This document outlines the rules for NYYL-sanctioned competitions and provides suggestions for non-sanctioned competitions as well. To compare to previous criteria please see this post at


    1. Routine – A yoyo “routine” is defined as the time a player is allotted to be on stage performing yoyo tricks to the music of their choosing.
    2. Trick – a “trick” is generally interpreted as any demonstration of yoyo skill presented by a player during their routine.
    3. Element – an “element” is defined as a specific, scorable movement in a yoyo trick.
    4. Definition of Yoyo Divisions
      • 1A – One long-spinning yoyo, with the string attached to the yoyo and the hand.
      • 2A – Two short-spinning yoyos, with the string attached to each yoyo and each hand of the player.
      • 3A – Two long-spinning yoyos, with the string attached to each yoyo and each hand of the player
      • 4A – One (or more) long spinning yoyos, with the string(s) detached from the yoyo(s) but attached to the player’s hand(s).
      • 5A – One (or more) long spinning yoyos, with the string(s) attached to the yoyo(s) but detached from the player’s hand(s) and instead attached to a counterweight

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Routine Scoring Rules

Technical Execution

Judges will score tricks using two “clickers” – one hand for positive clicks and the other for negative clicks. Clickers are used to assess the technical execution aspect of a routine, which is the amount of tricks a player does.

A “clicker” is also known as a “hand tally counter” and is provided to judges at competitions. These tools are readily available if a player or judge would like to use them outside of competitions.

Clicker scoring procedures are as follows:

Positive clicks will be given for successfully completed elements.

One point is granted generally for elements that are assessed as being difficult, but low in risk:


    • 1A Division: Eli hop, laceration, iron whip

    • 2A Division: Looping, wrap, around the world

    • 3A Division: Rolls, kink mount, double trapeze

    • 4A Division: Whip, recapture, boing

    • 5A Division: 360, propeller, direction change

Multiple points are given for variants of trick elements that have a higher risk factor, in order to incentivize players to complete more challenging tricks in their routines.


    • EXAMPLE: In 1A, a player performs a multi-hook element (e.g. 2.5 hook) and receives more points than a standard hook would.

Negative clicks will be given for any missed attempted element or loss of control.


    • EXAMPLE – Player misses a trapeze in their routine. A negative point is assessed.

Fewer (or 0) clicks are given for elements that are “repeated” from earlier in the routine.


    • A “Repeated” element is any element of yoyo skill that has already been demonstrated in the routine.


        • Eli hop provides a good example: if a player does 6 eli hops in a row, only the first eli hop will score positive points.

        • However, negative points can still be given for missed repeated elements.

        • NOTE: The purpose of penalizing for repeated elements is to reward those who perform a diverse array of different types of tricks in their routine.

    • EXAMPLE A: A player performs an eli-hop in their routine. Later in the routine, the player performs a second eli hop. The second eli hop will score 0 points.

    • EXAMPLE B: A player performs an eli-hop in their routine. Later in the routine, the player performs a horizontal eli-hop. The horizontal eli hop will score fewer points than if the player did not do a standard eli hop earlier in their routine.


        • The reasoning for this is that the player demonstrated the eli hop element in their routine multiple times, but the horizontal eli hop will only score the points for its added difficulty

        • NOTE: the above are just examples, and scoring repeated elements appropriately requires consideration of the actual “yoyo skills” being presented by the player. Some judges may interpret repeated elements differently, the most important aspect of this is consistency in judging practice.

No clicks are given for elements that do not demonstrate “yoyo skill”.


    • Each division has criteria of what are scorable tricks within the style – tricks outside of the realm of the criteria will not be scored.

    • EXAMPLE: Picture trick, string movements that do not involve the yoyo, tricks where the yoyo does not interact with the string, etc.

Clicker scores are normalized on a 60-point scale.


    • The purpose of normalization is to compare the scores of each judge on a closer scale. 

