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What's the difference between Xcel and Junior Olympic training and competitions?

Not all gyms offer both Xcel and Junior Olympic (JO) training and competitions. Mountain Gymnastics Academy (MGA) does, because one training method doesn't fit all gymnasts!


USA Gymnastics, the largest governing body of gymnastics (of which MGA is a member club) has offered a traditional Junior Olympic (JO) level system in which gymnasts compete. Once a gymnast is proficient at his/her level and earns a qualifying score, he/she has the option to move up to the next level. Competitive levels are levels 3-10, and above level 10, the gymnast has the option to go "elite" (those are the gymnasts you see at the Olympics).

However, there was a flaw in this JO level system. In JO, there is a very specific mold that the gymnast is required to fit into. For gymnasts who did not fit that mold, whether due to age, financial situation, ability, or commitment level, there was no other real option for them. So USAG made a fantastic decision and created the Xcel program.

USAG defines the Xcel program as "a broad-based, affordable competitive experience outside the traditional Jr. Olympic Program." Xcel, like JO, has different levels (Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond) that the gymnast can progress to as he/she learns more skills. Gymnasts who participate in Xcel also get the same competitive experience of being on a team and competing in front of a judge.

The biggest difference between JO and Xcel is that where JO has very strict requirements, Xcel's are more relaxed and allow the gymnast more of a range of skills, as well as more room to train and progress at their own pace. Gymnasts who are maybe too old to go the traditional JO path blossom in Xcel, where they can still train skills, compete, grow, and progress. Often, gymnasts in the Xcel program do fewer competitions than their JO counterparts, and it is less of a financial and time commitment than JO.  In the case of MGA, our Xcel program requires less training time as well, so it's more suited to multi-sport athletes.

MGA is a huge fan of the Xcel program. The JO program creates a very small box for its gymnasts, and before Xcel, there was nothing for gymnasts who didn't fit into that box, but who still loved gymnastics. Xcel has created the opportunity for girls to compete in gymnastics that wouldn't have otherwise been encouraged to. It has opened the door to a new way of enjoying the sport and has encouraged more kids to participate. Gymnasts who maybe would have quit are now staying with gymnastics and competing in Xcel. 

Here at MGA, we are proud to offer both a JO team and Xcel team and we compete at meets with both. Mobility between the programs is not only possible, but encouraged if either is a better fit than the other. We have had many gymnasts switch from JO to Xcel, and gymnasts come from Xcel to JO. Many of the skills we train at MGA overlap between the programs, making a smooth transition from any gymnast that may make the switch.

Approximate Comparison of Skill Level:
Xcel Bronze = JO 3 and under
Xcel Silver = JO 3/4
Xcel Gold = JO 4/5
Xcel Platinum = JO 6/7
Xcel Diamond = JO 7/8+

The JO athlete must demonstrate high standard of physical ability (including skill acquisition, strength, and flexibility) on all four events, strong work ethic, and coachability. The JO athlete spends more hours in the gym, competes in more competitions that may require travel, and may incur more of an expense for uniforms. As a result, JO is more of a family commitment as far as time and finances. This program is perfect for the athlete who only wants to do gymnastics!

The Xcel athlete must also demonstrate the physical ability, work ethic, and coachability required to be a part of a competitive team, but without the expectations and standards of JO. The Xcel athlete trains fewer hours in the gym and may compete in fewer competitions. The Xcel program is perfect for the athlete who demonstrates talent in gymnastics, but who also wants to pursue other sports/activities, or for the family that is unable to commit financially to JO.

Not sure which competitive program is right for you? Our coaches can help determine where each gymnast will be the most successful!

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