What separates Mediocre from Great Competitors at Rhythmic Gymnastics Competitions?

It can be truly frustrating for Rhythmic Gymnasts, their Coaches and Parents not to receive the scores they believe they deserve at Competitions. Having competed in my fair share of National and International Competitions and having been involved with them from a Coaching, Judging and Organisational perspective I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly of these Rhythmic Gymnastics Competitions. Here is my birds eye perspective on what makes a truly great Rhythmic Gymnastics Competitor.


1. Preparation

It goes without saying that if you’ve put in the hours, you’ll see the results. However there's no use in training for hours and hours if the following things are not in place.

Is the Rhythmic Gymnast consistently attending all her training sessions? It does no one any favours if she skips training sessions, arrives late or leaves early.

Quality of Coaching 

Is the Rhythmic Gymnastics Coach actively coaching? Keep in mind, there is a huge difference between coaching High Performance, Mid-Level and Beginner Rhythmic Gymnasts. Nothing gets my blood boiling more than seeing a Rhythmic Gymnastics Coach with a group of little ones sitting on a chair and shouting out instructions.

At a Beginner Level the Coach pretty much needs to be doing everything with the Rhythmic Gymnasts and physically helping with corrections as these Gymnasts are still learning to understand their bodies. Bent knees and flexed feet don’t just come right while the Coach is sitting on a chair.

Beginner and Mid-Level Coaches might see High Performance Coaches ‘sitting down’. Remember this is a phase where this Coach needs to actively observe and give constructive feedback to the Rhythmic Gymnast. There is a HUGE difference between coaching Beginners and High Performance.


Whether you’re doing Rhythmic Gymnastics, Ballet, Hockey, Netbal or Swimming, the Athlete’s attitude towards their training is crucial. Yes, there is a huge social aspect to participating in a Sport, but there is actual work that needs to be done as well.

If a Rhythmic Gymnast doesn't want to be there and they don’t get a kick out of learning new skills - please quit. The Coach can only take a Rhythmic Gymnast so far, their Parents can only beg them to do so much. At the end of the day it’s about thy Rhythmic Gymnasts attitude and desire to do well that truly makes the difference.


Rhythmic Gymnasts need to pay attention to what their Coach says and actively apply whatever corrections are given. A Coach does not give corrections as punishment. They genuinely want the Gymnast to get better and do well. There is nothing more frustrating than a Gymnast that 'back chats' during a training session! Just get on with it!


2. Execution

I'm making the assumption here that the Rhythmic Gymnastics Coach has taught the routine to the Gymnast correctly. 


The basics need to be perfect - plain and simple.

  • If the Rhythmic Gymnast doesn't point her toes, stretch her legs or work ‘cleanly’ the Judges will penalise her
  • If there is not enough amplitude or control in her movements, this will be penalised


Body Elements and Apparatus Handling

The Rhythmic Gymnasts body elements and apparatus handling need to be spot on.

  • If her elements are not complete, executed correctly or done flawlessly, it gives room for deductions
  • Remember there is a whole Judges Panel just focussing on the execution of a routine. If the Rhythmic Gymnast is dropping apparatus, holding the apparatus incorrectly and working with poor technique she will be penalised. Make sure these are perfect!



3. Performance

During a competition the Rhythmic Gymnastics Judges sit the entire day wading through sections of similar routines. So you might ask - what is the differentiator? This is when all the preparation and focus pays off. It would be the Rhythmic Gymnast that has flawless execution and then a little bit extra. 



Rhythmic Gymnasts, avoid fake smiles or zero emotion at all cost. There needs to be a natural engagement with the audience and Judges. The Gymnast needs to be confident and own their space.



Ensure that the Rhythmic Gymnast is the interpreting the music. They need to be in time with the music. Furthermore, the movements of the routines need to reflect what the music is all about.


Overall Performance

By the time the Rhythmic Gymnast has completed their routine, they should leave you wanting more. There should be a tremendous sense of enjoyment for all parties involved - the Rhythmic Gymnast feels a sense of achievement; The Coach sees her hard work paying off; The Judges are reminded that these types of routines makes judging worthwhile; and Parents are proud and see that all the hours committed to training pays off in the end.
One last comment....

Rhythmic Gymnasts need to focus on their execution and handling. It doesn't matter how expensive their equipment is or how pretty their leotards are - if they drop everything and make mistakes - they will be penalised. Rhythmic Gymnastics Judges honestly don’t notice what equipment the Gymnast is using or what leotard they're wearing (unless there is something wrong). That is definitely not what the Sport is about!
Michelle Kleu
Michelle Kleu