Level 9 Beam – Routine Construction

Level 9 Beam - Back Layout Step-out

JO Optional Code of Points 2018-2022

The new JO Optional Code for 2018 thru 2022 is in effect for the upcoming season.  For level 9 beam the changes mostly include compositional and up to level requirements and deductions.

Let’s break down the Level 9 beam routine and see what is expected from level 9 athletes this season. And, thank you to Rebecca for getting me off my butt and back to work!

Skill Value Parts

All level 9 beam routines must include 3As 4Bs and 1C skill. Higher level skills can drop down to substitute for lower skills. For example, a second C skill would drop down and be counted as a B skill and then only three B skill would then be required.

Special Requirements

These are considered the minimum level of difficulty required to compete at this level. If the gymnast is missing one of these it is .5 in start value.

But please note, especially with the new changes to the code, that having all of these requirements does not mean that you will score high even with a well executed routine. At this level there is more to it than simply fulfilling the requirements.

  1. Acro Series with two flight elements

    A BHS-BHS would fulfill this requirement but would no longer be up to level. The expectation of difficulty would be a B-C connection. This will make the BHS back layout step out series even more popular and I predict we will see a bit more creativity as this series is one that many struggle with.

  2. One leap with 180 degree split

    The switch leap is very popular in level nine, often connected to another jump or acro skill.

  3. Minimum of full turn

  4. Aerial/Salto dismount minimum of B value.

    A roundoff to a layout with a full twist is the most common level 9 dismount. Other options would be a geinger layout off the side of the beam and BHS with possible additional BHS double down to full dismount.

Difficulty limitations

For level 9 they are allowed one restricted D element. Restricted D elements for level 9 beam include Acro elements along with mounts and dismounts. The most common restricted D you will see in level 9 routines is a side or front aerial.


Level 9 beam routines start from a 9.7 when all other requirements are met.

The remaining three tenths must be acquired through difficult connections of two or more skills.

For beam, the connection bonus values are the same for levels nine and ten although many of the states bonuses don’t apply because they contain D skills which don’t exist in level 9 routines. They are only allowed to compete one restricted D element and it is only valued at a C for purposes of start value and bonus. No bonus for doing a D skill.

Level 9 beam bonus

B+C – .1
The back handspring back layout step out series, which is very popular, is a B+C and would receive a .1 in bonus.

This would also include dance connections like a switch leap(C) split jump(B) combo.

C+C – .2
A switch leap to back tuck is C+C so worth .2 in connection value bonus.

Other bonus scenarios

The above acro and mixed dance/acro two-part series cannot include a mount or dismount.  But if you add a third element then you can include the mount or dismount.

B+B+C – .1
Three part series are becoming more popular and although still seen mostly at level 10 a BHS BHS BLOSO may soon be making more appearances at level 9 as it would progress nicely to the coveted BHS BLOSO BLOSO series.  But, the flip side to this is that it is still only worth one bonus so it may not be worth the risk.

Another scenario would be a BHS BHS to a Back laid out 1.5 twist dismount.

B+C+C – .2
These wold be pretty uncommon at level 9 I would think.  Maybe a front handspring to back layout step out to 1.5 dismount?  That is a really big combo and something I would expect to see in college as they like to mix it up like that.

Routine Composition

The new code lays out a more detailed explanation of the deductions for the composition of a routine. These are not part of the start value but play a large role in how a routine is constructed and what skills a coach chooses for a gymnast.

These are simply deductions just like deductions for bent knees or pointed toes and should not be given any more weight. I have only included them here as they may answer some of the uncertainty that parents and gymnasts feel about why a coach is making certain decisions.

I hate to even have to say this but I see a ton of concern about these deductions, especially this concept of up to level. First and foremost trust your coach. I have never met one who didn´t have a plan and a reason for the decisions they make.

Acro in multiple directions – .1

The gymnast must tumble backwards in her routine and also must tumble either sideways or forwards. All skills must move all the way through the plane in order so count. So a kick up to handstand pirouette then step back down or similar such skill would not count for this requirement.

The roundoff into the dismount is a very common way to satisfy this requirement for level 9 beam. In addition a front handspring or even a front or side aerial would work. The aerials are both D skills and not as common in level 9 but you will see them as the restricted D skill for those advanced beam workers.

I should also note that is the dismount itself is the only front skill then there is a .05 deduction. You will see some gymnasts competing a front layout dismount in level 9. If this is the only front or side skill then this deduction comes into play even though they have technically fulfilled the requirement.

