Preparing for College Gymnastics | Q&A with Coach Diana

Today’s Topic: Preparing for College Gymnastics

 

Hi, everyone.  I’m Coach Diana.  I’m going to talk to you today about navigating the process of competing in college.  There were some questions in the Perform Happy community about this, and I’m starting with the following:

Q:  Last year, my daughter expressed an interest in competing in college, and the coach had her on track for D2 or D3 potential.  Now that my daughter has gotten through the scary stuff, college is on her mind again.  I’d like to let her know that if that’s what she wants, we, her coach, herself, and I, need to talk about a plan.  I’d like to do this in a way that doesn’t stress her so much where she has mental blocks again.  Do I not talk about it at all and let her figure it out?  That’s what I do most of the time, but I feel like she may need some guidance on this right now, because it seems like such a long way off.

 

A:

There was another mother who also chimed in, wanting some advice as well.  Her daughter is a level nine, and this mom has no idea how to even start.  I’m going to give some advice from my own experience.

Take it Slow

I would say both of these athletes are 12, so as of right now, I wouldn’t actually have the conversation with her, especially knowing that she’s gotten through some mental blocks.  Let her enjoy gymnastics for a little bit, but I would still do things to promote college gymnastics so it’s still fresh on her mind.

If you have any college programs in the area where you could go and watch some college meets, I would definitely go and do that because it’s such a different experience, plus they’re so fun.

Attend Some College Meets

If you can take your daughters to watch college meets, I would definitely do that right now, but I wouldn’t approach it as you need to sit down and have a plan right now.  That might scare her a little bit.  It might also put this black cloud over it like there’s some pressure on gymnastics because you have to get ready and have to have a plan.

I would say for the moment, and for the next couple of years really, I wouldn’t say much about her plan for getting to college.  I would, however, support it any time she brings it up.  I would let her navigate that conversation right now.

Once she gets into high school, I would say wait until 9th or 10th grade, you can start thinking about it a little bit more.  Maybe you have a conversation with her.  At that point, I would talk to the coach because they are going to know a lot more about where she’s at at that point.

9th or 10th Grade is Ideal

That’s a couple years off, and where they think she’s going in the next couple of years. For gymnastics in particular, certainly I know this mom mentioned division two, division three potentials. There might be other parents out there who they think their daughters might want to go to division one.

I will say this. For the top division-one programs who have a lot of scholarships to give, if your daughter is one of those top athletes,  she’s probably going to get recruited by the schools. She might not have to do too much. I was just judging our level eight, nine, ten state meet this past weekend, and in the level ten session, I looked up in the stands and there were three or four Bay area college coaches in the stands. They were there for recruiting purposes.

Scouts and Scholarships

They might also have been there for any senior who might be coming into their program, even juniors if they’ve done early signing. You’re right, there is certainly a timeframe where coaches cannot talk to girls before a certain time, so you have to be cognizant of that. That’s an NCAA rule, and if your coach or your daughter’s coach has had any experience with trying to get kids to college, they should know a little bit about it.

If your daughter is the first one navigating through this, then the coach might not have all the answers, but they certainly can do some research through NCAA and find out. I’m pretty sure they can’t talk to girls before they’re a junior, but I’m not positive on that. I would say for the time being, let your daughter navigate the conversation.

Once she gets into high school, then you can broach it again and just see how she’s doing at that point and see where she’s at, and if she still is wanting to do college gymnastics. If the girl is a top level ten, colleges are going to be recruiting her.

Whether Or Not Your Athlete is a Level Ten…

If, however, she’s not a top level ten, that doesn’t mean she can’t go to college. It also doesn’t mean she won’t go to a division one school. But for the division one schools that are maybe not the top-notch big schools, and even division two schools, they all have scholarships to give away, so certainly you want to make sure that they know who your daughter is. Especially college coaches will go to big meets, so they were at our state championships.

They’ll be at regionals, they’ll be at nationals, easterns, westerns. All of those meets, you will see college coaches there. However, that doesn’t mean that kids don’t get missed, so I think then it is up to the gymnast and the parents and the coaches to do a good job of trying to promote themselves to different colleges, so making sure that you make contact with schools that you’re interested in, certainly sending video of practice, of competition.

There might be some skills that you don’t do in competition, but you’re working on. Video those skills as well, and when you do that, certainly I would say in your junior year, you should be videotaping and sending video.

Record Your Athlete

You might have video from your sophomore year, like if you went to a state meet or regionals, easterns, westerns, nationals, any of those competitions. Have those videoed so that you can send them along. Then, you do have to advocate for yourself some because you don’t want to leave everything up to the coaches finding you, because they might miss you, especially if you’re looking at a school that’s across the country. They may just not have a lot of local meets where they’re going to see you or easily know who you are, have any recognition happening.

Working with your coach and trying to get some video, and doing your due diligence as a parent an as a gymnast, and with the help of your coaches too of trying to research some schools that you might be interested in. Certainly division two schools have scholarships, division one schools have scholarships, division three schools do not have scholarships, so you probably don’t need to be in as big of a hurry because everybody’s just walking on.

