By: John Lucas
Head Coach, Nor Cal United
In Association with: Scott Barclay
Head Coach, ASU College Club Team
It takes a special kind of athlete to be a gymnast. It takes an equally dedicated and understanding family to have one of their own in this sport. Chances are you got into this sport because you were too “high energy” and your parents needed to give you an outlet for it. Now here you are coming to a big fork in the road where you will need to decide IF you do gymnastics in college. This is most likely one of the biggest decisions you have faced at this point in your life. The following information is written to help you make the right decision for your future.
I have been involved with gymnastics for the past 12 years and it has been a great experience. I started gymnastics at age 14 and competed level 5 my freshman year of high school. By my senior year I was a level 10. I decided to try to walk on to the University of Nebraska’s Gymnastics team and was told by the coaches that there was no room for walk on gymnasts that year. After being turned away by the school I wanted to attend, I spent the next 2 years training with the hope that I could make a college team. I finally received my chance with Arizona State. Being a part of a college team was the highlight of my gymnastics career. That experience inspired me to start a competitive club program out of Nor Cal, Nor Cal United.
I know firsthand how competitive this sport is and how hard getting onto a college team can be. I also know how great the opportunities are to compete with a college club team. I believe that if you make it to your senior year in high school and want to pursue gymnastics in college, there is a team out there waiting for YOU! It may be with one of the highly competitive NCAA schools, and if you can get a scholarship… TAKE IT!! Competing in the NCAA is the best opportunity around. But…. As you can imagine, there are only a few spots open each year and many great gymnasts get overlooked. SO…. If you are not offered a scholarship or even a walk-on position, what are your options?
This is where Collegiate Club Gymnastics comes in. There are over 2 million college students engaged in a variety of club sports across the country each year, and that number continues to grow. As does the number of college club gymnasts.
Right now there are a handful of college gymnastics clubs that are dedicated to excellence in training. If asked what the main difference is between a club team and an NCAA team my answer would be “They are basically the same except for two things…. 1) we are not funded by the school and 2) we cannot compete at the NCAA Championships.” Now admittedly, not being supported by the school has many other ramifications such as: no (or very limited) scholarships, limited access to medical facilities and supplies, and academic support is also very limited from the school. So why even consider being a part of a college club team?
THERE ARE SOME GREAT, and GROWING number of OPPORTUNITIES within the Club Sports system to enable you to reach your academic goals and to pursue your passion for continuing to grow as a gymnast. Club Gymnastics helps to keep dreams alive and is continuing to provide opportunities for male gymnasts. Remember, male gymnasts reach their full potential between 18 and 24 years old. So if you didn’t win the JO Nationals as a senior in high school, you still have a ton of growth ahead of you!
As your time in the JO Program comes to a close, look ahead to the opportunities both NCAA and Club programs offer. Here is a list of 7 benefits you can expect to get out of being a part of a college team:
- College Education – This is what opens doors for you in the future.
- Continuing in gymnastics – The College years for male gymnasts are when men mature and really benefit from all the basic training they invested to this point. (i.e. strength, skills, and experience all come together). Develop your potential!
- Friendships – lifelong relationships are forged.
- Regular Season Competitions – between other Collegiate and NCAA Teams.
- National individual and team championship competition.
- Individual growth.
- Being a part of a team of guys all pursuing the same common goals – this is probably the greatest benefit you can realize as a collegiate gymnast. Scholarship or not, get into the right program for your ability and this is yours!
Choose the right team for you:
NCAA Teams: Generally funded by the university. Most offer scholarships as well as medical and academic support. Needless to say, with a maximum of only 6.3 scholarships that can be offered per school the odds are not good in getting a scholarship unless you are one of the top juniors in the country. There are currently 16 NCAA Teams.
Tier 1 Club Teams: this includes club teams that have demonstrated a desire to compete on a level that can “hang” with other NCAA teams. Generally non-funded by the school, they have to raise all their own operating expenses (training, competition, coaching, ect.) through fund-raising and booster clubs. Most of these teams have a dedicated coaching staff. The year-end championship for this tier is the USAG Collegiate Nationals won by Arizona State the past 9 years. This meet highlights both club teams and NCAA teams that offer 2 Scholarships or less. There is no limit as to the number of participants, and each school sets their own participation criteria. Some even travel internationally to compete in places such as Central America, S. Africa and Japan. There are currently 6-7 teams competing at this level.
Tier 2 Club Teams: Similar to Tier 1 Club teams but mostly student-led and coached. The main Championships for these teams are the NAIGC Men’s and Women’s Nationals – a rapidly growing and exciting yearly championship meet. Approximately 60+ teams.
The NAIGC Competition uses modified FIG rules allowing the JO accepted skills and requiring a C Dismount for full element group credit. Complete rules can be found on their website located bellow.
Whatever your level and whatever your dreams, there is a college program out there that is right for you. Check out different Teams’ websites and call around until you find it!
For more information on the opportunities out there:
National Association of Intercollegiate Gymnastics Clubs www.Naigc.com
If you would like more information about the Northern California United Tier 1 Club E-mail Head Coach John Lucas at firstname.lastname@example.org