When discussing routine construction, you will often hear coaches and gymnasts talking about A-skills, B-skills, C-skills, and so on. What, you ask, do these letters mean? And who, you ask, makes all these rules anyway?
I’m glad you asked! We’ll address the second question first.
International elite-level competition is governed by FIG (Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique). FIG designs and publishes the international Code of Points; a new version of this code is released every Olympic year (after the Olympics).
Competition within the US is governed by USA Gymnastics. Elite competition in the US still uses the FIG code (albeit often with minor modifications). Sub-elite competition within USAG is governed by the JO (Junior Olympic) program. Women’s optional levels have their own Code of Points, which is more or less independant from the FIG Code. Men’s optional levels use the FIG Code with a few modifications.
These codes of points assign a letter-value to every recognized skill a gymnast may perform. In women’s JO, these values range from A to E (A being the easiest, E being the hardest). In both men’s and women’s FIG codes, values go all the way up to G.
For girls, each optional level has specific rules about what skills are required/allowed in routines at each level. In region 8, Bronze and Silver routines may not include any skills above an A value (the only exceptions being a split jump on beam and a straddle jump on floor). Gold routines can include dance Bs, but not acrobatic Bs. Platinum routines must include at least one B element, but may not include any C elements (with a few exceptions on bars). Level 7 requires 5 A’s and 2 B’s, but C’s are not permitted (with a few exceptions on bars). Level 8 requires 4 A’s and 4 B’s, but only dance C’s and a few specific bars C’s are permitted. Level 9 requires 3 A’s, 4 B’s, and 1 C; D’s and E’s are allowed, but gymnasts can only do one per routine. Level 10 requires 3 A’s, 3 B’s, and 2 C’s, and has no restrictions on D’s or E’s.
Boys optional levels have open-ended scoring; that is, there is no set maximum score, and no specific difficulty requirements or restrictions. Gymnasts can add to their start value by adding difficulty to their routines. Each A adds .1, each B adds .2, and so on up through G’s, which add .7 (in level 8, skills above a C value are allowed but are only worth .3). The judges count the top 8 skills for levels 8 and 9, and the top 10 skills for level 10.
To give a clearer idea of what each letter means in terms of difficulty, we’ll look at a few examples on floor (note that we’re looking at JO values here, which are in some instances different from FIG values).
-Back tuck or pike on floor (a back layout is an A for women, but a B for men)
-Front tuck on floor (a front pike is an A for men, but a B for women)
-Rondoffs, backhandsprings, front handsprings, cartwheels, walkovers, etc; in short, anything easier than a salto
-Back layout with a ½ or 1/1 twist
-Front salto with a ½ twist
-Back layout with a 3/2 or 2/1 twist
-Front layout with a 1/1 twist (a front 3/2 is also a C for men, but a D for women)
-Double back tuck for men
-Back layout with 5/2 twist
-Front layout with 3/2 twist for women, 2/1 twist for men
-Double back tuck or pike for women
-Double back layout or double tuck with 1/1 twist for men
-Double front tuck for men
-Front layout with 2/1 twist for women or 5/2 twist for men
-Double back layout or double tuck with 1/1 twist for women
-Double back layout with 1/1 twist or double tuck with 2/1 twist for men
-Double front tuck for women