Illini men’s gymnastics coach Justin Spring reflects on advocating for newly implemented dual-meet format


Sydney Laput

Illinois men’s gymnastic head coach, Justin Spring, talks with assistant head coach Daniel Ribeiro during the competition against Ohio State on Saturday. Spring discusses his long time support of the dual meet format that has now been added.

By Renato Arteaga, Staff Writer

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved a new dual meet format and scoring methodology for men’s gymnastics competitions back in August.

These new changes were finally implemented at Illinois’ meet against Penn State on Jan. 29 and will be followed throughout the entirety of the season. 

The new dual meet format being implemented will follow a head-to-head format, which means gymnasts from both teams will alternate routines on the same apparatus before allowing opposing teams to perform. 

Following the first three events, a six-minute halftime has also been implemented under the new dual meet format.

Additionally, the new five-up, five-count scoring method means five gymnasts will compete per apparatus instead of six, and all five scores will count toward the team total.

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    These new changes are aimed toward making the competition easier for spectators to follow, as well providing more consistent judging. 

    Illini men’s gymnastics head coach Justin Spring shared that these changes were something he’s been petitioning to see for quite a few years.

    “We pitched this eight years ago, and it got a lot of backlash,” Spring said. “The new dual meet format is what my assistant coach and I proposed a long time ago. We even came up with the judging panel that makes this work efficiently and fast.”

    Spring believed the sport needed to simplify everything by including a focal point within the competition.

    His original format proposition had both teams on the same event, with each matchup competing for a single point.

    “We can’t have one team on a completely separate event because scores might not line up,” Spring said. “I want to be able to look up at the score after two matchups and say, ‘The score is one to one. This is a really close match.’

    The single point system was the only change that wasn’t adopted by the panel, which was “the real simplicity of the whole format,” according to Spring.

    “It is fast paced,” Spring said. “I think something gymnastics has been missing for a long time is the ability for your opponent to have an influence on your meet since you really can’t play defense.”   

    Spring explained that the simplified format being implemented this season has increased the flow of the competition and will impact the exchange of energy throughout the meet.

    “I think the momentum swings on the same event at the same time are going to be exciting,” Spring said. “We can go out, crush the floor team and feel like we have the momentum on our side, but now it’s possible that the other team can take the momentum back almost like a basket game when there is a big scoring rally. It’s such an exchange of momentum.”

    The men’s team’s biggest focus during training was preparing for the meet’s anticipated increase in speed and intensity.

    At their first dual meet of the season implementing this format, the men’s squad defeated Penn State, 397.250-396.550.

    “We trained our guys for that,” Spring said. “For that reason, we don’t have anyone in the all-around because I am worried about going too intense in this new format.”

    The former Illini athlete shared that his vision for the sport has nearly come true. 

    “If you’ve never watched gymnastics, you can walk into that venue and recognize that two teams are tied without knowing anything,” Spring said. “That flow in the competition is what we’re missing, so I’m going to keep pushing for it. This is a good step in the right direction.”



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