Lack of Dance Variety – .1

This is just stating that all your dance can’t be in the same position. No more than two straddle, wolf or tuck jumps with or without rotation.

In addition, and probably the most relevant application of this rule in the construction of a level 9 beam routine is that you can only have two pivot turns in a routine.

As you know, beam routines travel back and forth across the length of the beam. The gymnast needs to switch directions several times in a routine. They don’t want to see too many quick turns on two feet. The choreography is expected to be creative and use a variety of dance elements to facilitate the flow of the routine back and forth across the beam.

Insufficient use of the beam apparatus – up to .1 each

There are three deductions in this category and they focus on choreography and are there to ensure that the routine has creative flow and variety. These deductions deal strictly with the parts of the routine that are not value parts, meaning they are not skills with value applying toward the start value of the routine.

  1. Change in level – choreography must have high medium and low points, meaning actual vertical levels on the beam. Standing (high), kneeling or squatting (medium) and leotard touching the beam (low) are all required.
  2. Use of the entire length of the beam
  3. Variety of directions – Choreography must move forward, backward and sideways.

Lack of dance series – .2

The beam routine must contain a combination of two dance elements. This can include the mount, leaps and jumps as well as turns.

Up to Level Deductions

I have created an entire section for these deductions as they are complex and also the topic of all kinds of conversation these days. There is some impression that these are new deductions, but in fact they existed in the old code as well. All they have done is clarified for the judges how to apply these deduction fairly and consistently across all gymnasts and competitions.

Previously these deductions were vague and subjective and therefore were applied inconsistently and sometimes strictly and sometimes not at all depending on the judge and the meet. This led to confusion and many judges just gave up on applying these deductions all together.

So, in this new version of the code they have laid out the expectations and scenarios for differing levels of deduction. It’s actually pretty amazing how specific they have gotten with it. But please remember these are just deductions like any other deduction. They hold no more weight and a simpler skill with a .1 up to level deduction executed without deduction will score higher than an up to level skill with three tenths of execution deduction.

Acro – up to .2

For zero deduction

  • Acro Series, both with flight and one of the skill must be a C.
  • One Additional salto or aerial or a D skill with hands down.

If series is good but additional C acro is hands down – .05

If series is good but additional acro is a B – .1

If series does not contain a C skill but does additional C acro outside of series – .15

If series does not contain a C skill and there is no additional C acro – .2

If no series – .2 (this would also lose .5 in start value as a series is required)

Dance – up to .2

These skills include turns, leaps, jumps, holds and body waves.

For zero deduction – 2Cs -or- 1C and 1D

1C and 1B – .05

1C – .1

2Bs – .15

1B- .2

Any As in the routine would count to value part count and dance series but would not count as part of the up to level criteria.

Dismount – up to .1

For zero deduction

  • C dismount
  • B acro or C dance connected to B dismount

A acro or B dance connected to B dismount – .05

Isolated B dismount or any A dismount – .1

Example Routines

Let’s take a look at a couple of level 9 routines and see how they stack up to the new rules. The new season hasn’t started yet so I am interested to see if there are indications of changes we might see in how routines are constructed. Maybe looking at a few routines from last year will give us some clues. Or, maybe these new rules won’t change much at all and we will continue to see the same old same old routines. I can’t wait to see what happens.

Hana Strause – 2018 Western Championships – 9.675

Full wolf turn – B
Switch leap split jump – C+B – .1 bonus
Front Aerial – D
Back handspring back layout stepout – B+C – .1 bonus
Back handspring back handspring double down double twist dismount – B+B+C – .1 bonus

5Bs 3Cs 1D – All good here. Remember that at level 9 they can only compete 1 restricted D skill, all D skills count as C skills and that higher skills can drop down to fill in the value part requirements (3As 4Bs 1C)

Series with two flight elements – yes
full turn – yes
180 degree jump/leap – yes
salto dismount of B or higher value – yes

Bonus – .3 (10.0 start value)
.1 C+B Dance connection
.1 B+C Acro connection
.1 B+B+C three part dismount connection

Up to Level – .05 dedution
Acro good – two flight one C, additional salto
Dance – Need 2Cs, has 1C+2Bs – .05 deduction
Dismount good – C dismount

Emma Chaix – 2018 Western Championships – 9.625

Switch leap One handed back handspring – C+C – .2 bonus
back handspring back layout stepout – B+C – .1 bonus
Full Turn – A
Front Aerial – D
Split jump Beat jump – B+A
Back handspring Back handspring double down Full twist dismount – B+B+B

2As 5Bs 3Cs 1D – Plenty!

