College gymnastics is truly a team sport, where every individual’s performance matters. It’s exciting, competitive and the dream of many high school gymnasts. But when it comes to starting the recruiting process, families usually have several questions, like how do coaches evaluate gymnasts? And, when does the recruiting process start? This section answers the most common questions around how to get recruited for college gymnastics, so you feel prepared as you embark on your recruiting journey.
Gymnast recruits who have a successful recruiting journey do a lot of work behind the scenes, including researching colleges, creating a recruiting profile and video, contacting college coaches (and following up) and competing in high-level competitions. They are proactive, persistent and start the recruiting process early to establish relationships with college coaches. From the coach’s perspective, here’s how they typically scout recruits:
College coaches can begin contacting recruits June 15 after their sophomore year. Then, on August 1 before junior year, student-athletes can begin taking unofficial and official visits, and this is really when verbal offers at top colleges start to roll in. But make no mistake, recruiting at top tier programs starts before this point. Gymnastics recruiting is competitive, as there are only 81 colleges with gymnastics programs across the country. Therefore, coaches are extremely selective and start recruiting as early as middle school. Typically, they find athletes through top training gymnasiums and conduct online evaluations before sophomore year. That way, when June 15 comes, they already have a list of prospects to evaluate in person. However, some Division 2 and 3 programs will recruit into senior year, too.
Student-athletes who want to compete at the college level need to be proactive in their recruiting process. They need to create a recruiting profile that details their scores and academic history, as well as a recruiting video of their performances on all four apparatuses. Then, they need to email college coaches at the top schools on their list—and follow up—to establish relationships early and receive online evaluations.
There are many factors coaches consider when recruiting high school gymnasts, including their athletic ability, academic history and character. NCAA women’s gymnastics follows the same skill requirements and scoring guidelines as the Level 10 Junior Olympic Program. More often than not, coaches are drawn to recruits who perform well and receive top scores in all four apparatuses at Level 10, or close to it. They also look for recruits who compete at the national and international level. See an in-depth look at the different gymnastics levels and gymnastics skills that are required for each NCAA division level.
But recruiting is much more than performance. College coaches heavily weigh an athlete’s academic history. Many gymnastics colleges are high academic schools, and for Division 2 coaches, academic aid can ease the burden of providing athletic aid. Plus, with only 81 gymnastics programs across the country, a strong classroom work ethic can be what sets one recruit apart from another. Coaches also realize that good grades and high test scores are a sign that the recruit is determined, focused and disciplined. The transition from high school to college isn’t always easy, and athletes with strong academics are favorable recruits because they’re more likely to have a successful transition and manage their time well. These character traits are extremely valuable to college coaches.
To land a roster spot on a women’s college gymnastics team, you need to be evaluated by college coaches. Coaches first conduct online evaluations, and once they’ve narrowed down their list of prospects, they conduct second, in-depth evaluations that often take place in-person. Here are the most common ways coaches analyze a recruit’s ability:
Gymnastics camps provide an opportunity to be evaluated by coaches and train among the top recruits in the country. Coaches also evaluate athletes by attending USA Gymnastics competitions. Level 10 is the highest level in the USA Gymnastics Junior Olympics program, and coaches are most interested in recruits who place at competitions within this level. Popular competitions they scout at include:
To successfully get a on a coach’s radar, student-athletes need to create a recruiting video. Plus, as your skills develop, you can update your recruiting video and re-send it to coaches to show them how you’ve progressed each season. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you create your gymnastics recruiting video:
When it comes to gymnastics competitions, college coaches are most interested in the USA Gymnastics Junior Olympics Program. They look for Level 10 gymnasts and specifically scout at these competitions. NCAA skill requirements and scoring guidelines closely match those of Level 10 gymnastics, which is why athletes who place well at these competitions often thrive in a collegiate environment. In fact, almost every college gymnast was once Level 10.
Plus, there are only 81 NCAA colleges with women’s gymnastics in the country, so coaches are extremely selective in their recruiting process. They turn their attention to the top competitions, including state championships, regional championships, J.O. Nationals, and J.O. National Invitational, to find top talent. The most competitive Division 1 programs go after recruits who place well and consistently at these competitions and some coaches may even require that the recruit also competes at an international level.
Club gymnastics play an extremely important role in the gymnastics recruiting process. All college coaches find recruits through the top gymnasium training centers in the country, where gymnasts work with experienced trainers and have access to advanced equipment. While there is also high school gymnastics and AAU gymnastics, college coaches solely recruit through clubs. When figuring out the best gymnastics gym to attend, there are a few things to keep in mind, including:
For student-athletes who don’t pursue an NCAA women’s gymnastics Division 1, Division 2 or Division 3 program, they can also participate in collegiate club gymnastics. To learn more, visit the National Association of Intercollegiate Gymnastics Clubs.
Academics matter just as much as athletics in the gymnastic recruiting process. Coaches prioritize their recruits based on those who have strong grades and high test scores. Simply put: You need more than gymnastics skills to get to the top of a coach’s list. Think about it this way—when a coach is looking at two Level 10 gymnasts with similar scores and experience, they’re always going to pick the student-athlete who has a solid academic background. Students who are determined and focused in the classroom typically perform better in the gym and have an easier college transition. Division 1 gymnastics is a full-time job and coaches want to ensure athletes can manage their time well and balance their schedules. Therefore, your grades are heavily factored in when coaches create their list of top prospects and decide who receives scholarships.
The first step in the recruiting process is one of the most important: research gymnastics colleges and create a target list. If you’re reaching out to coaches at schools that aren’t a good fit, you’re wasting your time—and theirs. To improve your chances of getting on a coach’s radar, you need to identify which schools meet your academic expectations, athletic ability and personal preferences.
Once you have a better idea of the school’s environment and academic requirements and the team’s athletic skills, you can begin building your target list of colleges. To give you a head start, NCSA has compiled a list of the best gymnastics colleges to help student-athletes identify schools that may be a good fit.
After a student-athlete researches schools and builds a realistic target list of colleges, they’re ready to contact college gymnastics coaches. Even though coaches follow contact rules, student-athletes can reach out at any time. In gymnastics recruiting, it’s essential to be proactive and get an online evaluation from college coaches—the earlier, the better. Here are a few steps to take: