Haley Graham (Missy Peregrym) is a rebellious 17-year-old who is forced to return to the regimented world of gymnastics after a run-in with the law. A judge sentences Haley to her ultimate nightmare, attending an elite gymnastics academy run by legendary coach Burt Vickerman (Jeff Bridges).
Haley was once considered one of the most talented gymnasts in the US. She made it to the World Championships, but she walked out of competition in the middle of the finals, costing the American team the gold medal and leaving many people hurt and crushed, making her one of the most hated people in gymnastics. She walked away because her mother and her gymnastics coach were having an affair.
Haley has a talk with Coach Vickerman, who convinces her to take up the sport once again – at least until she can enter an upcoming invitational competition. Vickerman convinces her that she can use the prize money from the competition to repay some property damage debts she still owes and leave gymnastics once and for all. Disliking the sport's rigid rules and intense training schedule, Haley is reluctant to come out of retirement. Her attitude toward her fellow gymnasts – as well as her past – causes conflicts. After getting the cold shoulder the first day at the gym, Haley realizes what she is up against.
At the invitational, Haley's talent shines and her return from gymnastics retirement seems for the better. But all is not what it seems in the scoring system. She starts to remember one of the many reasons she retired – the flaws in judging. The panels do not look at the difficulty of the move nor do they look at the technique; they merely take deductions for unimportant minor errors. As Haley Graham says, "It doesn't matter how well you do. It's how well you follow their rules."
In addition, Haley is severely stressed by her dominating mother, who has arrived to watch the meet. Her conduct at the World Championship ("Worlds") has not been forgotten by the other athletes, and they treat her with open hostility. Haley finally breaks down in the middle of her balance beam routine and, in a repeat of the World Championships, leaves the arena before completing the competition. Before she leaves, she reveals to Vickerman the reason she walked out of Worlds: she had just discovered that her mother was having an affair with her then-coach, and her parents were divorcing as a result.
Although she did not complete the invitational, Haley continues to train and, with three of her teammates Mina (Maddy Curley), Wei Wei (Nikki SooHoo) and Joanne (Vanessa Lengies), qualifies for the National Championships. The biased judging leaves her far back in the all-around standings, but this does not keep her out of the event finals. In the first event final, vault, Mina executes an extremely difficult maneuver perfectly but receives a low score (9.500 out of 10). When Vickerman questions the judges, he learns that Mina was deducted on the technicality of showing a bra strap. Haley is next up, however, instead of vaulting, she shows her bra strap to the judges and forfeits her turn in disgust (otherwise known as a "scratch"). The other gymnasts follow suit, earning a string of zeroes and forcing the judges to award Mina the vault gold medal anyway.
Haley's bold action sparks a movement. The gymnasts talk amongst themselves and realize that if they could choose the winner, the judging would be fair. They convince all the others in the competition to do the same, choosing one person from each event who they deem the best to be the "winner". The winner completes her routine; the others jump on and off the apparatus and scratch, while bra is not continuously out. It seems the movement will be ruined when Trisha Skilken, a long-time judges' favorite, arrives and threatens the choice of winners by competing herself. Trisha finally comes to her senses, though, and realizes that scratching is for the good of the competition to make a point.
What started out as a gymnastics competition turns into a small revolution for the rules and Haley. Her talents are recognized once more and her future seems to be set with numerous colleges offering her athletic scholarships to compete in NCAA gymnastics.
- Missy Peregrym as Haley Graham
- Jeff Bridges as Burt Vickerman
- Vanessa Lengies as Joanne Charis
- Maddy Curley as Mina Hoyt
- Nikki SooHoo as Wei Wei Yong
- Kellan Lutz as Frank
- John Patrick Amedori as Poot
- Tarah Paige as Tricia Skilken
- Jon Gries as Brice Graham
- Gia Carides as Alice Graham
- John Kapelos as Chris DeFrank
- Tim Daggett – Himself
- Elfi Schlegel – Herself
- Bart Conner – Himself
- Carly Patterson – Herself
- Nastia Liukin – Herself
- Valeri Liukin – Himself (Nastia Liukin's spotter in her uneven bars routine)