Series with two flight elements – yes
full turn – yes
180 degree jump/leap – yes
salto dismount of B or higher value – yes

Bonus – .3 (10.0 start value)
Mixed dance acro C+C series – .2
C+B Acro Series – .1

Up to Level – .05 deduction
Acro good – series both with flight, one C plus addition salto/aerial
Dance – 2 Cs needed – 1C + 1B – .05
Dismount – B acro connected to B dismount so all good here

Just a side note when comparing Hana and Emma’s routines. It felt like a good example of some artistry discussions that are taking place. The two routines scored almost identically and both were beautifully executed. But, in this quad there is a strong emphasis on presentation and rhythm. Tammy Biggs is doing her rounds and at our regional level 9/10 clinic this fall she was strongly emphasizing dancing in and out of your skills and maintaining fluid and expressive choreography throughout the routine.

You can see that Hana moves with good rhythm and continuous flow throughout her routine. Emma on the other hand takes several longer pauses before her skills and her rhythm throughout is slightly more hesitant and less expressive. In this new quad this may result in additional deductions that would put Hana’s routine at a slight advantage.

Here is a recording of the Artistry seminar that Tammy Biggs gave at National Congress this year going into detail about her new recommendations for artistry.

Tammy Biggs – 2018 USAG National Congress – Artistry Seminar

Skylar Goodstadt – 2018 Eastern Championships – 9.1

Back handspring Back handspring – B+B
Switch leap Split jump – C+B – .1 bonus
Full turn – A
Split jump Tuck 3/4 turn – B+C – .1 bonus
Round off Full twist dismount – B+B

1A 6Bs 2Cs – OK

Series with two flight elements – yes
full turn – yes
180 degree jump/leap – yes
salto dismount of B or higher value – yes

Bonus – .2 (9.9 start value)
She has two dance combos worth .1 bonus each.

Up to level – .2

Series – needs a C in her series and is missing an additional salto/aerial – .2

Dance – She has 2 Cs so is good here
Dismount – B acro to B dismount – OK

You can see that Skylar’s score was a bit lower, although still a great score. She is missing some difficulty and bonus in this routine and took a couple of small bobbles and I would have dinged her for not getting her legs high enough on her tuck 3/4. Her rhythm and confidence are quite good which elevates the quality of her routine.

In the previous code she likely took some deduction for balance of acro to dance meaning that her acro and dance were not balanced in difficulty. In this code they have shifted that to more explicit up to level deductions and removed the balance of acro and dance deductions.

Lane Rodocker – 2018 Eastern Championships – 9.7

I included this routine to show that you do not need a restricted D skill to be competitive at the highest levels in level 9. I know it may seem that way these days but Lane does a beautiful routine with technically the same bonus and level of difficulty as the other high scoring routine without the D skill. Note she has the highest scoring routine of the bunch. There is a balance that needs to be considered. Exquisite execution balanced with attainable difficulty will win the day every time.

Back handspring Back Layout Stepout – B+C – .1 bonus
Switch leap split jump – C+B – .1 bonus
Full turn – A
Back Tuck Pike Jump – C+B – .1 bonus
Roundoff Full twist dismount – B+B

1A 5Bs 3Cs – Good!

Series with two flight elements – yes
full turn – yes
180 degree jump/leap – yes
salto dismount of B or higher value – yes

Bonus – .3 (10.0 start value)

B+C Acro connection – .1
C+B Dance connection – .1
C+B Mixed dance/acro connection – .1

Up to level – .05 deduction
Series w/ two flight, on a C and additional salto/aerial – check
Dance – Needs 2 Cs, but only has a B and a C – .05
Dismount – B acro to B dismount – all good.

After looking closely at these four routines, it seems that an increase in dance difficulty will be one of the biggest changes necessary in the upcoming seasons under the new code. Even the best routines in the country last year didn’t have the desired level of dance difficulty. Almost everyone will need an additional C dance.

Common C dance elements would include ring jumps and leaps, tuck 3/4 jumps, split jump with a half turn and a full turn with the leg raised forward or back in various positions.

photo credit: Torkn2U Gymnastics ‐ Lake Macquarie ICG 2014 via photopin (license)

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