Women's Artistic Gymnastics (WAG)

About Women's Artistic Gymnastics

Women's Artistic Gymnastics consists of four differnet apparatus. These include:

During their 25m approach to the vault the gymnasts must develop the necessary power to complete all their aerial skills before landing. Upon take off from the springboard the gymnast explosively propels herself upwards, dynamically pushing off the vault to generate greater height and distance in the second phase of flight. This enables a higher level of acrobatic skill and extension to be performed prior to a stable landing.  

Uneven Bar
Swinging movements are predominant on this apparatus. The movements are continuous with movement in both directions, above and below the bars. Release and regrasp elements are essential for maximum scoring. A controlled and often spectacular dismount ends the routine.

This is a high risk apparatus. The gymnast performs on a 5m long and 10cm wide platform, performing acrobatic elements, leaps, jumps and turns in a spectacular series of combinations that demonstrate elegance, flexibility, balance and self control. The routine builds up to a dismount high point, often preceded by a dramatic acrobatic tumbling combination.

The floor exercise is choreographed to music, which enhances the performance in artistry and grace alternating between powerful acrobatic tumbling series of forward and backward elements and dance elements. The whole floor area should be used with the exercise varied in mood, tempo and direction. Individuality, originality, mastery and artistry of presentation are key ingredients for a high score. 

We have two competitive WAG programmes at DGA - the STEP programme and the Perform programme. We have more gymnasts involved in the STEP programme, however we have seen huge growth over the past couple of years of gymnasts moving from rec and/or step into the Perform Programme. 

The STEP programme has been developed with the majority of gymnasts in mind - it is possible to progress through the programme to FIG (International level), however the Technical Committee (TC) recognises that this is not necessarily within all gymnasts’ abilities, or even their goal. 

STEP encourages gymnasts to Strive Towards Excellence in Performance at their own level and pace.  There are 10 STEPs from beginners to high level gymnasts and, while most gymnasts may not reach STEP 10, it is hoped they will progress to a level at which they can fulfil their dreams as gymnasts. 

The STEP programme is flexible enough to allow gymnasts to progress further on one or more apparatus than previously. Whilst developing the programme, the SDC considered the following to be characteristics of a successful competitive structure: 

Sustainable - it should have longevity, allowing the system to be in place for more than one cycle. 

Progressive - it should allow gymnasts to move up through the system to achieve their potential. 

Comprehensive - it should encompass all ages and abilities of gymnast and their development from beginners to senior or elite athletes. 

Comprehensible - it should be easy to understand by the uninitiated (parents/media/sponsors) and simple to introduce to the coaches, gymnasts and judges. 

Retentive - it should engage gymnasts such that they want to continue in the sport as teenagers. 

Rewarding - it should encourage excellence in technical execution. 

Laudatory - it should reward gymnasts tangibly with certificates or similar and have value attached to improvement. 

The STEPs programme begins with the compulsory exercises which are designed to be achievable by the majority of gymnasts, and encourage them to perform with attention to technical excellence.  It continues with optional exercises (step 6+) based on composition requirements.  Again encouraging gymnasts to perform within their ability, but allowing for faster development on one or more apparatus. 

Each STEP has age groups to assist in retaining the older gymnasts whilst giving the younger ones a chance to win against their peers.  The STEPs also have progression thresholds to ensure gymnasts advance as they are ready. 

Ribbon Award Scheme will operate for STEPs 1 to 6 giving gymnasts an instant tangible recognition of their achievements, with different coloured ribbons signifying the different score targets they have passed. 

Our competiton gymnasts are split into three distinct groups:

1. Junior: Step 1-3

2. Intermediate: Step 4-6

3. Senior: Step 7+

The girls get a new leotard as they progress into the next group and this is something that the gymnasts both value and get excited about.

Women's Artistic - Perform Programme (PP)

The Perform Programme is a new name for our Regional Competitive Programme. It has been around for a long time now and has been used by a number of clubs and provinces throughout New Zealand. It provides an opportunity for gymnasts who enjoy competing and performing routines for interclub and regional competitions. The entry level into this programme is Iron, then it works it's way through, bronze, silver, gold and elite/age groups.

This class is best suited for gymnasts who wish to experience the challenges and excitement that competitions provide without the intensity of training that the national competition structure (step programme) requires. This class is best suited for gymnasts who enjoy a more social training atmosphere while training to achieve competition skills and routines. Gymnasts enter this programme through a trial run by the WAG co-ordinator, from our recreational programmes like kiwi gym fun and sport gym as well as from the step programme so we can get an idea of which level they would be best suited to. 

What is the PERFORM Programme?

Fun and Friendships
Opportunity to Compete
Mastering Skills

PERFORM is a flexible competitive programme ideal for gymnasts who want to develop their gymnastics skills at different rates on different apparatus and not be held back by the composition requirements set in the Step programme. It is a very rewarding and fun programme that we believe will become very popular with any competitive gymnasts. The exercises are based on the old WAG (women's artistic gymnastics) & MAG (men's artistic gymnastics) competitive programme. The skills required for level 1 through to level 4 are similar to those in step 1-4 progressively. When gymnasts reach the elite & age group grades the routines become voluntary (this means they can put their own routines together with an option of different skills). The skills required at this grade range from step 4-7, however there is a lot of flexibility regarding skills on different apparatus.

Bonus: High school aged gymnasts can also compete for their school at the NZ Secondary School gymnastics Competition using the requirements from this programme. This is held once a year in Auckland normally around 9th/10th September.

Benefits of PERFORM

  • Rewards gymnasts on quality of the movement and their performance, rather than penalising for finer execution details.
  • Gymnasts gain new skills across all apparatus and have the ability to bring their own artistry and flair.
  • Continued skill progressions through the levels that still requires the gymnasts to train hard, condition and apply themselves to achieve success. Skill cards for each level, gives gymnasts the opportunity to develop ‘extension’ skills
  • Training commitment is also not as high as the step programme allowing gymnasts the ability to pursue other sports and activities.
  • Conditioning challenges for each level
  • Optional Saturday/Sunday (tbc) group training ‘open classes’
  • Own competition calendar, including the opportunity for out of town competitions
  • Club Leotard made specifically for the PP
  • No pressure or qualifying marks to move to the next level - just skill attainment.

For any further question about PERFORM, please email Krystal Cameron on: krystal@dunedingymnastics.co.nz


All PERFORM gymansts will be required to wear a DGA Perform leotard and the DGA tracksuit.

Level 1-4 gymnasts will wear a new DGA PERFORM Leotard - we are currently looking at fabulous options for this. These will be ready for T1 2018 so any competition that falls in T4 the gymnasts can wear their favourite optional leotard.

Age Groups/Elite: Voluntary leotard 

We're all super excited about developing this programme further and offering lots of support to our PERFORM coaches and gymnasts. 

STEP Programme

The STEP Programme encourages gymnasts to Strive Towards Excellence in Performance at the their own level and pace.

There are 10 STEPS from beginners to high level gymnasts and, while most gymnasts may not reach STEP 10, it is hoped they will progress to a level at which they can fulfil their dreams and goals as a gymnast.

The STEP programme begins with the compulsory exercises, (from Step 1-5), which are designed to be achievable by the majority of gymnasts, and to encourage them to perform with attention to technical excellence. It continues from Step 6-10 with optional exercises based on composition requirements. Again encouraging gymnasts to perform within their ability, but allowing for faster development on one or more apparatus.

Each STEP has age groups to assist in retaining older gymnasts whilst giving younger ones the chance to win against their peers. The STEPs also have progression thresholds to ensure gymnasts advance, as they are ready.

The age division is determined by the age the gymnast will turn during the calendar year. The gymnast must have turned 5 years already to be eligible to compete.

Step1st Age Division2nd Age Division

Step 1 UP TO 7 8+
Step 2 UP TO 8 9+
Step 3 UP TO 9 10+
Step 4 UP TO 10 11+
Step 5 UP TO 11 12+
Step6 UP TO 12 13+
Step 7 UP TO 13 14+
Step 8 UP TO 14 15+
Step 9 UP TO 15 16+
Step 10 UP TO 15 16+

In competitions, they often refer to the age divisions as Unders and Overs.

There is a parallel pathway in place also called the LEAP Programme (Long Term Development of Elite Athletes). This is for athletes who have the physical ability and desire to compete at a high level. There is provision for athletes to transfer between the two pathways of the programme. At present DGA does not offer the LEAP pathway. It is important to note though, that gymnasts can progress through the STEP programme and still become an elite athlete. There are simply two different routes one can take to get to the top.

The Ribbon Award Scheme

This scheme operates for STEPs 1-6; giving the gymnasts an instant tangible recognition of their achievements, with different coloured ribbons signifying the different score targets they have passed.

Ribbon ColourApparatus Score

GREEN <12.000
BLUE 12.000 – 12.999
RED 13.000 – 13.999
GOLD 14.000 – 15.000

Your child's coach will give the girls their ribbons at their first training session after the competition. We always try to make a big deal of this presentation and there is normally quite a bit of excitement as the girls look at their scores and ribbons and check to see if they have made improvements. This is a great way to keep the girls motivated and setting goals to get a different coloured ribbon on each apparatus at the next competition. Some of my girls keep scrapbooks to display their ribbons and to document their experience.

It's important to note that your child will not necessarily get ribbons at every competition. Once they have achieved a certain coloured ribbon on an apparatus they will only gain that once. As their marks improve on each apparatus and they achieve the required score above, they will then achieve a new coloured ribbon.

Step Progression

I have been asked by a number of parents about step progression and how we know when a gymnast is ready to jump up a level to the next step.

There are a number of factors that play a part in deciding whether a gymnast moves up a step during the competition year.  I work very closely with all the coaches in the step programme and we make very considered decisions around this issue. Here are some of the things we take into consideration when assessing step progression for gymnasts and groups of gymnasts.

Qualification - The step manual states that a gymnast “can” move up when they have qualified twice in their step. This excludes step 1 where the coach can move them up at their discretion. Two qualifications don’t always suggest that a gymnast is ready to move. Getting an overall score of 50 is very different to getting a score of 54-55+.

Skill Ability – As coaches, we look at the gymnast’s skill ability across all apparatus. A gymnast may qualify with a total of 50 or more, may they may be very strong on 2 or 3 apparatus but weak on another. If they are passing but not attaining all their skills across all apparatus then they will be more likely to fail on that weak apparatus if they are put up to a higher step.  The D-score dictates whether they are getting all their skills and this is what we look at when making decisions around whether the gymnast should move up. As you get further up the steps (particularly when you move from junior gym step 1-3 to intermediate and senior gym step 4+), the skill difficulty increases greatly and if they are not attaining their skills across all apparatus then we are setting them up for failure at the next level.

Length of time in that Step– As the gymnast gets further up the steps the length of development time takes longer. This is obviously not the case for all gymnasts as some attain skills very quickly and are natural performers, but the majority take longer to get skills. For example, in step 5 a kip is required on bar. For some gymnasts this skill can take up to a year to learn. It is a base skill for all steps after and therefore needs the time and commitment to strengthening the body and learning the technique involved.

I am of the opinion that the majority of gymnasts in our Club should remain in the step they started the year in (unless they have trained and competed in that step the whole previous year and are awaiting one more qualification), however if they have qualified well and are attaining all their required skills, they should begin working the skills required at the next step. By term 4, when the comp season is over, sole focus can be given to the skills in the next step.

There is nothing wrong with qualifying in a step then trying to do even better as the comp season goes on and even setting goals to try and get apparatus placings and overall medals. Learning to compete and to compete well is a big part of gymnastics.

Coach Availability– It is not always possible for a coach to offer more hours to their group half way through the comp year. When we find our gymnasts and coaches in a situation where some of their group is ready to learn skills in the next step and others are still training at the step below, we plan our sessions around this and try to increase the intensity of training in the sessions rather than adding more hours. In the junior levels (step 1-3), there is an opportunity to do the conditioning class if gymnasts want more hours. In the higher steps, we try and add more intensity and push them harder in their conditioning to assist them with higher skill attainment.

Competitions – Competitions are necessary to give the gymnasts experience in competing and also for them to attempt to qualify. There is an expectation that gymnasts do enter competitions if they are doing step gymnastics, however, they do not have to enter every comp that is offered. I know that competitions can be very expensive and if you are unsure which ones to choose please liaise with your daughter’s coach.

There are some late comps in term 4, which the girls can enter at a higher step to try out the new skills they’ve been learning.

I also want to mention that these factors are all indicators of how we come to decisions around our gymnasts and their progression. It is our goal to have the gymnast’s best interest at heart, to make sure they find success, (whether that is on the podium or getting through a competition, or even achieving a skill that they’ve been working on for a long time. We certainly don’t like putting them in situations where we know they are going to fail badly as this can be detrimental to their development. It is important to note too, that some gymnasts are exceptions to the rule and they move through the steps at a faster pace.

Gymnastics is a very challenging and at times frustrating sport, but I think it is this very factor that attracts so many athletic and driven children to do it.

I hope I have answered some of your queries around step progression and if you have any further questions, please feel free to email me.