Gymnastics in the U.S. is really good, and most Level 10 gymnasts can do a lot of the same skills. When it comes down to it, one of the biggest things a college coach looks for in a gymnast is character. They look at the person as a whole, not just at their athletic ability. Coaches want to make sure these gymnasts will fit in with the culture of the program, with similar ideals as the team. But how could a collegiate coach possibly find out how genuine an athlete truly is based on one recruiting trip or their Instagram account?
Why attend a summer gymnastics camp?
When I asked several college coaches how they find their top athletes, I was surprised when they all responded with the same answer: Summer Camps. They explained that it is so beneficial for these coaches to actually be able to coach and work with these gymnasts.
Gymnastics is such a mental sport, so when looking for athletes to build up a team, it is important to find gymnasts who are mentally tough, who are also team players. Jamie Wysong, Assistant Coach at Southern Utah University explains, "You could have the most talented kid in country, but [she] could tear the team apart." One of the biggest questions a coach will ask is, "Will this athlete fit in with the culture of our program?"
That is why camps are a great way for coaches to see an athlete's genuine self. They want to see you in action, so attending your desired school's summer camp is a necessity. That way they can see how you are as a person. Wysong goes on to state, "If an athlete is having a rough day, how do they handle it? And how do they interact with other gymnasts?" These are things they are able to observe first-hand at summer camps.
Of course character isn't the only thing they are looking at. Gymnasts with strong basics and who are teachable are what many of these coaches look for. If you start going to these camps at a young age, these coaches will see how you learn and improve over the years. They will see your hard work and dedication. Schools like Southern Utah University want gymnasts who have strong potential and work ethic. "We can teach skills, so really it depends on if that gymnast is willing to put in the work," Wysong explains.
What are the best gymnastics camps?
One of the greatest aspects of a summer camp is that while each camp has incredible facilities and coaches, the main priority is fun. Camps such as Flip Fest, located in Tennessee, specifically state that their goal is to not only equip young gymnasts to become great at gymnastics, but to also excel in every other part of their lives. With the push for athletes to have better mental health, Flip Fest provides team and character building activities, along with outdoor recreation such as jet skiing and a high ropes course. Learning new gymnastics skills is still the primary focus, but creating a healthy balance and positive outlook on the sport is at the forefront.
Another popular choice is Woodward, which has two locations, one in the heart of Pennsylvania, and the other two hours north of Los Angeles. The camp is newly redesigned by former Olympian Aly Raisman. Each of these summer camps host at least twenty-five world renowned coaches, many being college coaches scoping out potential recruits.
While camps like Woodward and FlipFest are on the more expensive end, all gymnastics collegiate programs host some shape or form of camp that generally cost less. For example, The University of Georgia hosts the Courtney Kupets Carter Gymnastics Camp. Kupets is currently the Georgia GymDogs head coach and former Olympian. Check out your desired school's website to find more information on their summer camp and remember that registration begins early.
These camps can truly be life-changing. Former Division I gymnast, Brooke Cersosimo, explains that the summer camp she attended over the years is the only reason her college coach found her. "I was from a small town in South Dakota. He watched my work ethic over the years and could see potential." Cersosimo walked on to the team her freshmen year and the following year earned a full-ride scholarship. Summer camp opened the door for this athlete and also created memories and friendships that will last a lifetime.
If you are serious about college gymnastics, attending a summer camp should be number one on your list. Even if you aren't in high school yet, it is important to start going to these camps to build relationships with coaches. This is an excellent opportunity to create positive interactions with them and let your personality shine.