    • The process is as follows – each judge’s list of scores for the set of players is adjusted to have the highest scored player earn 60 points, and all other players’ scores be based on their raw score compared to the highest player. Then, the adjusted scores are averaged amongst the whole judging panel.

    • EXAMPLE: Here is an example of how scores for Player A and Player B would be normalized across Judges A and B.

Assume the scores in the table are raw scores, which are the result of deducting the negative clicks from the positive clicks.

  Judge A Judge B Normalized Score
Player A 130 124 54.8
Player B 129 150 59.8

Judge A had Player A in 1st by a very small margin, and Judge B had Player B in 1st by a larger margin. Judge A’s normalized scores equal out to Player A receiving a 60 and Player B receiving a 59.5, and Judge B’s normalized scores equal out to Player A receiving a 49.6 and Player B receiving a 60. 

Player A = (60+49.6)/2 = 54.8

Player B = (59.5+60)/2 = 59.8

Routine Evaluation

Each evaluation category will be scored out of 10 points.

Trick Presentation (TP)

The intent of trick presentation is to reward players’ efforts to demonstrate mastery of their yoyo tricks and the particular style in which their tricks are presented.


    • TP evaluates the level of yoyo mastery presented by the player in their routine.

    • TP evaluates how the tricks are presented by the player.

    • TP evaluates how well-practiced the player’s tricks presented in the routine are. 

    • TP explicitly does not evaluate trick success rate or the number of misses in a routine.

    • TP explicitly does not evaluate trick selection or variety.

    • TP explicitly does not evaluate a player’s body movements.

Some questions judges should ask when scoring trick presentation:


    • Has the player mastered their tricks?

    • Does the yoyo land on the string cleanly?

    • Does the yoyo exit the string cleanly?

    • Are the player’s tricks well-refined and ready to be presented in a routine?

    • Is the player presenting their tricks in a compelling way?

    • Does the player present their tricks with a particular “style”?

    • Is the player’s trick style unique and well-refined?

Performance Quality (PQ)

The intent of performance quality is to reward players who demonstrate professionalism, intent and overall refinement in the presentation of their routine.


    • PQ explicitly does not evaluate aspects of a player’s tricks or trick selection.

    • PQ evaluates how effectively the player utilizes the space around them in their performance.

    • PQ evaluates the level of professionalism displayed by the player during their routine,

    • PQ evaluates how effectively the player interacts with the audience during their routine – is their level of interaction with the audience intentional?

    • PQ evaluates the overall entertainment value of the routine.

Some questions judges may ask when scoring performance quality:


    • Is the player effectively showing intent in their body movements to emphasize aspects of their routine?


        • This could include effective footwork, movement around the stage and appropriate hand gestures.

    • Does the player present themselves professionally in their routine?

    • If the player didn’t have a yoyo in their hand during the routine, is there still a performance happening?

    • Does the player’s stage use enhance the cohesion of the routine, or does it detract from the routine?

    • Does the player engage with the audience in a way that coincides with their tricks and adds entertainment value?

Musicality (MU)

The intent of Musicality is to reward routines that effectively use music to create a more cohesive and impactful routine.


    • MU explicitly rewards players who focus on hitting music cues and pacing their tricks to match their music selection.

    • MU evaluates a player’s efforts to coordinate their routine with their music selections.

    • MU evaluates the number and impact of successful music cues used in a routine.

    • MU explicitly does not judge the potential impact of a routine’s music use – if a player intends to land tricks to every beat but fails to do so, their musicality score will not be as high.

Some questions judges should ask themselves when scoring musicality:


    • Does the player’s tricks match a beat or rhythm in their music selection?

    • Is the player’s musical timing precise?

    • Does the player’s tricks compliment the mood or theme of the music?

    • Did the player put effort into having their song selection add value to their routine?

    • How much effort is put into successfully hitting trick elements to the music?

    • Is there depth to the way the player lands elements to music?


