New UGA Coach: Courtney Kupets Carter

If you follow gymnastics, I am sure the name Courtney Kupets rings a bell! 2003 World Team member, 2004 Olympic champion, University of Georgia four time NCAA champion…..need I continue?

Courtney Kupets Carter has been recently named the head coach of the University of Georgia gymnastics team. The Georgia Gym Dogs were ranked 12th in the NCAA 2017 rankings, finishing with a season high of a 197.325. With Kupets’ nine individual NCAA honors from her time as a Gym Dog, she certainly has what it takes to get the team back on top.

Photo Credits:

“First of all, I know I have the knowledge about gymnastics,” Kupets said in a press conference interview at UGA. “I have the college experience. I have the passion and the drive … More than anything else, those factors will help motivate, bring out the best in your athletes on the floor.”

Kupets’ first move as head coach was to hire Suzanne Yoculan as the volunteer coach. Yoculan made the program as powerful as it was before retiring in 2009. Kupets feels she will be the best assistant possible to get the Gym Dogs to the level they used to be at.

Kupets will be replacing Danna Durante, who was not asked to return for the upcoming season. Durante held the position of head coach for five years.

Kupets turned heads in Athens, Greece at the 2004 Olympics, and the gymnastics community cannot wait to see what she will bring to Athens, Georgia as she makes her triumphant return to UGA Gymnastics!



The First Year Experience: Ally Wesoly

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” ~Seneca

Although the first year on a college gymnastics team can be nerve-wracking, gymnasts like Towson’s own Ally Wesoly, prove that a fresh beginning may be just the change you need.

“This year was super challenging in the sense that I had to adapt to a new team, a new gym, new coaches, and basically a new life,” Wesoly said in an email interview. “It has opened up my eyes on how rewarding it can be to be a student athlete and have the opportunities that we have. It’s been exciting, memorable, and exhausting but I think most of all this was a huge learning year for me.”

Ally was surprised at how nervous she was to compete in her first collegiate meet. Competing is her favorite part about gymnastics, and she said she was excited to get back on the floor again. “My adrenaline was so high just because college gymnastics is so different than club (gymnastics),” Wesoly said.

The Towson University Gymnastics program has exceeded Ally’s expectations. She found herself striving to get better as the year went on, which was not a feeling she was used to having on her club team. Wesoly considers her new coaches “incredible” and their support pushes Ally to push towards her fullest potential. Wesoly describes it as “a ripple effect of support in the gym.”

When asked about the hardest part of competing at away meets, Wesoly responded: “competing at someone else’s home competition because we don’t have the huge crowd we normally would behind us so the energy is not as high, which then brings on the challenge of our team picking up and maintaining our own energy.”

When the team goes to a bigger, more popular school, Ally’s coaches tell them to ‘stay in your bubble. This visual allows the gymnasts to keep their focus and energy on themselves.

For any high school gymnast out there interested in collegiate gymnastics, Ally would tell you to, “Do it. Just do it. You get incredible opportunities to travel around the country with a group of girls that becomes your family. You make memories that will stay with you for forever and it is a great way to represent your school.”

Ally has learned so much about herself, as well as enhanced her physical and mental abilities. She considers her first year experience hard but rewarding.  She can’t wait for all that is in store for her future years as a Towson tiger.

Difference between Collegiate and Olympic Gymnastics

So you have followed all of the collegiate gymnastics teams on their journeys to the NCAA Nationals…but did you ever wonder what sets Olympic gymnasts apart from college gymnasts?

The Team: College gymnastics is ALL about getting decked out in your team colors and representing your entire school. Your teammates become your best friends, and many of them end up rooming together throughout their college years. There’s nothing like having a roommate that also has to wake up at 5:30am for practice! When training for the Olympics, however, you are all on your own. Sure, the Olympics is technically a team sport, where four women will represent the USA. However, the journey to get to that position is all about flying solo. It is you and your coach getting you prepared for the world of the elite.

The Training: Since elite gymnasts train individually with their coaches, they got a lot more one on one time for corrections. Collegiate athletes unfortunately do not receive as much of this because the coaches have to focus on 20 girls, not just one at a time. Olympic-ready gymnasts train routine after routine every single day. College gymnasts may run their routines a few times, and move onto the next one. Almost all elite athletes who hope to make the US team compete in all four events for a greater chance of impressing the national coordinators. Collegiate gymnasts tend to specialize on certain events and not compete on others. There are only a few girls per team that are allowed to compete in the all around (or on all four events).

Photo By: ABC News

The Time Commitment: College gymnasts typically have practice 20 hours a week. Elite gymnasts commit their entire lives to the sport. Most elite gymnasts are home schooled from a very early age to be able to spend the most amount of time they can at the gym. Typically, elites have practice early in the morning, take a break for school work, practice again in the afternoon….and get home just in time to take a shower and go to bed. In Romania, the elite gymnasts who are training for the Olympics stay bunked together in dorms. They wake up at the same time and complete the same amount of training and schoolwork together. Talk about team bonding!

