Finding the Perfect Spot: The Difference Between JO and Xcel

The Differences Between JO and Xcel

One of my jobs is to evaluate athletes to help them find the best competitive option.  It's a role that I used to find challenging.  Recently the job has become one of my favorites.  I love finding a team and level that allows each child to have the best possible experience in gymnastics.   I am very lucky because Pinnacle has a great competitive team program, so regardless of the level or team that a child is placed in I feel confident its going to be a positive experience.

Team BannerDuring the evaluation process I often hear, "What is the difference between Xcel and JO Competitive Gymnastics?"  It's a tough question for some to answer, and I am sure it varies depending on your program philosophy, but for Pinnacle and for me the differences are far fewer than the similarities.  Let's start with what is the same at Pinnacle:

  • Coaches who care deeply about their athletes as people and gymnasts
  • Development of life skills in athletes
  • A positive environment
  • Safety
  • Skill progressions and well thought out lesson plans
  • Teammates becoming best friends
  • Attire that all athletes can be confident in
  • Similar travel/meet opportunities based on comparable levels

Now, for the differences.  The differences lie mostly in the technical rules.  The skill requirements and routines are different for each level and each team.  You can take a look at the technicalities of each program by visiting USA Gymnastics Women's Artistic Program Page.

So, why one program over another?  The why comes from the individual needs of the athlete and their family.   A few of the major factors I consider are:

  1. Skill Set - Does your child have the very specific skills, strength, and flexibility that is set by the JO compulsory levels or would they benefit from a wider variety in skill selection that the Xcel program offers?
  2. Event Specialist - Is your child a beam queen?  Maybe, they have been tumbling all their life and the other events are still coming along.  This is a huge benefit of Xcel Gymnastics.  Xcel allows the coaches to challenge your child on their strengths while improving their weaknesses with skill selection.
  3. Age - Yes, age does play a factor.  We like to have training groups that are similar in age.  This allows for better environment for the athlete.
  4. Schedule - Does your athlete and or child need more flexibility in their schedule?  Maybe, they are a multi-sport athlete or maybe they are just looking for a little bit lighter load to balance school and gym.  Xcel might be the better fit.
  5. High School Gymnasts - What a great opportunity to do gymnastics at school and as an Xcel gymnast in the off season.
  6. Injuries - Unfortunately, they are a part of the sport, and sometimes they prohibit a gymnast from advancing on a particular event or skill.  The Xcel program again has great skill selection options.

Those are the factors.  The answer to why is because not all kids are the same physically, mentally, or emotionally.  No two families have the same financial or scheduling needs.  Each child needs to be considered individually.  Each child needs to be in the place that best helps them grow as an athlete and a person.  Each athlete deserves an experience that pushes them to their limits while loving the journey.

Very few people can say they were a competitive gymnast, fewer reach the optional level, and even fewer will become college gymnasts.  But, every competitive gymnast should have a chance to enjoy the sport and reap the benefits.

What is going to matter five years from now; the level, division, or program your child competed?  Or the lessons, experiences, and memories?  When you look back at your child's pictures as a competitive gymnast it will be hard to identify their level in the picture, but a happy face will always be easy to spot.

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Tags: Gymnastics, Coaching, Competitive Gymnastics
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