The prior discussion that morphed from "how do you set goals" to "what are the mechanics of competition." Regular readers Josette from Halushki and Skittl1321 had such amazing answers that I decided to cut-and-paste them to their own post.
Future posts inspired by the discussion will include making switch from recreational to competitive, and where to find information. Look for "choosingacoach" and "changecoach" in the Tag Cloud for information about coaching issues associated with competitive skaters.
Here we go; from the discussion:
Junior Nationals is for young (lower levels) skaters: juvenile and intermediate level.
"Regular" Nationals is for older (higher level) skaters: Novice, Junior, and Senior level. The Senior level is considered "Championship" level.
Generally, skaters do move up after winning a title, however, it is not required, with one exception. BUT if you win novice or junior and do not move up to the next level, the rulebook requires that you compete at sectionals the next year to earn your spot (generally high ranked skaters get "byes" to nationals). I'm assuming Jason Brown will compete as a senior this year, but I'm not 100% sure. The exception is for intermediate level champion. I don't know why, but that's what the rulebook says (winner of the US Junior National Championships is ineligible to compete at that level again).
I believe that last year was the first year there was a repeat Novice champion (Men's: Nathan Chen. He repeated because he is a prodigy- first novice title was at 10, and his coach didn't want him to move up and risk burnout/injury. As much as I understand the "don't sandbag mentality, staying at novice makes sense for an 11 year old whose bones are not ready for a triple axel! He is working on one now, apparently) He is moving up to juniors this year, but at 12 is to young to compete internationally as a junior.
*on a side note, another confusion is that international juniors are an AGE level, not an ability. Many of USA's seniors compete internationally as juniors.
Juvenile level just changed so that a skater must be under 14 years old by September 1 to compete. (It used to be under 13 by September 1; of note that some competitions don't follow this rule, but USFSA Regionals and Nationals do.)
My daughter competes Juvenile and places about mid-pack with her highest jump a solid double flip with lots of air time. Most girls we see at this level are between 10 and 12, but some as young as 9. Girls who medal at bigger competitions at Juvenile level have a solid double lutz-double toe/loop combination, double flip-double toe/loop combination, a solid axel (often with a "feature" - hand over head, etc.) National level Juveniles often have a double axel. At the top competitions, there is no room for under-rotated jumps or wonky anything if you want to medal. The kids who did well at Jr.Nationals at Juvenile level last year kids were solid technicians and performers who seemed to compete at least once a month starting in April/May up until Regionals in October. Did they need to? I don't know. But by Regionals, you could tell the "seasoned" competitors.
We've seen a few double axel tries by Juveniles already at May Day Open and Chesapeake Open, but none exceptional.
To place well at Juvenile, solid level 3/4 spins are a must.
To make it more interesting, often a successful Juvenile skater with jumps all the way through double lutz won't make the transition to Intermediate well unless they start to put some heft and height behind their jumps. Small, "spinny" double jumps won't translate to triples, nor do they get marked as well as jumps that actually look to leave the ground. A lot of people who watch "unseen" skaters hold their breath to see whether girls can keep their jumps past puberty and begin to put the whole package together with strong technical (the "tricks") score and strong program component scores (the second score: skating skills, choreography, transitions, interpretation...one more...darn.)
By 14, USFSA skaters need to move up to Intermediate level, but the bronze medalist last year at Nationals was 11yo with double axel and triple salchow. Regional and National Intermediate level winners lately have a double axel and one or two triples. However, you can compete successfully at smaller competitions without double axel or triples.
There are a few cases of kids starting as late as 9 or 10 and doing well. This seems more usual with boys than girls, although still rare. There is one Japanese female skater who (supposedly) started skating at 10 years old and who is 14 now and skated at last year's Nationals with triples. However, the rest of her skating looked decidedly non-senior level.
We're in a holding breath stage with my 12yo. It takes a combination of talent, work, kindness on behalf of the puberty gods, and keeping normal teenage angst/rebellion in check. She has other options, of course. But for the goal in her sites right now, she has to toe the line and listen to her coach. No deviations.
The USFSA Qualifying Levels are Juvenile, Intermediate, Novice, Junior, Senior.
There are 9 geographical Regions which get divided into three Sections. http://www.sk8stuff.com/f_basic_ref/regions_table.htm
Every fall, USFSA Regions hold Regional competitions from Juvenile - Senior.
Juvenile and Intermediate (the two lowest levels) do not go to Sectional competitions. They go directly to Junior Nationals. It's only Juvenile and Intermediate skaters.
Novice, Junior, and Senior skaters go to Sectionals, and the top winners at sectionals go on to Nationals.
To make it more confusing, this is all going to change after next year. No more Junior Nationals. Everyone goes to Sectionals and then Nationals.
For the complete discussion, see the comments thread on the prior post, however, let's move this issue over here.