Can a level 9 gymnast get a college scholarship?

Can a level 9 gymnast get a college scholarship

Gymnastics is a demanding and highly competitive sport that requires years of dedication, hard work, and sacrifice. For many young gymnasts, the dream of competing at the collegiate level and earning a scholarship is a driving force behind their training. However, the path to securing a college scholarship as a gymnast is not easy, and it requires a combination of talent, skill, and strategic planning. In this article, we will explore the possibilities and challenges that a Level 9 gymnast may face in their pursuit of a college scholarship.

Understanding the Levels of Gymnastics

Before diving into the topic, it is important to understand the different levels of gymnastics. The Junior Olympic (JO) program, which is the most common pathway for gymnasts in the United States, consists of ten levels, with Level 1 being the lowest and Level 10 being the highest. Level 9 is considered an intermediate level, and gymnasts at this level have already demonstrated a high level of skill and proficiency in their routines.

The Importance of Level 9

While Level 9 is not the highest level in the JO program, it is still a crucial stepping stone for gymnasts aiming to compete at the collegiate level. College coaches often look for gymnasts who have successfully competed at Level 9 or higher, as it demonstrates their ability to handle the demands of higher-level routines and competitions.

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Level 9 routines require a high degree of difficulty and mastery of skills across all four apparatuses: vault, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor exercise. Gymnasts at this level are expected to perform complex skills such as double backflips, release moves on bars, and intricate dance elements on beam and floor. These skills showcase the gymnast’s technical proficiency, strength, and artistry.

The College Gymnastics Landscape

College gymnastics is a highly competitive sport, with hundreds of talented gymnasts vying for limited scholarship opportunities each year. According to the NCAA, there are approximately 80 Division I women’s gymnastics programs in the United States, with each program offering a limited number of scholarships.

While Level 9 gymnasts have the potential to earn a college scholarship, it is important to note that the majority of scholarships are awarded to Level 10 gymnasts. Level 10 is the highest level in the JO program and is considered the standard for collegiate gymnastics. Gymnasts at this level have typically achieved a higher degree of difficulty in their routines and have demonstrated consistent success at the regional and national levels.

Factors That Influence Scholarship Opportunities

While being a Level 9 gymnast may not guarantee a college scholarship, there are several factors that can influence a gymnast’s chances of securing financial aid:

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  • Performance at Competitions: Gymnasts who consistently perform well at regional and national competitions have a higher chance of catching the attention of college coaches. Strong performances, especially at prestigious events such as the Junior Olympic Nationals, can significantly enhance a gymnast’s scholarship prospects.
  • Skills and Difficulty: College coaches are looking for gymnasts who can contribute to their team’s success. Gymnasts with higher-level skills and routines are more likely to attract the attention of coaches and increase their chances of earning a scholarship.
  • Consistency and Durability: College gymnastics is a demanding sport that requires athletes to perform at a high level consistently. Coaches value gymnasts who can stay healthy, avoid major injuries, and maintain a high level of performance throughout their careers.
  • Academic Performance: While gymnastics skills and performance are crucial, academic performance also plays a significant role in the college recruitment process. Gymnasts with strong academic records are more likely to be considered for academic scholarships or receive additional financial aid.
  • Character and Work Ethic: College coaches are not only looking for talented gymnasts but also athletes who possess strong character traits and a strong work ethic. Demonstrating discipline, leadership, and a positive attitude can make a gymnast stand out from the competition.

Case Studies: Level 9 Gymnasts Who Earned Scholarships

While Level 9 gymnasts face an uphill battle in securing college scholarships, there have been cases where gymnasts at this level have successfully earned financial aid. These gymnasts often possess exceptional talent, work ethic, and a combination of factors that make them stand out from the competition.

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One such example is Simone Biles, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest gymnasts of all time. Biles competed at Level 9 before transitioning to Level 10 and eventually earning a full scholarship to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Her exceptional talent and success at the national and international levels made her an attractive recruit for college coaches.

Another example is Kyla Ross, an Olympic gold medalist and member of the “Fierce Five” U.S. women’s gymnastics team at the 2012 London Olympics. Ross competed at Level 9 before moving up to Level 10 and earning a scholarship to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Her consistent success at the national and international levels, combined with her academic achievements, made her a highly sought-after recruit.

Strategies for Level 9 Gymnasts

While the odds may be stacked against Level 9 gymnasts, there are strategies they can employ to increase their chances of earning a college scholarship:

  • Set Clear Goals: Level 9 gymnasts should set clear goals for themselves, both in terms of skill development and competition performance. By working closely with their coaches, they can identify the skills and routines they need to master to compete at the highest level.
  • Compete at Higher Levels: While Level 9 is an intermediate level, gymnasts can still compete at higher-level competitions to gain exposure and catch the attention of college coaches. Competing at Level 10 invitationals or elite-level competitions can provide valuable experience and showcase a gymnast’s potential.
  • Network and Seek Exposure: Gymnasts should actively seek opportunities to network with college coaches and showcase their skills. Attending college gymnastics camps, participating in college showcases, and reaching out to coaches directly can help gymnasts establish connections and increase their visibility.
  • Focus on Academics: While gymnastics skills are important, academic performance should not be overlooked. Gymnasts should strive to maintain strong grades and consider pursuing academic scholarships or financial aid options.
  • Consider Walk-On Opportunities: In some cases, gymnasts may choose to pursue walk-on opportunities, where they join a college gymnastics team without a scholarship initially. By proving their worth and dedication, walk-on gymnasts may have the opportunity to earn a scholarship in subsequent years.


While the journey to earning a college scholarship as a Level 9 gymnast is challenging, it is not impossible. Gymnasts at this level can increase their chances by focusing on skill development, consistently performing well at competitions, maintaining strong academic records, and actively seeking exposure and networking opportunities. While Level 10 gymnasts may have a higher likelihood of earning scholarships, Level 9 gymnasts who possess exceptional talent, work ethic, and a combination of factors that make them stand out can still catch the attention of college coaches. Ultimately, the pursuit of a college scholarship requires perseverance, dedication, and a strategic approach to maximize opportunities in the highly competitive world of college gymnastics.

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