Saturday, January 9, 2010


Yes, as we all know, even those gym fans in the outer reaches of Kazakhstan, it's college gymnastics time. Some of you might remember that last year was my first year of really getting to know the collegiate sport well, and that i was a little bemused by terms like All-American and walk-on, by the scoring, by the regions and conference and and pacs and sec's of it all.  And of course, by the hair!

Nowadays I am an old hand, though it is quite frustrating to have to wait til a generous youtuber puts up routines to actually watch meets.  Still, it doesn't stop me loving the fluffy frou-haha which is college gymnastics when I do get to see it!

Why do I love it?

I love it first and foremost because it is good gymnastics.  While not as spectacularly difficult as elite international gymnastics, there are still terrific skills, dynamic routines being constructed and no gymnast or team is going to have much success without doing it well- and doing it well consistently!

I love it because it is healthy.  Restricted training hours mean that gymnasts can't quite get as beat-up as they do in elite gymnastics and team depth means that if a gymnast really can't compete, there are are other team members to lean on.  I mean, it is crazy how many college gymnasts have competed successfully with bits of metal rod instead of bones on some places (UCLA in particular seem to love these girls), and still win titles and carry out four-year careers.  It is a nice feeling to watch gymnasts at work and not fear they are risking their health and their careers.

I love it because it is a team sport.  Though I love the fierce individuality and intense psychology behind the individual performances in most elite competitions, it is really fun to watch gymnasts operate as a team.  Individual sports offer less opportunity for humour, drama and camaraderie that comes with a team trying to work together.  It changes the nature of the pressure an athlete feels when competing and a bad performance is not the be-all and end-all of a gymnasts meet.  I love that the gymnasts are made to be as supportive of each other as they can during a meet.

I love it because it has become a sort of encore performance for many elite gymnasts.  Girls who were too injured, old or unable to compete at escalating levels of difficulty, girls who may have disappeared from the scene altogether have an opportunity to keep competing in a more fun, and relaxed environment.  Without NCAA we may not have gotten to keep enjoying gymnasts like Kupets, McCool, Humphrey, Schikwert, Ray and Maloney and many, many more.

I love it because it is so performative in ways.  Because there is less need to pack in as many hard skills as one can possibly fit, there is room for artistry, innovation, personality and moves that are there because they are amazing and not just because they score well.  I am thinking of the fabulous artistry of UCLA floor routines, the stunning flexibility moves of Hartung on beam, the flat-out comedy of Abby Stacks senior floor exercise,  the design of Hollie Vise's new floor routine.  Floor routines are tailored to personalities, rather than to a fixed idea of what a floor routine should be.  Gymnasts have room to perform and let there personalities into their routines.

And, of course, I love it because it is sheer good fun.  Only in college gymnastics do you get to laugh at a floor routine, giggle as a coach swoops in and hugs a gymnast the second she salutes the judges, see a freshman positively radiant at their first good meet, have audiences doing the gator 'chop' along with the gymnast, see more group hugs than you've ever had in your life, watch the Dawgies have a pre-meet dance off or laugh at videos of the Utes on camp, or just and see gymnasts enjoy doing their sport.

Good Luck all!!

(But go UCLA!!!!)


1 comment:

  1. These are excellent points! I share them as to why I like Collegiate Gymnastics as well. I tend to like it far more than the elite/international comps as well. Very nice post!