The compulsory track consists of the introductory competitive levels 3 – 6 and focuses on introducing young athletes to the competitive experience and building a strong foundation for higher-level gymnastics. Gymnasts compete through private or community-funded clubs, and all gymnasts at a level perform the same required routines. There are two divisions in each level. Division one gymnasts may perform bonus skills in addition to the base routine to raise their score, while division two gymnasts perform only the base routine. Athletes compete in the same division on all apparatuses, and a team may have athletes from both divisions.
Gymnasts must be turning a minimum of six years old during the calendar year in which they wish to compete. While six is the minimum age, many athletes enter this track at a later age. While the maximum age is a senior in high school, typically, gymnasts progress through the levels and transition to another pathway by age 12. For athletes starting their gymnastics journey after the age of 12, they will often begin on a different path, such as the National Optional Track or USAG Club Track, though they may participate for one or two years in the compulsory program to get exposure to competition.
Because of the focus on developing both fundamental skills and competitive experience, this pathway can serve as a stepping stone to any number of other pathways, including the National Optional Track, the National Elite Track, or High School gymnastics.
Depending on the level (3 – 6), age, and gym, training hours will vary between 4 – 12 hours per week. Tryouts may be required to participate on a team and often happen in the summer months. There may also be pre-team-specific classes that are designed to develop skills for competing in level 3 the following year. Many gyms have an unlimited number of spots for these teams and make level decisions only based on skill.
Gymnasts typically compete in 3 – 5 competitions between November and March, and the season culminates with a State Championship and Regional Championship. Gymnasts typically compete at the same level throughout the season, but they may also switch levels during the season up to a point. At these levels, every gymnast typically competes on all apparatuses. Due to the age and time commitment, it is often not necessary to specialize solely in gymnastics. The fundamentals of movement taught in the compulsory program translate to many other sports.
Costs are set by the club and typically range between $100 to $400 per month, with additional expenses for meet registration, travel, and uniforms.
If you are at a gym that already has a boys competitive team, talk to the coach about how to try out for the team. To find a gym in your area that may have a boys team, USAG has a gym locator. Just type in your zip code, and it will give a list of nearby gyms. From there, you’ll need to find out which gyms have men’s programs by clicking on the link to each gym’s website and investigating their class offerings. You can also search Google Maps (or your maps application of choice) in your area for “gymnastics” or Google “recreational gymnastics [insert your city/town/area here]”. Some gyms offer boys-only and coed classes. Coed classes will expose an athlete to all artistic gymnastics equipment in gyms with boys equipment but may only offer girls apparatus at gyms with only girls gymnastics equipment.
State Boys Directors may also be able to give information on compulsory programs in the area. Contact information for the State Directors can be found in the men’s program directory.
For coaches or gym owners, it is very easy to start a compulsory or club program, even with limited equipment. See this document for more information on how to start a new boys program.