All the girls at her level were doing moves and spins that were far higher than her level. She got last place because she was doing the requirements for that level. My question is should we have put her in basic 6 so that she can get a gold? Or let her lose knowing that most of these other children are in higher levels? Her coach wanted her to do basic 8 because that is the level she had just passed. What's the rule for these competitions?First of all, Rule #1 for competitions is follow the coach's advice. (Or as my old mentor Nick Belovol used to say, Rule #1 is 'coach is always right' and Rule #2 is 'remember Rule #1'). The objective is never to "get a gold" but rather to skate a personal best.
Second of all, this parent is speculating as to why she got last place. You cannot tell why a skater placed a certain way at Basic Skills, because placements are based on ordinals, not points. It's equally possible she was just the worst skater. Speculations of this nature will make you crazy.
In basic skills competitions, there are selected restrictions on elements, but generally you are allowed to do most moves from higher levels. Sticking to the passed elements from the current level is a common and acceptable strategy. At another competition, this skater might well have been up against kids who were also skating only moves from their own level, in which case, she might have placed better. But there's no way to know this, so the best strategy is to use a program that the skater and the coach know that the skater does well.
Basic Skills competitions are particularly challenging, because judges have a lot of discretion in the marks; individual elements are not marked separately (unlike in IJS scoring and in ISI competitions), and the rules about acceptable elements are somewhat fluid from competition to competition.
It's alright to have a conversation with the coach expressing your concerns regarding competitions, and just asking why she chose some particular strategy. Make it non-confrontational, and with information, not "how can we get my daughter to win" as the goal.
Even a child who skates her absolute best doing stuff from higher levels is never guaranteed a win; you have no control over what other kids are skating, how well they do, what the judges are looking for on that day, and tons of other factors. Recreational competitions like Basic Skills and ISI are for fun.
Forget USFS's PR about how "Basic Skills is the path to the Olympics." A sure way to make sure your skater never gets that Olympic bug, or even just a simple desire to succeed, is to create anxiety over non-qualifying competitions at the Basic 8/Delta level. This is like assuming that the C on the third-grade spelling test will affect that Harvard admission.