Wahoo, it’s the first Chatty Gymnast post!
So, college gymnastics season drew to a close last month and it was the Florida Gators who were victorious during this very impressive season. We love to watch the impressive hair/leotards, big skills and whole team atmosphere of the sport but we sometimes forget how to get to this place, as a gymnast. For a young gymnast, the college gymnastics world is very cutthroat and sometimes it can seem like you have no chance in making the elusive team that you’ve supported for years.
This article is not to scare prospective college gymnasts but merely, to point them in the right direction and give them confidence and goals and some guidance as to what college gymnastics life will be like. If you believe, anything is possible.
- Academics mean more than gymnastics skills
You may be the next Gabby Douglas or Nastia Liukin, sure, any team would want you for their roster but you have to remember that you’re actually attending the school! Whoops. Decipher the schools you believe cater for your academic capabilities as well as your academic needs; i.e. how good the program for your future degree is. For instance, 3.0 GPA will not cut it for an Ivy League program. Know yourself and know your strengths and weaknesses. Don’t give up if your dream school is a little trickier to get into; just put the work in and set goals for yourself in school.
- Be loud and proud; Get your name out there!
A college coach is not going to know who you are unless you make the effort to get in contact. Search the e-mails of head coaches of the program’s you’re considering and just tell them about yourself, gymnastics skills and link them to your personal website and social media links (if you want, obviously!). Nine times out of ten, you’ll get a response and hopefully, they’ll want to stay in contact. Persistence is good but don’t e-mail them every other day; desperation is never a good look!
- A personal website is vital!
A personal website is a key component in the recruitment process. Of course, you can be recruited without one but the website will help you keep track of both your gymnastics and academic achievements. Be sure to include the following;
- Personal information (DOB, Hometown, siblings etc.)
- Parents names
- Home phone number
- Your and/or your coaches e-mail address
- School name, principal name, current grade, GPA, academic achievements etc.
- Gymnastics results
- Club, coaches (and their contact)
Your website doesn’t need to be a hip-hop, trendy graphic design or have a personal domain; a simple website with basic design is sufficient enough. Make it true to yourself. A website will absolutely increase your chances of college recruitment.
- Don’t be disheartened from rejection
No matter how hard you try, not everyone can be awarded a scholarship to a single team. A team rejects you, so what? You’ve still got 81 more to choose from. It can be disappointing but you have to walk away knowing that school obviously was not right for you. You can do it!
- Know you’re probably not going to be in the line-up on every event, every week!
There are 10-17 gymnasts on a single college team and there are only 6 spots in the line-up on each event. As there are so many team members and so few line-up spots, the chances of you doing all-around each week are rather unlikely, however, not impossible. The coach’s intent will be to try and give each gymnast adequate performance time but sometimes it is not possible. Don’t go into college believing you will do every single event, every single week; you have to work your way up the team and eventually, you may achieve this.
- Specialise on the events you feel are your strongest and most valuable
Linking to my previous point, it is ludicrous believing you will do all-around each week, immediately. It definitely pays to drop down to 2 or 3 events, or even just 1. Prior to your entry to college, work on your best events in the gym. Make them polished and strong and routines you feel would make it to a college team. Upon arrival at college, your college coach will immediately see the flair and grounding you bring to the team on that particular event and will be sure to draft you in! It makes much more sense to be drafted into the team’s line-up week in, week out on your specialised events than yo-yo in your work load each week, competing all-around one week and just one event the next.
- Know that Division II is just as good as the top flight
In the recruitment process, gymnasts and their parents are often reluctant about Division II programs and often don’t dare to even search for further information on these programs, believing their child is ‘better than Div. II’. Cringe. This couldn’t be any further from the truth when put into practice as, in recent years; we’ve seen Div. II teams become crowned victorious over teams from the top division. Prime examples include Bridgeport and Lindenwood; both of whom have been ranked over various Div. I teams during the 2015 season. This ‘snobbery’ approach towards Division II is simply blown out of proportion by some gymnastics moms. The bottom line is: choose a program that suits you, regardless of whether it is Division I, II or III.
- J.O. Nationals is a must!
J.O. Nationals is the National Championships for Level 10 gymnasts; the level which many future college gymnasts compete in during club gymnastics. A J.O. Nationals participation is an absolute must for the top Div. I schools who are probably expecting multiple J.O. Nationals participations in your resume. Consistently good performances at J.O. Nationals each year will punch you a ticket onto a strong college team.
- Know that the college gymnastics season is a long, hard slog
Competing each week as well as balancing practice in-between can be a daunting task on the body. Although regular season lasts for three months, that is 12 weeks of intense competition as well as returning for Conference, Regional & National Championships, if invited. Make sure you stay healthy and seek medical attention if you’re hurting or aching.
- Be prepared to step in!
A teammate can go down with injury at any minute and you could be their replacement. Make sure you’re on hand and you’re on your a-game at all times during a meet because who knows you may need to step in and become a hero!
- International gymnasts have just as much chance of earning scholarships
Competition for college scholarships is fierce enough for U.S. gymnasts alone, without adding international gymnasts into the mix. However, we have not seen a shortage of international students in college gymnastics in recent years with team members from countries like Canada, England, Australia, Spain and Holland being represented in the sport. International gymnasts bring international competitive experience to the team and are arguably more experienced. The world’s your oyster!
- A walk-on position is better than no position
Many gymnasts don’t consider competing as a walk-on for a team because you aren’t ‘officially’ a member. A full-ride scholarship naturally brings its perks of paying for academic and housing costs etc. but you should certainly consider a walk-on spot if you’re attending your dream school (for academics). A walk-on spot can lead to bigger things; a full-ride scholarship. It has been done, most notably by UCLA’s Ariana Berlin.
- What you put in is what you’ll get out!
This purely means; if you’re lazy about your approach to college recruiters and don’t put the effort in, you’re college chances are certainly going south. If you put in the effort by working hard at school, working hard in the gym, doing extracurricular activities, contacting and visiting various schools then you’re going to get the scholarship you deserve!
To summarise, I want to wish all prospective college gymnasts good luck in their pathway into collegiate student-athlete life; you can create your future and it’s your life, so start living it! Wow, word count is 1300+. Ooh, I have been busy!
An article by James Greaves, Editor-in-chief
Photo credits: The GymShark (website) – Gymnast photographed: Alina Weinstein
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