Xcel vs JO gymnastics

Charlotte Stephan

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Gymnastics is a tough and brutal sport, but many people don’t know about the different programs. Exploring both the Xcel teams and the Junior Olympic teams can help lead you in the correct direction if you are interested in competing.

The USAG Xcel program is often seen as a program for gymnasts that aren’t as talented, but that is far from the truth. USAG defines Xcel as “a broad-based, affordable competitive experience outside the traditional Junior Olympic Program.” While Xcel won’t take you to the collegiate or Olympic level, you can still find major success through this program. Xcel offers five levels of competition moving through bronze, silver, gold, platinum, and diamond. You will be evaluated as you enter the program based on the skills you have to see what level would suit you best. Once you have been put into a level, you will begin training and creating routines which is way more fun in Xcel than JO. Xcel offers a wide variety of possible skills and connections that leaves gymnasts with an open range of routine possibilities. Since there is no set skill list, you will see more creative routines that fit each gymnast to their liking and style. Since the Xcel program is much more relaxed, the training hours aren’t as rigorous. A typical gymnast will only train 2-6 hours per week in bronze and silver and anywhere from 6-16 hours per week for gold, platinum, and diamond. 

The USAG Junior Olympic program is an intense program created for gymnasts with the hopes of going to college or the Olympics. The JO program takes you through levels 3-10 and even gives gymnasts the chance to become elite. An elite gymnast is someone who initially passes level 10 and qualifies for bigger meets throughout the country. Qualifying for elite also means you have the chance to represent team USA and travel internationally along with gaining the possibility of going to the Olympics. Levels 3-6 are all called compulsory levels which means every gymnast competes the exact same routines in every event. All four of these levels have certain skills that are important for you to have as you continue moving up the scale since they will eventually lead to more difficult skills. Every level in JO has requirements just like Xcel, but they are more strict which leaves you commonly seeing the same routines. Even as you pass level 6, you will see many of the same routines, specifically on bars and vault, because it is difficult to come up with different routines that meet the strict requirements. By level 6, most gymnasts will find themselves training around 15 hours a week, and if you end up in level 10 or elite, gymnasts typically find themselves training around 30 hours a week.

Now that you know the differences between Xcel and JO gymnastics, I hope it helps you make a better decision if you are considering competing. If you are searching for a big goal, JO will be the path for you, but if you are simply doing gymnastics to have fun, Xcel is definitely the path you will want to take.