Becoming A Gymnastics Judge – Part 1



Have you ever watched a gymnastics meet and wondered what it takes to become a Women’s Gymnastics Judge? What the process entails, what you need to know, or how to begin?

Evelyn Chandler, President of the National Association of Women’s Gymnastics Judges (NAWGJ), lists a few things people interested in judging must know before they begin the process…

  1. You must possess a true love of the sport and appreciate its beauty
  2. The realization that you are not doing it (judging) for the money
  3. Do not expect to satisfy your ego by moving up quickly and getting big assignments
  4. Expect to donate your time volunteering for NAWGJ, his/her own professional organization
  5. Enjoy watching a young gymnast succeed
  6. Have a desire to be a true professional and follow the Canons
  7. A judge must develop the ability to professionally talk with coaches

The process of becoming a Women’s Gymnastics Judge starts with getting yourself familiar with the Junior Olympic (JO) compulsory routines, specifically Levels 4 & 5. As a coach, you most likely work with these routines everyday but as a parent or gymnastics fan, you may not have this same exposure to the routines. In either case, you should become familiar with the skills, skill sequences, skill values, and deductions for each routine on each event for Compulsory Levels 4 and 5.

The materials that can help you become familiar with these routines are the JO Compulsory book and the JO Compulsory DVDs. These items can be found on the USA Gymnastics website by clicking on the Stores link.

As you work on learning and studying the routines and deductions, you should also find a local judge who can mentor you as you study for your test. This judging mentor can help guide you through the studying process and can also introduce you to a local gym that you can visit so you can observe the routines in person.

Susan Monahan, Florida State Judging Director suggests, “Prepare and educate yourself in all aspects; from understanding the sport, studying for the test, having realistic expectations and work with an experienced mentor for guidance and support.”

Once you feel fully prepared, you can then register to take the Compulsory Level 4/5 test. Keep in mind that you must be at least 16 years of age to take this test. The Level 4 /5 compulsory test is a written 50 question multiple choice test that you must achieve a score of 70% in order to pass. The current expiration date of the Level 4/5 test is 2021.

If you are feeling ambitious, you can also study for the Optional Level 7 & 8 test along with studying for the Level 4/5 test. The information you will need to know for the Level 7/8 test can be found in the Women’s JO Code of Points. As many of the deductions for Level 4 & 5 and Level 7 & 8 are similar, there are also as many differences.

For the Level 7/8 test, you must be familiar with the gymnastics skills at this level. This includes knowing the shorthand symbols for these skills, the skill values, and routine requirements for each event. If you are not familiar with Levels 7 & 8, it is highly suggested you find a mentor and practice judge as much as possible prior to taking the test.

“I would advise a new judge to practice short-hand.  The routines move too quickly to write down each skill in words. Also, if you only write down the deductions, it will be hard to identify which skill each deduction belongs with,” states Nikki Spinelli, NAWGJ-FL Board Member & Level 10 Judge.

The Level 7/8 test comes in two parts. The first part is a written 50 question multiple choice test and the second part is a practical. The practical consists of watching a video of five Level 8 routines on each event; Vault, Bars, Beam, and Floor. You will have to judge each routine by applying the appropriate deductions and rules you studied.

As with the Level 4/5 test, you must be a minimum of 16 years old to take the Level 7/8 test and you must achieve a passing score of 70% on BOTH parts in order to pass this test. The current expiration date of all optional level ratings is 2017.

Once you pass the Level 7/8 test, you must wait a minimum of 12 months before you can test up to Level 9. You can see when and where tests are being offered by visiting USA Gymnastics’ website.

The following chart lists the testing requirements for each level:


Source – USA Gymnastics

You passed your test, now what?

To read part 2 – click here!

Sources: USA Gymnastics, National Association of Women’s Gymnastics Judges


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