Gymnastics is one of the most competitive sports there is.
To be a gymnast you need to start around age four, and if you want to be successful, you need to practice a minimum of 30 hours a week. That means giving up almost all your free time. Normal kids can’t even comprehend that level of sacrifice.
Now, gymnastics is not a widely followed sport, but in my opinion, the years of dedication and skill it takes to be a Division I caliber gymnast is way more than the average collegiate athlete. For example, you need to obtain a 10.0 start value on all events. That means that before you step on campus, you have to be almost perfect in every event.
It isn’t just about how much potential you have, it is about being ready to compete as soon as you walk in. There is no room on the team for a coach’s project.
There are very few high schools that have gymnastics programs, so a lot of gymnasts commute throughout their childhoods to Junior Olympic club programs. I used to travel an hour and a half every day to practice while in high school. I bet if you ask an athlete from any other sport at Southern Utah University they would say they drove five minutes to their high school for practice.
That being said, I am not surprised that people don’t gravitate towards one of the hardest sports in the world. I mean, would you want to throw a double twisting backflip that exerts 14 times your bodyweight when you land? Or be expected to connect multiple no-hand flips on a 4-inch beam?
Probably not, so why do only 12 out of 22 gymnasts on the team receive scholarships? What we do is more demanding and specialized; why aren’t we compensated so?
I see people that start their sport in high school and receive a full ride by their senior year, but there are gymnasts that have never known life outside of a gym and have to walk-on a team all four years.
“…if all 82 women’s gymnastics schools had 12 full scholarships to give, the total number of available scholarships would equal 984,” Jeff Thompson, Vice-President of the National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches and Head Gymnastics coach at Penn State told usagym.org. “Divide 984 by four, since most gymnasts utilize their scholarship for four years, and you arrive at 246 available scholarships per year. In addition, because not all 82 schools are permitted to offer scholarships, that total number is even less than 246.”
That means that for all of the gymnasts that graduate high school in a given year there are only 246 spots in the entire nation. So few scholarships are available, and the odds of receiving one are extremely slim.
On top of that, gymnastics scholarships are all or nothing. There are no partial scholarships distributed like some sports offer. The rule of thumb to receive a full-ride is that an athlete needs to be a top scorer on two events or they need to put out good scores on three events.
That means that if a gymnast competes in only one event, they have to walk-on. I feel like if a gymnast only competes in one event, but they are great at that event they are still crucial to the success of their team, and they deserve their share of education money.
And it’s not like gymnastics isn’t a popular sport. Gymnastics meets have great attendance. A few of the best programs like Utah, Georgia and even SUU are top sell-out events on their respective campuses.
Something so complex and challenging should be rewarded with more benefits for athletes pursuing the sport. If they are willing to sacrifice the most, then the NCAA should make more full-ride scholarships available for gymnasts to make their hard work worthwhile.
Story by: Maddie Loomis for SUU News
Photo by: SUU Athletics Strategic Communication