The most common mistake at junior competitions, through a judge’s eye

When it comes to competition, athletes will often look for ways to make sure they have a little edge over their competitors. Because sometimes, that extra one per cent of effort or attention to detail can be the difference between final scores or podium positions.

What can you do to go that extra mile? Gymnastics NSW have spoken to judges and a common theme has emerged about which mistake pops up most at junior competitions.

Some coaches call it amplitude, others might talk about extension, but in essence it’s all about that body posture and maintaining it throughout a routine.

What does that mean? 

Picture this: You are lining up for your floor routine. You present and complete your first skill…a handstand. Your knee bends…there goes 0.5. You forget to point your toe…another 0.1. You forget to squeeze when coming back up and take a big step…0.3 done and dusted. It’s one simple handstand, yet with a few squeezy muscles you could have just saved nearly a whole mark in your routine!

FIG Category 2 judge Rohan Kennedy says this is called layering deductions.

“Broadly speaking, that is where a lot of deductions come from in the junior space – when athletes don’t understand the importance of extension or struggle to apply it in all the work they do,” says the judge and Gymnastics Australia Men’s Artistic Technical Director.

[For more from Rohan on judging, check out the latest GNSW podcast episode].

For Acrobatic FIG Category 3 judge, Monique McKernan, these deductions can be the difference between a first and third place at some competitions.

“Everything needs to be locked in with your body, toes pointed, knees straight, chest pulled in and up and arms needs to be stretched right down to your fingertips if just standing,” she says. “Even when we see dynamic skills and they are flying through the air, we expect to see straight legs – unless it’s a tuck – and a strong upper body through to the landing.”

While bad posture or extension produces the most common deductions at junior competitions, variations to choreography can also create a form of ‘mistake stacking’.

Because the choreography is taken from a pre-determined text, gymnasts must stick to the routine or risk deductions. If there’s a small difference from the text, they might lose 0.1, a reasonable difference is a 0.3 deduction, and a large difference is 0.5 deduction. Once again, it all adds up!

So, what can you do about it? Practice. Communicate with your coach. Be mindful of your movements. And remember to go out onto the floor with confidence.