        • This includes basic music cues on beats, unique sounds happening within the music with trick elements that correlate to those sounds and other musical elements of the player’s music selection.

    • Is there depth and contrast within the pacing of the tricks landing to the music?


        • For example, when the song is slow, does the player perform slow and focused tricks? When the song is faster, does the player perform faster or especially high-impact tricks?

Routine Construction (RC)

The intent of routine construction is to reward routines that are highly cohesive with respect to all aspects of the performance. It is focused on rewarding players who make intentional choices in their routine to create a cohesive and well-themed performance. Routines that score well in this category will engage the audience completely from beginning to end.


    • RC evaluates the overall cohesion of all aspects of the routine.

    • RC specifically evaluates a player’s trick selection and ordering of tricks.

    • RC evaluates how well a player’s trick selection impacts the overall perception of the routine.

    • RC evaluates how a player’s music selection integrates with their trick selections.

    • RC evaluates how a player’s performance presentation and trick presentation integrate.

    • RC rewards routines that display harmony and balance with respect to the tricks and performance presented by the player.

Some questions judges may ask themselves when scoring Routine Construction:


    • Is there intent behind how the routine is constructed, segmented, and executed?

    • Are the choices in how the player presents each aspect of their routine consistent and cohesive with one another?

    • Do the player’s choices of tricks, music and their performance presentation emphasize one another?

    • Is the player performing tricks at random, or are the tricks being performed meaningful to what’s happening in the routine as a whole?

    • Does the player’s trick selection and ordering of tricks draw additional attention to aspects of the music?

    • Does the player’s music selection enhance the perception of the tricks being performed?

    • Does the player’s trick presentation draw attention to aspects of the music?

    • Does the player’s performance presentation draw attention to their tricks and music selection?

    • Does the player show intent in creating a theme for their routine?

    • Throughout the routine, are there patterns in the music, tricks, and stage presentation that result in greater cohesion?

    • Does the order of the player’s tricks and presentation elements seem essential to the cohesion of the routine? Is the routine constructed in an intentional way?

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Major Deductions

Major deductions are deducted from a player’s score after tabulation. Major deductions are given for significant errors. Here are the major deductions:


    1. Stop (-1)


        1. The player’s yoyo stops with the string fully unwound for any reason.


            1. If after the yo-yo is stopped, the player adds to the spin but fails to wind it and it stops again it shall be counted as an additional stop.  

            1. Hand-winding or otherwise adding spin to a partially wound yo-yo shall not be counted as a stop.

    1. Discard (-3)


        1. The players discards the yo-yo they are using for any reason.  Note that a yo-yo is considered to be “in use” and subject to the discard penalty when it is thrown for the first time.


            1. If the player discards a yo-yo after it stops, only a discard (-3) shall be assessed and not a stop (-1).

            1. If a player wishes to perform both 1 and 2 yo-yo tricks in 4A or 5A without deductions, the 1 yo-yo tricks would need to be performed first with an additional yo-yo added to perform the 2 yo-yo tricks

        1. End of Routine


            1. If a player cannot bring their yo-yo back to their hand fully wound at the end of the performance for any reason it shall be assessed as a discard (-3).


                1. The contestant is expected to complete the routine before the music ends. If the music ends while tricks are still being performed, the contestant should stop the trick and wind the yo-yo. (However, the moves required to get out from the shape to wind will be allowed if the yo-yo is still spinning.)

    1. Detach (-5)


        1. The yo-yo detaches from the string (except 4A), the string breaks for any reason, or the yo-yo comes apart (except if unscrewed by hand while not spinning).

        1. A yo-yo entering the audience area behind the judges table may be subject to disqualification. 

In divisions with multiple yo-yos, all major deductions shall be scored per yo-yo. Changing both yo-yos in 2A or 3A due to tangling them together for example shall be scored as 2 discards for a total deduction of -6.

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Championship Division

Championship division is intended to be the main division at NYYL competitions. It is for all players looking to compete for the title of “National yoyo champion” or “Regional yoyo champion”. This is the division for players with more competitive experience.

