The elite track is designed for athletes to participate in and succeed at international competitions representing the United States on the National Team. The program is broken into a Junior Division and Senior Division. An athlete must be 12 to 18 years of age to compete as a Junior Elite and must be at least 18 years of age to participate internationally as a Senior Elite.
Each year, around 14 spots are available on the Level 8/9 Junior Elite National Team and 14 spots on the Level 10 Junior Elite National Team. The Senior National Team is made up of 20 Senior athletes, including five members of the Senior Development Team. In the Junior Elite division, 12 and 13-year-olds can qualify to the Level 8 team, 14 and 15-year-olds qualify to the level 9 team, and 16 – 18-year-olds qualify to the Level 10 Junior National Team.
The first step in making the team is qualifying to the appropriate championships. Junior Elites first qualify to the elite sessions of the Men’s Development Program National Championships by performing both their optional routines and compulsory technical sequences at their Regional Championships. Typically, approximately 400 athletes advance to these sessions across all Junior Elite levels. Level 8 and 9 National Teams are chosen at the DP Championships while Level 10’s must further qualify to compete at the US Championships either through the DP Championships or through a separate qualifying event. Typically, a maximum of 48 Level 10’s advance through to the US Championships.
Senior Elites must qualify annually to the Winter Cup and US Championships. Qualification procedures for these events may be found here.
An additional overview of the program is available here.
Advancing to the elite track requires highly successful competition results on the National Compulsory or National Optional tracks as well as a solid technical foundation of basic skills. The focus of the Elite Track is on developing the difficulty and execution required to be internationally competitive with top athletes from around the world.
The total number of training hours is between 20 – 30 hours per week. Junior athletes train primarily at private clubs, while senior elite athletes train either at a private club, the Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, or at an NCAA/collegiate program. Depending on the individual situation, costs may be similar to that of the National Optional track. Senior National Team athletes and members of the Level 10 Junior National Team receive funding through either the USOPC or USAG to assist with their training expenses. The tiered athlete funding model can be found here.
If selected to the team, athletes also participate in centralized training camps 4 – 6 times a year. These camps serve as a place to develop and showcase skills, work with top sports performance and medical staff and create a bond as Team USA athletes. Some camps are used to decide the selection of individuals for particular international competitions.
Junior Elite athletes, whether or not they make the National Team, often continue their careers in the NCAA upon graduating and are heavily recruited by these coaches.
Athletes who are seriously considering this track should start with a conversation with their coach about the potential for success and designing a plan to reach this level. Coaches of potential National Team caliber athletes should talk with their local state chairman and program committee members to ensure they are on the right track.