to encourage a little more variety in skill selection and routine composition, by increasing bonus on certain rarely seen or risky skills and combinations.
The NCAA Code Modifications, in addition to lowering the start value on the three events, is also requiring that 0.1 tenths of the bonus comes from Connection Value, and that 0.1 come from Difficulty Value (D or higher skills). This requirement already exists in the JO Code, and is another example of alignment between the codes. This requirement can also be viewed as increasing variety in composition. However, routines lacking bonus in both categories are not commmon in the NCAA, and will be even more rare with the base start value reduction to 9.4.
Here's a breakdown of the changes by event, along with examples of how they may impact certain routines. This discussion will focus primarily on the changes.
Just two vault start values have been changed. The round-off 1/2 turn to front tuck has been raised to a 9.95. This change may help gymnasts doing this vault break into the lineup sooner, as it will no longer be at a start value deficit to the Yurchenko 1/2 and Yurchenko Full.
The front handspring onto the board, front pike 1/2 twist off is a 10.0 SV.
UNEVEN BARS (UB)
The changes on UB are relatively minor, with the exception of an increased incentive for more difficult releases. A single bar D release such as a Jaeger, Gienger, Tkachev or other will receive an additional 0.1 bonus in Difficulty Value. Any type of E release will also receive this bonus, such as a Van Leeuwen (Maloney 1/2). Last year's Code Modification already incentivized routines to add similar skills, and this further reinforces that incentive.
The NCAA Code Modifications also raised the value of a flyaway double twist (2/1) dismount from a C to D. The front flyaway 1 1/2 has been raised to a D and the front flyaway double twist (2/1) has been raised to an E. These dismounts have been rarely performed in the NCAA.
Gymnasts already doing a single bar D or an E value release will not have to make any upgrades, due to the extra bonus for the release. Also, many gymnasts already had more than 0.5 in bonus in their existing routines. A relatively small portion of the existing UB routines will be impacted, and those will be covered by adding an additional C connecting skill into their routines, such as a toe-on to handstand prior to a Maloney. Some routines may have no connection bonus, however, and need to add some connecting skill into their routines, even if they have 0.6 in DV bonus.
Let's take a look at how some typical routines might compare under the new rules:
Pike Jaeger to Overshoot (E+C, 0.2 DV, 0.1 CV, 0.1 Bonus DV for single bar release)
Double Layout Dismount (E, 0.2 DV)
Total Bonus: 0.6, 10.0 SV
Maloney to Overshot to Handstand or to a Pak (D+D, 0.2 DV plus 0.2 CV)
Giant Full to Double Back Flyaway (D+C, 0.1 DV, 0.1 CV)
Total Bonus: 0.6, 10.0 SV
Maloney (D, 0.1 DV)
Pak (D, 0.1 DV)
Giant Full (D, 0.1 DV)
Full-in Dismount (E, 0.2 DV)
All skills unconnected (All other skills B or less)
Total Bonus 0.5, 9.9 SV
These three routines would have started at 10 under the old Code Modifications. The first two routines are common constructions and would be unaffected, as would other common minor variations on those two routines. The first routine gets a start value bonus from the single flipping salto, and still starts from a 10 this season. The second and third are an example where the start value gets no extra bonus under the new code bonus structure. The second gymnast is unaffected as she already had enough bonus However, the third gymnast will need to gain another 0.1 in CV to start from a 10, such as a clear-hip to handstand before the swing down to Pak. In the first routine, it is not uncommon to see a gymnast to not directly connect the release and do an overshoot to handstand for another D and 0.1 in DV. While that varation would have 0.6 in DV, it would only start from a 9.9 because of the requirement to have 0.1 in CV.
BALANCE BEAM (BB)
The BB is the area that has been most impacted by the changes, although still not to a high degree. Certain changes may require change in the gymnast's routines as the new bonus provisions added on this event are for less frequently used skills and combinations. In addition, this is the event where routines in the past tended to get edited down to a minimum levels of bonus, to avoid potential wobbles and mistakes.
The existing code has certain deductions for difficulty not "Up to the Level". Specifically, if a gymnast has an acro series without bonus, she must add another D salto or E dance skill to the routine. This year, a D salto must not be connected to a dismount in order to meet "up to the level". Thus, a gymnast who did a back layout to back layout full dismount will need to have another D acro or E dance skill somewhere in her routine, or change her dismount. The side aerial to back full dismount is another combination that is commonly used today.
The new Code Modifications also reward more difficult dismounts, as explained earlier. This is conceptually similar to the JO Code, which instead provides deductions for dismounts not above a certain value level. Now, the NCAA will instead award 0.1 in Connection Value (CV) bonus for a B (or higher) acro skill connected to a C (or higher) dismount. The gymnast will also earn 0.1 in CV for a C (or higher) dance skill directly connected to a C (or higher dismount). Thus, a round-off to back layout 1 1/2 twist (B+C) and switch leap to gainer layout full (C+C) will both earn 0.1 in extra Connection Value bonus. This is probably the area where certain gymnasts will benefit under the new bonus incentives. .
The NCAA Code also changed the requirements for Dance series. In the past seasons, a gymnast had to perform a Dance Seires with at least one C value dance skill. Now, the requirement can also be fulfilled with a Dance plus Acro combination where the Dance skill is at least a C. This moves the NCAA Code closer in alignment with the JO Code. An example combination is a switch split leap (C) to back handspring swingdown (B), which will now earn a 0.1 in Connection Value and satisfies the requirement for a dance or dance-acro series.
