Making An Olympic Team – By The Numbers

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For some athletes and their parents participating in sports, the ultimate goal is to make an Olympic Team.

But how achievable is this goal, especially in the sport of women’s gymnastics?

Lets first look at the number of female athletes participating in gymnastics in the United States.

According to USA Gymnastics, there were approximately 87,062 athletes registered in the Women’s Junior Olympic (JO) Program  (Levels 1-10) and Elite Program in 2016-2017.

Of these registered athletes, 86,959 were registered as JO athletes and only 103 were registered as Elite athletes.  More than half of the JO athletes (66%) were Compulsory athletes and 34% were Optional athletes.

Elite athletes only make up about 0.1% of the total athletes registered with USA Gymnastics.

Of these 103 Elite athletes, only 5 make the US Women’s Olympic Team.  That is only about 5% of the Elite athletes who make an Olympic Team and about 0.006% of the total athletes registered with USA Gymnastics.

These numbers and statistics do not include the 35,185 athletes who are registered in the USA Gymnastics Xcel Program.

Here is a breakdown of the registered athletes with USA Gymnastics for the 2016-2017 season for the JO and Elite Programs.

And here is the breakdown, by level, for athletes in the Xcel Program.

Based on the numbers, it seems difficult to make an Olympic Team.

But why?

Well, there are many, many factors that can contribute to an athlete not making it to the Elite level and then from there making an Olympic Team.

These factors can include:

  1. Number of Training Hours Required
  2. Difficulty of Competitive Level
  3. Athlete Ability Level
  4. Injury Rate
  5. Parent Financial Committment
  6. Coaches Experience
  7. Competitive Program Status
  8. Athlete Interest Level
  9. Outside Influences
    1. School
    2. Friends
    3. Family
  10. And More…

So then what, where do we go from here?

Instead of only having the goal of making it to the Olympics, how about setting additional goals that are measurable and attainable.

The first and most important goal for any athlete is to have FUN!

The goal of enjoying your participation in any activity should be priority one!  Without this enjoyment, attaining any goal will be difficult and not pleasant for anyone involved.

An example of a long term goal could be to compete for an NCAA gymnastics program.  This does not include obtaining a scholarship but instead keeping it more open ended of just competing collegiality.

In 2017, there were 83 Division I, II, and III college women’s gymnastics programs in the United States that included over 1,500 female gymnasts.

A goal or option for a gymnast who maybe be struggling or looking to retire from gymnastics could be to transition into another sport.

Diving and Acrobatics & Tumbling are an easy transition for many gymnasts.  In addition, many colleges offer these programs for both Men and Women.

Trinity Thomas, a current USA Gymnastics Sr. National Team member, took up diving just about a year ago and she recently placed 2nd in the PIAA (Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, Inc.) Class 2-A Swimming Championships.

Focusing on short term goals can also be beneficial.

At the beginning of a season you can set goals to attain as the competitive season develops:

  1. Make all my new skills and/or upgrades
  2. Go 4 for 4
  3. Stick all my dismounts
  4. Achieve a higher AA than the previous year at 1 or more meets
  5. Qualify to States, Regionals, Easterns/Westerns, or JO Nationals
  6. Medal on 1 or more events or the AA at States, Regionals, Easterns/Westerns, or JO Nationals
  7. Improve my artistry
  8. Improve form and/or technique on a particular skill
  9. Improve form and/or technique on a particular event
  10. and more…

Going to the Olympics can be a long term, icing on the cake goal for any athlete.

What it should not be is the only goal!

Here are some articles to help your athlete set short and long term goals:

Source: usagym.org, scholarshipstats.com

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