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Area boys gymnastics coaches weigh in on new rule book

04/12/2014, 2:45pm CDT
By Eric Van Dril | For Sun-Times Media | @VanDrilSports

USA Gymnastics’ stipulations benefit advanced gymnasts and beginners alike.

Glenbrook South's Steve Deutsch

Glenbrook South's Steve Deutsch competes on the still rings at the state meet on May 10, 2008. He became the third all-around champion in Glenbrook South history when he posted a 56.60. | File

In the summer of 2012, the National Federation of State High School Associations voted to no longer write a boys gymnastics rule book. At the time, Illinois was one of only four states that offered the sport at a true varsity level. The NFHS’s decision went into effect for the 2014 season.

The IHSA switched from the old NFHS rules, which had been in place for more than two decades, to USA Gymnastics’ rules before the current boys gymnastics season. 

Pioneer Press freelance writer Eric Van Dril spoke with area coaches about the change.

What is different this year, with the USAG rules?

Niles West coach Adrian Batista: The value of the tricks are less. What used to be three-tenths is now two-tenths, and there are different special requirements. In the last couple years — or the last 25 years — we had certain requirements on each event. Now our requirements have changed. We had special requirements before, and now we have what they call element groups. There are five groups that you have to try to get. If you have one trick in each of those groups, you’ll get 2.5 (points). Then you have 5.5 in execution, which is what we had [before]. And then you have two points in difficulty and bonus. ... It’s a little bit more difficult to get tricks. Before, we were able to repeat tricks. Now you only get credit for one trick. But we had to have 10 tricks in a routine, and now we only have to have eight.

What are the benefits of the new system? And who does it benefit?

Glenbrook South coach Brandon Tucker: Our sport is going to mirror what the NCAA, the Olympics and the Junior Olympics will be working on. Not only will it help the club gymnasts, but every now and then you get these really athletic, hard-working kids who start gymnastics as a freshman. They really excel and move along, and then as a senior they’ll be one of the best guys in the state — and maybe they’re one of the best in the history of our sport — and then they would walk onto a college team and they don’t have any of the skills that the college coaches are looking for. I think that’s one big positive of this new system, is that these kids are really working toward all these skills that the IHSA will have now. [They] will have kind of the prerequisites for what a college coach might be looking for.

If you looked at the way the Illinois rules worked, we weren’t always really trying to get [Glenbrook South graduate Steve Deutsch] a routine that helped him in college, we were trying to get him a routine that would help him win state. I think we achieved that goal. Steve was a really hard worker and a really talented kid who won the state all-around [in 2008], and then he walked onto [William & Mary] and he was a little bit behind then because he wasn’t really learning the skills that were going to benefit him in college.

Glenbrook North coach Ryan Dul: For a lot of high school gymnasts who are just getting into gymnastics as freshmen, [doing the compulsory, Level 5 routines at the freshman level] teaches them everything they kind of need to know, in regards to technique. ... Having to build a really good foundation with the compulsories definitely helps out with where the upper levels are going to go.

How did your team adapt to the USAG rules? And at this point in the season, are they still affecting your team?

Niles North coach Rick Meyer: We’re still dealing with this change, from one rule book to another, but for the most part I don’t think the athletes are feeling it nearly as much as the coaches. The athletes, they just do what they’re asked to do. From a coaching standpoint, there’s still some second guessing that goes on. ... I guess it’s just a matter of constructing routines that match this new code.

Batista: [Niles West’s gymnasts] have never complained, saying it was different last year. They simply figured out these new rules and did their best to create routines in which all the element groups are represented.

Dul: Right now it’s all about form and presentation. ... It’s not, in regards to this point in the season, too much different from last year. Everybody pretty much has their routines down, and now it’s all about form.

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