Personal Experience in a Division One School

I went to a division one school, and we had 16 girls on the team. At the time, division one was allowed to have eight full ride scholarships. My school didn’t have that many. We only had five and a half I believe, so every school’s a little bit different with how many scholarships they have. Certainly the bigger schools, the SEC schools and big ten, big 12, all those are going to have the full amount of scholarships.

Then, they also have more people that walk on. Keep in mind too that with college, there is certainly some specialization, so on my team, every year we had about 16 girls on the team. Six people compete per event, and I would say we had no more than three girls that were competing all around at any meet. Either three or four girls in the lineup were doing one, two, or three events.

Even if your daughter has one or two or maybe three really strong events and some events that maybe aren’t quite as strong, she still has lots of potential to go to college and compete. You can specialize. Lots of people will compete maybe two events or one event or something.

What’s Your Athlete’s Strongest Performance Event?

Certainly, keep that in mind, and if there is an event that you’re really, really strong at, that’s really going to be your ticket into college gymnastics, then I would say trying to research some programs to see where their strengths. If beam is your event, then you might want to look at schools and see who’s competing on beam, and are they seniors or are the sophomores.

If they have three seniors that are constantly in their beam lineup, and you know they’re going to be graduating off, I can promise you that coach is going to be looking for beam specialists to come on because they’re going to need to fill that lineup with strong gymnasts. That is certainly part of it.

Q: I find myself to be more on the parent side rather than the coach side for the sport of gymnastics unless the gymnast is part of a major gym. How would that be managed better?

 

A:

I think that it really depends. Some coaches are very involved in the recruiting process for their girls, but I do think those are the coaches that have been through it at several times. I know when I was going through it, it was all on me, I was the first one in my gym to go to college. Fortunately, I had an older sister, so she had gone through it in a different gym, different state, everything.

How to Go About It

My parents had a little bit of knowledge of what to do, but I think the coach can be an advocate. Certainly sometimes college coaches will contact your coach, especially if they’re trying to get in contact with the athlete, but the other thing that coaches can do is make sure that you go to big meets where you might be seen.

Big invitationals are where you should be letting the coach know that you are interested in going to college and maybe some schools that you might be interested in. Because, then, your gym chooses to go to a big invitational that’s in that area specifically for purposes of, who knows, in big invitationals, you might have coaches come for recruiting purposes.

Preparing for College GymnasticsParents and Athletes, Do a Lot of Research

I do think in terms of a lot of the research and getting everything together, it does fall a lot on the gymnast and the parents to do. That is correct. I would say that those are my recommendations in terms of when to start the process. I wouldn’t really start mom or dad leading the conversation until the child’s at least in high school.

Then feel out where they’re at and if they’re still interested in doing college gymnastics. Prior to that, try to see as many college gymnasts as you can. If there are college programs within the area or close by, we’re getting towards the end of the season, so next weekend are the championship meets for everybody across the country, and then after that it’s regionals and nationals. We’re getting down to the end of the season this year, but certainly if there’s some, like I know SEC championships are in St. Louis. The conference out here is held in Colorado this year.

And Some More Research

You can look up some schools and, on their schedule, you’ll see wherever their conference championship is being held, and that’s next weekend. Then everything else takes place in April, so there might be something close by, but certainly there’s always next year too. College season starts in January, so if you can facilitate trying to go.

The other thing is college meets, a lot of times the girls hang out afterwards for a little bit, so your daughter can go talk to some of the college athletes. College athletes often give autographs, and they might have some advice in terms of what to do to try to get on to a team. Obviously, when the coaches see you just having some visibility with the coaches, even though you’re not talking about coming yet because it’s way too early, it still plants a seed.

Then they might watch over time to see how your daughter progresses. There’s certainly little things that you can do, but I wouldn’t make it a big deal certainly for a couple more years.

Start the Process in High School

Once they’re in high school, then you can start the process. In the end of their sophomore year, beginning of their junior year is when you really should start getting video, sophomore year for the competition, because really towards the beginning of their junior year, you want to start sending those videos out. That allows them to use the competition season of their junior year to really look at them and see.

You can always send updates after their junior year, especially if they have a really good meet or good state meet, regionals, one of the westerns, easterns, nationals. Then, by their senior year, they’re probably in contact with you, and even if they’re not, then that just means all the more that you need to take imitative to try to get in touch with these coaches and try to go visit.

Showcase Your Athlete’s Potential

Face to face contact always helps, especially when they might be deciding between two or three kids for walk on spots or for the last couple of scholarships, partial scholarships or whatever. Having face to face contact is definitely helpful, and then that might get a recruiting trip lined up or a school visit lined up.

That would be my advice. In the meantime,  the biggest thing is you want them to keep enjoying the sport. Being successful makes it more fun, but even if you have some bad meets, you can still have fun with the sport. If we have this extra pressure added on, we want to take that away. Anyway, I’ll stop rambling, but those would be my tips for trying to prepare for getting into college gymnastics.

Thanks so much. Have a great day. Bye.

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