#1 Athletic Preparation
Start early in your training so that you can achieve a high level 10 or elite status to have the best chance at earning a scholarship. Work hard every day and become a team leader.
#2 Academic Preparation
Your good grades are attractive to college coaches and prove that you will be able to manage the stresses and strains of college competition and maintain your academic eligibility to compete.
#3 Relationship with Your Club Coach
Your club coaches are your greatest ally in your quest for a college scholarship. Develop a respectful relationship with your coaches throughout the years. What do you want them to be able to say about you to college coaches during the recruiting process? What must you do to earn their highest recommendation?
#4 College Research
There are 86 women’s gymnastics teams in the country. 65 are Division I teams and 21 are Division II and III teams. Schools range from large public and private universities to small liberal arts and state colleges. Teams are located on both coasts, in the mountains, the mid-west, south and east, in large cities or small towns. There are highly competitive schools with the pressure to win national titles. There are ranked schools working to move into the NCAA championships on an annual basis. There are schools just building their programs. Research all that University gymnastic programs have to offer. You will likely find a program that is just right for you.
#5 Know What Types of Scholarships are Available
Division I women’s gymnastics is considered a head count sport where each school is allowed to offer twelve scholarships which cannot be divided among team members. Generally, each gymnast is offered a full scholarship which includes room, board, books, fees and tuition. There are exceptions as individual school may have budget constraints which affect scholarship amounts. Ivy League schools are considered Division I schools but do not offer athletic scholarships. Division II schools are allowed to offer partial scholarships and Division III schools do not offer athletic scholarships.
Once you reach Level 9 or 10, keep detailed records of all your scores and individual titles. Track your honors and awards at the local, state, regional and national arenas. Know all of your C or higher level skills in your repertoire and be able to correctly spell them on college applications and questionnaires.
#7 The Recruiting Timeline/NCAA Rules for Recruiting
You become an official prospect for college recruiting in 9th grade.
In 9th and 10th grade train to be a top athlete, earn solid grades in high school and achieve honors at the state, regional and national levels. Visit some schools or attend some of your favorite schools’ summer camps.
Your Junior year is possibly the most important year as most of the recruiting is based on your accomplishments leading up to and through this year. Schools are finally allowed to email and mail to you on a regular basis. While schools are restricted from contacting you by phone until July 1 after your Junior year, you are not restricted from contacting them. Get ready for in-club visits during the summer. Show the coaches your best qualities as a gymnast, a leader, a student and a person. Hopefully, you will be offered the maximum number of official visits and finally that coveted scholarship for fall signing. Sign up for the NCAA Clearinghouse.
If you aren’t offered a scholarship in the fall of 12th grade…don’t give up. For a variety of reasons, great schools still have scholarships in the spring. Express your interest in schools, commit yourself to your sport and pursue a spring signing date. Complete a NCAA Clearinghouse application when you have completed your high school requirements.
#8 The Marketing Process
College coaches can’t recruit you if they don’t know who you are. Did you know that coaches want you to contact them to share your videos, your personality and your successes as an athlete? Visit schools, send pictures and biographies. Seek creative, but tasteful ways to make your athleticism stand out.
#9 Questions Every Gymnast Should Ask
Sometimes during the recruiting process, it feels like the college coaches have all the control. You’re not quite sure what you should ask or what topics are off limits. My advice is to ask every question you can dream up. Ask everything from what the conditioning program is like to what the team does together on travel weekends. Are there walk-ons on the team and does the team offer extended scholarships if you can’t finish your degree in four years. What are the dorms like? Are the gymnasts on the team close friends? How many scholarships are you offering? Think of every possible question and ask it.
#10 Physical Fitness and Your Health
College coaches look for gymnasts who are physically fit. A well-balanced diet and a discipline of fitness and conditioning are vital. Too many young athletes make poor food choices and ignore small injuries that turn into chronic problems. Colleges need healthy athletes who know how to sustain their bodies with appropriate food choices and who take care of themselves.
Each one of these important areas requires more research to understand just what it takes to successfully earn a college scholarship. Prepare yourself and enjoy the journey.
About the Author
Andrea Barnes is the mother of a collegiate scholarship gymnast. She is the author of “The Gymnastics Recruiting Kit” and has provided college gymnastics recruiting guidance and marketing assistance for three years. To contact her, please go to http://www.gymnasticsrecruiting.com.
Editor's Note: Publication of this article is not an endorsement of any recruiting service. Always check with the NCAA or your school's compliance officer for any questions regarding recruiting rules, the latest timelines, or other issues.