Stick Bonus? Say What?

(Photo by JB) You might think that USAG elite events like the Secret US Classic or P&G Championships are judged according to the FIG Code of Points, period. The Code of Points is the Code of Points, right? Well…not quite.

One difference is that in domestic meets, USAG has added a “stick bonus” onto all four apparatus. The stick bonus is (as of 2016) .1 for really nailing a landing. All USAG international elite and HOPES meets in the US now have a stick bonus (excellently described recently by the excellent Lauren of the excellent, in her excellent Q&A feature — see first link below). The bonus is .1 max per routine/event, added to the start value (so you usually won’t see it, except on vault, where D score is pretty obvious), and it is the D panel judges who decide whether or not to award it. There are specific guidelines for each apparatus, which are described in the USAG International Elite Committee minutes from last year where the current system was approved (second link).

Why have the bonus? you may ask. As Lauren explains,

“The U.S. has a stick bonus at domestic meets as kind of an incentive to get athletes to stick in competition, allowing for one stick per event (so only one pass on floor can get a one-tenth bonus).”

Even though it doesn’t exist in international competition, the rationale is that it “gives the girls a reason to fight for stuck landings, which will carry over once they get to international meets.”

This bonus is not the only instance where US meets depart from the FIG CoP. USAG also downgrades FTYs to a 4.9 D-score for juniors and 4.7 for seniors, as an incentive to upgrade to more difficult vaults.

And the U.S. is not the only country to use bonuses domestically. Lauren continues, “The Chinese federation used stick bonuses at nationals this past week, and also had difficulty bonuses where they’d give a gymnast an extra two tenths on vault if she did a DTY, an extra three tenths on floor if she did an H level tumbling pass, and an extra couple of tenths for high-level dismounts on bars and beam.” Italy also uses bonuses in their Serie A meets. These bonuses are meaningless internationally, but at home they are great motivators to upgrade and improve landings.