A perfect ten. That phrase might bring to mind Bo Derek running
in her bathing suit, but for college gymnasts, it means much more.
A 10.0 score means your routine was difficult, and you performed it
seamlessly and mistake-free.
But how hard is it to get that elusive score?
Harder than you might think. Women’s gymnastics is one of
the only sports that exclusively uses human judges to assess and
“I envy sports like swimming and track, where, when you
touch the wall, the clock stops and (the time) is what it
is,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. “It’s kind
of frustrating to be part of a sport that is judged so
Plocki said that there is no way to avoid subjectivity in
judging, but explained that different schools use different
processes to select which judges will score each meet.
“For instance, the SEC provides an approved list of judges
to an assigner, and that assigner assigns judges to all the
different SEC competitions throughout the season,” Plocki
said. “We also use an assigner and we also use a list, but
the list I give (the assigner) is a very large list.
“I probably could narrow down the list to judges I thought
were going to give higher sores, but we haven’t done
In order to receive a 10.0 score from one of these judges, the
gymnast not only has to perform her routine perfectly, but also
must perform a routine that is difficult enough to earn a 10.0
start value. This means the performance must contain all of the
skills that are considered the hardest to master.
“Not all 10.0 routines are created equal,” said
Plocki, pointing out that gymnasts like senior Calli Ryals include
more than the bare minimum of required elements in their routines,
making them theoretically worth more than just a 10.0. But the
judges have to apply the same scoring system to all routines that
start at 10.0.
“The judges have to learn how to differentiate between an
average routine and a great routine. Every (coach) wants their kid
to do less and score higher,” Plocki said.
Only two of the current Michigan gymnasts have earned a 10.0
during their collegiate careers. Ryals recorded three perfect
scores on the floor exercise in her sophomore year, and junior
Elise Ray earned a 10.0 on the vault during her sophomore year and
on floor in her freshman year.
“In gymnastics, it’s a blessing and curse that
we’re always striving for perfection,” Plocki said.
“I don’t even know if perfection exists. There’s
always tomorrow when you can create some new, more difficult skill.
I think sometimes it gets a little out of hand.
“We just need to strive to be the best that we can be and
to make our routines the best that they can be.”