Today’s post is a little more personal and introspective than I usually get. Last week, after 3 years of studying (and an additional 12 days of waiting impatiently), my results from my level 10 judging exam arrived via email, and I am proud to say that I achieved my ultimate goal of becoming a level 10 judge! Passing on the first try is an enormous feat that many people do not achieve. A level 10 rating is the third highest judging rating in all of women’s gymnastics, and I earned it at the age of 24, after only judging for two seasons. I am now certified to judge the highest level of Junior Olympic competition and collegiate gymnastics.
I’ve had an interest in judging for as long as I can remember, and with a memory like a steel trap, knowing the ins and outs of the Code of Points came easily to me. It came so easily that my teammates (both club and college) considered me almost like a walking Code of Points, and would come to me with questions about skill and bonus values. One I graduated from college, I thought, “what better time than now to get started?” and just like that, I started studying for my first judging exam. I passed both entry level exams (Compulsory and level 7/8) during the summer of 2012, even after people told me I was nuts for testing 4 levels at once. I had my eyes on the prize, and that prize was the coveted level 10 rating. I had to wait a year with my level 8 rating before I could test for my level 9, which I did and passed in September of 2013. Having a level 9 rating not only enabled me to judge up to USAG level 9, but high school gymnastics as well. Once again, I had to wait another year with my 9 to test for my level 10, which I took (and passed) in early December.
A lot of people ask me what judging exams are like. All of them involve a written exam with 50 multiple choice questions. The optional exams (level 8+) have a practical exam in addition to the written, and you have to pass both in order to earn your rating. The practical is a video that has 5 routines per event that you judge. The closer you the score range predetermined by the Women’s Technical Committee, the more points you get. As you progress through the levels, the volume of information you need to know increase, and so does the passing score. All exams up to level 8 have a passing score of 70, level 9 is 75, and level 10 is 80. To pass the level 10 exam, not only did I have to know everything in the Code (since there are no difficulty restrictions in level 10; all skills and combinations are fair game), but I had to be better at it.
So where do I go from here? I said previously that a level 10 rating was only the third highest in women’s gymnastics. I have to hold a level 10 rating for about 8 years before I can earn my National rating. A National rating is different from a level 10 rating in name only. It’s more of a badge of honor and experience. After that is a Brevet rating, which is an elite judge (the judges you see in big elite meets like the Olympics), and you have to be “invited” to earn it. I have no desire to be a Brevet judge ever in my lifetime, but someday I’d like to get my National rating, but for now I am quite content to not have to take another judging exam for many years! I got my first taste of college gymnastics judging last spring when UNH hosted the EAGL Conference Championships, and I served as an auxiliary line judge on floor (I lifted up my little flag whenever a gymnast stepped out of bounds), and I knew right then that I wanted to be a college gymnastics judge, and next year, you might just see me judging a few college meets!
I was not the only Spectrum employee to pass a judging exam last week. At the age of just 17, Miss Katelynn passed her first ever judging exam and became New Hampshire’s youngest compulsory rated judge! When Katelynn expressed interest in judging, I did everything in my power to help her and encourage her. New Hampshire needs judges and Katelynn was a perfect candidate. She worked very hard to do this and I am so, so proud of her.
Passing my level 10 test on the first try where so many others have faltered is one of the accomplishments I am most proud of. I can’t convey in words how big of a deal it is, or how much of a dream come true it has been for me. I want to take some time to say THANK YOU to a few people:
Mom and Dad: I know you read this blog, so I wanted to say thank you for always supporting my gymnastics dreams from day one and being my #1 fans. Thank you for all the sacrifices you made so I could do the sport I love.
Ryan: Thank you for always supporting my gymnastics obsession because you know how much it means to me. Thank you for reading those flashcards to help me study, even though to you it was probably like reading a different language.
Sean: part of the reason why you hired me was because I said I wanted to become a judge. Thank you for knowing the value of that dream, encouraging it, and helping me to use it to make Spectrum a successful competitive gym.
Diane: without you, none of this would have been possible. Thank you for your valuable guidance and mentorship.
My Spectrum family: Thank you for always encouraging me and telling me I could do it, no matter how stressed I got. Thank you for embracing this part of me.
All my friends, family, and fellow coaches and judges: Thank you for the love and support. I am so grateful to have such a wonderful support system, and to have made so many wonderful friends through gymnastics.
Peace, love, and gymnastics,
Spectrum Gymnastics Academy
26 Buttrick Rd
About the Author
Coach Sarah is a former Rhode Island College gymnast, NCGA National qualifier, All-American, current gymnastics coach and judge, and contributor for the gymnastics news source, The Gymternet. Find out what's going on at Spectrum and learn more about the incredible sport of gymnastics!