Help! My gymnast wants to do college gymnastics and I'm clueless about it!
If you're a parent of a competitive gymnast and your gymnast has her heart set on competing in college gymnastics, chances are you're overwhelmed by this journey. Or maybe you're like most parents and have no idea how or where to even begin the process!
Don't worry. I, or rather Jill, have got you covered...
While this article is a little different than my norm, I had a wonderful chat recently with Jill Hicks of JH Consulting about the college gymnastics recruiting process and wanted to share what I learned with you all.
I know how confusing it is as a parent of a gymnast navigating just the mental game alone. But after speaking to Jill I now understand how confusing and overwhelming the whole college recruiting process must also feel.
Let's face it - gymnastics is just a confusing sport all around!
Luckily, Jill Hicks has made it her life's mission to help gymnastics families navigate through the whole college recruiting process and works hard to help gymnasts match up with the perfect school for them. Note - I didn't just say perfect school. Jill was quick to mention that the goal is to find the right fit when gymnasts come to her.
Jill is also adamant that what she does isn't just about getting a college scholarship. It's about investing herself in the lives of the gymnasts she works with in order to really get to know these gymnasts. She works with each one on many different facets of their gymnastics journey, including encouraging them to find the right school, looking for the right culture of a team, and making sure that academics are a right fit. Jill also wants to make sure her gymnasts make the lineup of the team so they can actually compete in college (which is the fun part and reason your gymnast wants to make the team).
Below are a few points that I picked out of Jill and I's recent conversation. I hope you find this information helpful.
When Should You Start To Work With a Gymnastics Consultant like Jill Hicks?
I asked Jill at what point in their gymnastics journey should gymnasts and their families reach out to her. Her answer was by Level 9 or ninth grade.
She starts with a one hour "get-to-know-you" session with every gymnast she works with. She then helps the gymnast start the process of picking 10 schools to target (some realistic and some dream schools) and then focuses on teaching the gymnast how to represent herself to the college coaches. Jill or one of her advisors will teach gymnasts what college gymnastics coaches look for in a prospective gymnast. They discuss factors like how far away from home the school is and whether the gymnast's start values and scores are going to be a good match for the colleges she's chosen.
According to Jill, one of the biggest mistakes gymnasts make on their journey to college gymnastics is that they often attend summer college camps hosted by one of the top 12 schools.
If you didn't know, colleges use their summer camps as a recruiting event. And Jill explains that the schools who are ranked the highest are going to recruit the U.S. elites and the elites all over the world first and foremost. While Jill said that there might be some other Level 10 gymnasts who make it onto some of these top schools via walk-on, the majority of Level 10 gymnasts are better suited for other schools that are actually offering scholarships to Level 10s.
Unfortunately, if your gymnast spends time only attending these higher ranked college summer camps, she likely won't be seen by the right school for her. So part of Jill's work is to educate gymnasts on how they can be seen by the right programs. If a scholarship is a priority then it's important to go to summer camps that are still recruiting Level 10s. This is where Jill and her team's knowledge and expertise come in clutch.
What about my younger gymnast? What should I do to set her up for future success?
I asked Jill if parents of compulsory gymnasts need to do anything specific to set up their gymnasts for future success. She was adamant that younger gymnasts should just focus on enjoying gymnastics and gaining skills. But while there is nothing in particular you should do for a younger gymnast who has future dreams of making it to a college team, Jill recently started a program called Bright Future.
Bright Future is a program for competitive gymnasts who are on the younger side of Level 9 (not 9th grade yet) or who are at the lower levels of gymnastics and haven't worked their way up to Level 9 yet. Its purpose is to educate parents as to what their gymnast's options might be for the future. In fact, Jill mentioned that many competitive gymnasts become divers or pole vaulters when going to college and can gain scholarships that way.
In the Bright Future program you (and your gymnast if she's old enough) will meet with one of Jill's advisors over the course of three 30-minute sessions. This program costs $200 and is a great option for parents who might want to know what to expect as their gymnasts grow older and more accomplished in gymnastics.
Finally, after gymnasts have a strong Level 9 season, it's important that they set up an Instagram account to showcase their talent and personality to potential college coaches or recruiters.
According to Jill, at this point your gymnast's social is not longer for grandma or to keep family updated. It becomes your gymnast's marketing tool and serves as a way for college coaches to quickly take a look at your gymnast. Jill was clear that college coaches are very busy, so they often scroll quickly through social to get the information they need. Therefore maintaining a professional Instagram profile which is updated frequently is incredibly important once your gymnast is a Level 9 and higher.
Things to avoid showcasing on your Instagram "storefront?"
Of course I had to ask about mental blocks and the answer was that mental blocks are probably best left off social. While coaches know gymnasts go through mental blocks, they aren't exactly encouraged to recruit a gymnast who they see losing her skills, especially if it's been going on for a long time. However, with that said, it IS important that coaches see your gymnast's resilient spirit and positive attitude. So sharing examples of overcoming obstacles or demonstrating a growth mindset might be worthy of making the cut.
Just remember - once your gymnast is at Level 9 or higher, her Instagram profile is an important tool in the college recruiting process.
Ok, while Jill shared more info with me, I'm going to save that for my Academy members. But hopefully the info I shared today is enough to convince you that going through this process alone is a bad idea! Jill Hicks has assembled a team of great advisors who are knowledgeable and incredibly capable of holding your hand and leading you through this overwhelming process at every stage of the game.
If you are interested in learning more about what JH Consulting offers, head to https://jhicksconsulting.com, click "Get Started" and fill in the form. An advisor will reach out to you and get the process started.
(Please note, none of this is an affiliate link nor is there any gain in me sharing this info other than helping gymnastics parents navigate their way through another complex process in the sport of gymnastics!)
Do you have any other questions about the college recruiting process? If so, drop them in the comments below. Have advice for the newbies just starting this process? Drop it in the comments below.
If you or your gymnast needs support, in addition to the resources below I also offer one-on-one coaching sessions via Zoom.
- Stick It Girl Academy: For competitive gymnasts who want to live into their potential and need that extra push in mental training
- Mental Health Training for Gymnasts: Help your gymnast learn about her brain and the fight-flight-or-freeze response.
- Free Facebook Group for Moms of Gymnasts: Join this group to chat with other gymnastics moms and get tips for how to help your gymnast navigate through the mental ups and downs of gymnastics