Round Structure

Pro divisions may use varying round structures to qualify players to subsequent rounds.

Round definitions:

  1. Preliminary (Prelim) Round
    • Duration: 1 minute
    • Technical Execution: 70 points
    • Routine Evaluation: 30 points
    • Evaluation Categories
      • Trick Presentation (15 points)
      • Musicality (15 points)
  2. Semi-final Round
      • Duration: 1 minute, 30 seconds

      • Technical Execution: 70 points

      • Routine Evaluation: 30 points

      • Evaluation Categories
          • Trick Presentation (15 points)

          • Musicality (15 points)
  3. Final Round
      • Duration: 3 minutes

      • Technical Execution: 60 points

      • Routine Evaluation: 40 points

      • Evaluation Categories
          • Trick Presentation (10 points)

          • Performance Quality (10 points)

          • Musicality (10 points)

          • Routine Construction (10 points)

Contest organizers may select the round structure that makes the most logistical sense for their competition. This generally depends on the number of registered competitors in a given division, and the amount of time allotted to the contest.

Generally, the NYYL endorses the following round structures as a guideline for contest organizers:

    • Regional Competition: Prelim -> Final
        • An exception can be made to omit the Prelim round if there are fewer than 10 players in a division.

    • National Competition: Prelim -> Semi Final -> Final
        • An exception can be made to omit the Semi-Final round if there are fewer than 15 competitors in a division.

    • Non-sanctioned Competitions, International, and Women’s Division: Final Only

X Division

In regional competitions, there may not be enough players to warrant individual divisions for 2A, 3A, 4A, and 5A. In this case, we recommend running an “X Division” that allows competitors from each of these divisions instead. This can help streamline contest logistics.

The clicker scores will be multiplied by a style constant in order to make X division more competitive. This is because, on average, routines from certain divisions will score higher than comparable routines from other divisions. The score multipliers will be applied before normalization so that there are no scores over 100.

The clicker score multipliers are:


    • 2A: 1.40

    • 3A: 1.50

    • 4A: 1.30

    • 5A: 1.60


Sport Division

Sport division gives players who may not want to compete in one of the championship divisions of a contest the opportunity to grow their skills on stage.

Sport is a low-stress competition division, perfect for first-time competitors or anyone wanting a more relaxed competition experience. Sport division is also a great opportunity to give newer judges experience with judging competitions. At NYYL events, Sport 1A and Sport X will be held as separate divisions.

The Sports Freestyle at Regional Contests has four age divisions as follows:
• Age 9 and Under
• Ages 10 to 12
• Ages 13 to 17
• Age 18 & Up

Technical execution will be scored without negative clickers for this specific division & there are no major deductions.

Sport Division Rules

    1. Duration: 1 minute
    2. Technical Execution: 20 points
    3. Performance Evaluation: 80 points
    4. Evaluation Categories:
        • Trick Presentation (20 points)
        • Performance Quality (20 points)
        • Musicality (20 points)
        • Routine Construction (20 points)

Non-Championship Divisions

The NYYL recommends a consistent format for the following non-championship divisions. These divisions are currently only held at the USA National Yoyo Contest.

Non-Championship Division Rules


    • Duration: 2 Minutes

    • Technical Execution: 60 points

    • Performance Evaluation: 40 points

    • Evaluation Categories:


        • Trick Presentation (10 points)

        • Performance Quality (10 points)

        • Musicality (10 points)

        • Routine Construction (10 points)

Over 40 Division

Over 40 division gives competitors over the age of 40 a special division to showcase their skills in a low-stress environment. Competitors are allowed to choose whatever style they would like to showcase (1A-5A).

International Division

Some competitions may choose to implement a finals-only international division. This is for competitors who are not residents of the US.

Women’s Division

Some competitions may choose to implement a specific division to showcase routines created by yoyo players who are women. Anyone who identifies as a woman is eligible to compete in the women’s division.

If a player would like to compete in both women’s division and a championship division, that is completely allowed and supported.

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Other General Rules

Time Allotment for Scoring

Judging is a complicated and nuanced discipline, so it is important to give evaluation judges ample time after a routine to enter scores. After every routine, the judges will be given up to one minute to think about and finalize their scores. This also ensures that every player is given the same amount of time given by the judges.

Music Selection

Players are expected to select music for their routines and present their routines to music. A player is entitled to select whatever music they’d like as long as it is deemed appropriate for all audiences.

Failure to select appropriate music will result in disqualification.

All decisions are made by the contest head judge and are final.

Here are some examples of inappropriate music. Please keep in mind that this is not a comprehensive list – if you ever have a doubt about if your specific music selection is inappropriate, please contact the NYYL for a judgment.


    • Music that contains inappropriate language (curse words, derogatory slurs)

    • Music that addresses inappropriate themes (violence, rape, self-harm, sexual content)

    • Music glorifying (including but not limited to) violence, rape, suicide, killing, murder, genocide, war.

    • Music that explicitly implies sexual activity (heavy breathing, ecstatic noises or screams)

    • Music that discriminates against anyone – yoyo is an inclusive sport, and discrimination of any kind is not tolerated by the NYYL.

If you need clarification on these rules, please contact the NYYL or someone who can help you determine if your music is inappropriate for use in a yoyo contest.

See this Wikipedia page for additional details on what might denote inappropriate language: article.

Contestant Behavior

Contestants in all divisions are expected to behave in an appropriate and professional manner. Any inappropriate behavior, whether it be on stage or off stage, can result in disqualification from the competition or removal from the National Yoyo League

All competitors are expected to adhere to the NYYL code of conduct at all times. If a breach of conduct is reported and confirmed by an NYYL representative, the breaching player can be disqualified or removed from the league’s events.

Players may not make inappropriate gestures during their routines. This includes, but is not limited to:


    • Inappropriate hand gestures (e.g. middle fingers being shown)

    • Indecency (e.g. removal of clothes during a routine)

    • Demonstrations of violence towards others

Please note: this also includes inappropriate off-stage behavior. The NYYL does not tolerate bullying or discrimination of any kind. Please report any instances of bullying or discrimination to an NYYL representative and we will investigate and make a final decision. Please treat other contest attendees with respect and decency, and let’s make yoyo an inclusive sport for everyone.

All decisions are made by the head judge and/or the contest organizer, and are considered final.

Contest Seeding Rules

By competing in championship divisions in US regionals, players can earn seeds to US nationals. In addition, national and regional champions from the year prior can earn seeds. Seeds allow players to bypass some qualification rounds. The seeding rules are as follows:

    • The winner of each championship division in a regional competition earns a seed to the finals of Nationals.


        • The winner of X Division earns a finals seed to the yoyo division that they presented in their routine.

        • If a player wins multiple regional competitions in the same year, a regional competition’s seed is granted to the next highest-placing player that is not already seeded.

    • 2nd-5th place from each championship division in US regionals earn a seed to semi-finals at Nationals.


        • Similarly to the above, 2nd-5th in X Division earn seeds based on the yoyo division they presented in their routine.

        • No additional seeding rules apply for semi-final seeds – available seeds are not granted if the players finishing 2nd-5th are already seeded.

    • The champion of the previous year’s regional earns a seed to the final division of the current year’s regional.


        • If no regional was held the year prior, the contest organizer may seed the most recent champion of the regional at their discretion.

    • The champion of the previous year’s national competition earns a seed to the final division of the current year’s national competition.


        • If no national competition was held the year prior, the contest organizer may seed the most recent champion of the regional at their discretion.

Seeds cannot be granted outside of these rules, but earned seeds may be revoked at the discretion of the contest organizer or NYYL board due to violations of our code of conduct or other inappropriate contestant behavior.