The Code Modifications also raised the value of certain skills. The front tuck from two feet to a landing on two feet has been raised from a D to an E. Also, the double turn on one foot has been elevated from a D to an E. The much maligned double turn in wolf position, which is used frequently in the elite ranks, will be upgraded from a D to an E. The gainer with 1 1/2 twists, from the side, will now be a D in both the layout or the tuck position (only the layout position qualified for the D value last season).. However, the tuck double twist was not afforded a similar treatment. Only the gainer layout double full is raised to an E.
Here's how two typical routines might compare under the new code:
Back Handspring Back Layout (D, 0.1, no CV)
Switch Split to Straddle 1/4 (C+C, 0.2 CV)
Side Aerial to Beat Jump (D+A,, 0.1 DV, 0.1 CV)
Round Off to Back 1 1/2 (B+C, 0.1 bonus CV)
Total Bonus: 0.6, 10.0 SV
Front Aerial to Back Handspring (D+B, 0.1 DV, no CV)
Stag Ring Jump to Split Jump (D+B 0.1 DV, 0.2 CV)
Side Aerial to Back Layout Full (D, 0.1 DV)
Total Bonus: 0.5, 9.9 SV minus 0.1 for "Up to the Level".
Under the prior Code Modifications, both gymnasts would have started from a 10.0. Under the new modifications, the first gymnast is fine and still starts from a 10.0. The second gymnast would have to make a change, or be capped at a 9.8. One possible change would be to move the side aerial, and connect it directly to a beat jump rather than into the dismount. The gymnast would then add a new dismount, like a gainer layout full. These are workable changes, altough they may lead to new deductions.
The USA Gymnastics Technical Committee also updated the underlying code of points, adding clarifications and strengthening tempo/rhythm deductions for the connections in dance series, dance-acro series, and acro series (except backward acro series). This has some potential implication for certain routines. These deductions are:
- 0.05 to 0.1 in deductions when the body is moving in line with the beam but the arms swing between the elements AND/OR the legs slighly extend (but do not straighten all the way) and then slightly bend again.
- 0.15 to 0.2 in deductions for trunk/torso deviations in line with the beam with or without arm swing between the elements.
All series are considered broken if there is a balance break (even without a stop of motion) or if there is a deviation in body movement which is NOT in line with the beam.
The NCAA code places an emphasis on execution and even a 0.05 point deduction can make it harder for a gymnast to get the type of 9.8+ scores the teams are seeking. Front to back tumbling series that have become popular may face stricter evaluation, for example, under these changes. Line of directions, continous body motion and arms swings will need to be carefully scrutinized to eliminate so-called "built-in" deductions. The same holds true of the dance and dance-acro series, that may get added to a routine in an effort to gain an extra tenth of bonus. Gymnasts with a lot of these types of connections will need to work to ensure any deductions are minimized, or that the bonus or requirement is replaced in another fashion. The risk/reward balance for these skill selections may get impacted, depending on how strictly and uniformly the judges evaluate these connections.
FLOOR EXERCISE (FX)
The changes on the floor are more limited than on the BB. Many gymnasts will be impacted, but the changes do reward more difficult dismount tumbling passes and well-executed dance and acro combinations.
A C acro skill directly connected to a C acro skill will now receive 0.3 points in Connection Value versus 0.2 points previously. A typical qualifying combination would be the back layout 1 1/2 twist to front layout full. In a possible oversight, the rules do not explicitly say "C+C" or higher will receive the bonus. Without correction or clarification, this means a C directly connected to a D, such as a back 2 1/2 twist to front layout full, will possibly only earn 0.2 in Connection Value (CV), even though the combination is harder than the C+C combination. The code modifications also do not provide for potentially more difficult combinations that do not include a C skills, such as an E+B. These remain at 0.2 points as well.
A difficulty bonus of 0.1 points will be awarded if the gymnast performs a double flipping salto or an E acro skill of any kind in her last pass. This means a gymnast ending with a double pike or front double full will gain an extra tenth of a point in Difficulty Value (DV). This bonus rule appears to apply equally to two and three acro pass routines.
Here's how it may play out in an actual routine
Double Pike (D, 0.1 DV)
Back Layout 1 1/2 Twist to Front Layout (C+B, 0.2 CV)
Switch Side to Popa (C+C, 0.1 CV)
Double Tuck (D, 0.1 DV plus 0.1 bonus DV)
Total Bonus: 0.6 points, SV of 10.0
Full In (E, 0.2 DV)
Front Layout Full to Pike Front (C+A, 0.1 CV)
Gogean Leap (D, 0.1 DV)
Rudi (D, 0.1 DV)
Total Bonus: 0.5 points, SV of 9.9
In the second example, the gymnast would need to make a upgrade such as upgrading the front pike to a front layout, or adding a leap out of the Rudi.
We may see some gymnasts add dance skills or combos to earn another tenth in bonus. Others may restructure their routine to move the double flipping salto to the final line. The gymnasts at the top teams will not be impacted, as many will qualify for the double flipping bonus in their final pass or already had 0.6 in bonus.
Routines are still required to have Dance Bonus, either from a Combination Value or Difficulty Value. Gymnasts that use the Difficulty Value approach will still be required to get Combination Value somewhere in their routine, perhaps through Acro. This should not be an issue as all gymnasts do some level of combination tumbling in fulfilling the two saltos in one pass special requirement, and almost all of these combinations already earn CV.
And that is the extent of this year's changes. The start value change may look challenging to begin with, but with the bonus structure put in place the potential changes will be less severe. The exception may be on balance beam, where stricter standards for connections and less common bonus opportunites along with other rule changes may require some gymnasts to restructure their routines. Teams lower in the rankings may also have to add in upgrades to start from a 10.0, and as a result we may see some increased separation betweem the squads.
Do you want to learn more? The 2020 and 2021 Code Modifications can be found at this link: PDF
Note: This article has been updated and expanded for clarity and corrections since the original publication.