With gymnastics being such a physically and mentally demanding sport, a young gymnast might feel overwhelmed when thinking about the next step in their athletic career: College Gymnastics.
Gymnastics athletes spend twenty to thirty hours a week practicing, and there really is not an offseason. There are barely enough hours in a day for school, practice, eating, and sleeping; so how are they able find time to even begin the recruiting process?
Being recruited for Division-I sports is not something to take lightly. After all, it is a business decision by a college coach and a school to show interest in you. Most Division-I offers are packaged with athletic scholarships that add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars of free financial aid over a four-year college career.
With that said, the recruiting process is something you, your coaches, and parents should dedicate time to early in your high school career. But, where do you start? What do gymnasts use to be found by college coaches? And what are the steps to getting recruited for college?
Below, I am going to share five of the most valuable tips as you begin your recruiting process for college gymnastics.
This is advice I picked up during my time as a gymnastics recruit and heard my coaches share while I was a college gymnast. All of it is as valuable today and in the future as it was for me when I found my spot at a Division-I school.
Tip 1: Make Lists And Do Your Research
There are sixty-two schools offering Division-I gymnastics in the United States (note: only 15 of those schools have Division I men's gymnastics teams), all with reputable coaches with different styles and expertise. How do you know where to begin or what the coaches are even looking for? Most college coaches are searching for athletes that have similar skills that match the rest of their active team.
When January rolls around, it is officially college gymnastics season. When that time comes, it is a good idea to make a list of the schools you are most interested in and start watching their competitions as often as possible. While watching, you'll be able to see which athletes you are similar to and learn quite a thing or two about the coaching staff and the culture of your favorite schools. Consider this like a sort of Virtual Visit to see what the team is like before you travel there in person.
It is also a good idea to read articles on the team's websites, check scores and statistics, and follow the team's social media accounts, as well as several of their athletes. Knowing the team's style, skills, strengths, and weaknesses will also help you think about what you can bring to the team and what the team is in need of. When you reach out to a coach and can show knowledge of how they coach and the traits they like, you'll make a great impression to show them you are serious about making their program better.
Bonus Tip from Kim Hermansen, Level 10 Gymnastics Coach at Barefoot Gymnastics, St. George, Utah: "Each year [college] coaches need someone new and different, but they almost always need gymnasts who are strong on vault and bars (since it’s not hard to find a gymnast with vault and floor as their strengths)."
Tip 2: Start The Process Early
Gymnasts cannot be officially recruited until their junior year of high school, however, you should be reaching out to coaches long before then. Many colleges already have recruits in mind and spots filled several years in advance.
These coaches should know who you are by no later than sophomore year of high school, so that by the time they are allowed to recruit you, they do not hesitate. Ideally you should be a Level 10 gymnast by your freshman year if you are seeking a Division 1 scholarship. Your first step to start the process early can be to set up an Instagram account, follow the schools you want to go to, and send them videos of your big skills and competitions.
Tip 3: Get Good Grades
With practices adding up to 20-32 hours each week, it almost seems impossible to keep straight A's. Strong academic performance is a priority for several college gymnastics coaches. "Getting good grades is a big yes," Hermansen says, "they will look at your high school transcripts and ask you about your study habits." Coaches want to make sure that you will contribute to their team as a well rounded individual, not just as a gymnast. Coaches strive to find athletes that are strong academically and as a supportive team player. This will show that you are dedicated and have high work ethic.
Tip 4: Attend summer camps.
This one is the most fun of all, and is the perfect place to get some quality, face to face interaction with college coaches. Most college gymnastics teams host several camps throughout the summer. Make it a top priority to attend summer camps hosted by schools you are interested in. College coaches also attend other camps, such as Woodward and Flip Fest. Each summer these camp hosts at least twenty-five world renowned coaches and VIPs. Keep your eyes open early, because spots for these summer camps fill up before spring starts!
Tip 5: Set a goal to qualify for Nationals.
If you want to be recruited, becoming a Level 10 gymnast and competing at a national level is the best way to get exposure. If you qualify to The U.S. Junior Olympic National Championship, you are more likely to be seen by college coaches, and if you are winning they probably already know about you. However, most coaches that are at the National Championship are looking at athletes they have already been in contact with. Hopefully by the time you get there, you have already been connecting with the schools you are interested in attending. It's important to know that if you want to go to a top 5 school, such as Oklahoma State University or Florida State University, then you need to go the Elite route. Those schools rarely accept gymnasts who are not Elite gymnasts.
Remember, these tips are just a starting place on your long, but exciting, journey to college gymnastics. Look for other articles to come soon on tips for parents and coaches, as well as more in depth articles on gymnastics summer camps and recruiting.