Photo By: NBC Olympics

Well there you have it, folks! Two completely different ways of competing, but two wonderful ways of competing. You should start thinking realistically about what kind of gymnastics future you strive for to make your preparation more focused on your ultimate dreams in this sport.




Which NCAA Division Fits Your Skill Set?

You have an interest in competing in collegiate gymnastics, but how do you know which school is the best for you? This primarily depends on your skill level. The higher the skill set, the more likely you are to be recruited for a Division One school, where as the lower the skill set, the more likely you are to be recruited for a Division Three school. Let’s break it down.

ursinDivision Three: Although D3 is considered competitive, this division strives to have successful athletes who involve themselves in academics and other clubs around campus. Gymnasts competing at this level do not have to dedicate their entire lives to the sport, but aim to be well-rounded. Not many difficult skills are thrown during gymnastics routines, including uneven bar release moves, combination sets on the balance beam, or more than 2 tumbling runs on the floor exercise. You will see significantly less difficulty, twists, and flips in colleges like Ursinus. A team like this will typically score a 189 in the NCAA rankings.

scsuDivision Two: D2 is considered the middle range: athletes are more dedicated to practice times and preparations for meets than D3 athletes typically are. More money goes into the funding for the gymnastics team, and more practice hours are allotted in the gym. Slightly more difficult skills can be viewed from a college like Southern Connecticut State University. Landings are cleaner, more risk is taken, and there is less help from coaches on the floor during the competitions as far as spotting is concerned. 192 is the average score for a D2 team to receive.

uclaDivision One: The most competitive and time consuming D1 presents challenges to athletes across the nation. While it is extremely rewarding to receive the highest budget from school athletic programs and higher chances of generous scholarships, D1 athletes pour their hearts and souls into the sport. The highest level of difficulty is performed by teams like UCLA, with crisp, stuck landings, maximum consistency, and D/E skill elements (the most advance). Teams can bring scores around the 197 range in the rankings.

It should not be assumed that a D3 athlete is worse than a D1 athlete. Although their level of difficulty might not be as high, perhaps that D3 athlete did not want to dedicate 25+ hours a week to gymnastics during their college years. They could have picked up an injury along the way that prohibits them from throwing D1 skills. There are advantages and disadvantages to competing at each division level, but picking the right one for what you are capable of physically and mentally will be the most important decision you will have to make when recruiting for college gymnastics.

Learning the Recruitment Process with Emerson Hurst

The process of getting recruited to compete on a collegiate gymnastics team isn’t the easiest, but the result is well worth it! 1,418 women competed in NCAA gymnastics in 2015, covering 82 institutions.

Across the United States (and even abroad), coaches prepare interested high school gymnasts for the NCAA recruiting process. It is crucial for you to keep your grades up in high school to make a better impression on the university itself. NCAA athletes are eligible to obtain thousands of dollars worth of scholarships, so the higher your grades are, the better.

One high school gymnast that has recently been through this recruiting process is Emerson Hurst. Emerson is a level 10 gymnast training at Starlight Gymnastics in Jacksonville, Florida.  She began gymnastics at the age of four, and her love for the sport has continued, as shown through her 27.5-hours-a-week training in gymnastics and ballet classes! Although she is only a junior in high school, she has already obtained a full ride to Towson University to be on their gymnastics team.

The steps Emerson had to take during recruitment:

When Emerson first began her recruitment process, she emailed videos in attempts of getting interest from anyone. She narrowed down her list to her top schools and would call them during the week, email them videos, and keep them updated with her website. She kept a spreadsheet with the coaches’ names and numbers to check off when she sent them meet results to avoid double emailing. When September rolled around, coaches started to email her back, which made it a lot easier for her to narrow her list further. A couple of coaches came to watch Emerson practice, which led to her final choice: Towson.

Who helped Emerson the most during her recruiting process:

There are a ton of rules in gymnastics. Emerson could text or email college coaches, but the coaches were not allowed to answer until September 1st of her junior year. Emerson’s club coaches were her biggest source of help when trying to communicate between colleges. They filmed video footage of her when she perfected more difficult skills, in hopes of further impressing the collegiate coaches. Emerson’s mom, Diane, also had a big in role in helping Emerson write emails, make phone calls, and drive her to camps for training.

What Emerson is most looking forward to about joining the Towson Gymnastics team:

Although Emerson is on a level 10 club team currently, it mainly focuses on individual scores. She is most excited about gymnastics becoming more of a team sport with all of the girls working together to accomplish the same goal. She is also thrilled to work with the head coach, Vicki Chliszczyk May. She is very supportive and encouraging, which will be helpful when Emerson is adjusting to the new environment.

Emerson says the recruiting process is long, but so rewarding. She encourages high school gymnasts to stick to their passion because their hard work will eventually pay off!


What to Expect at a College Gymnastics Meet

For all the high school gymnasts out there who are wondering how college competitions work, I’ve got the answers for you. While I may not be a gymnast myself anymore, I am the Towson Gymnastics Commentator so I know a thing or two about NCAA gymnastics meets!

First of all, we have the set up.  While every college is altered in how they set up their arena, there is a basic layout for all four apparatuses: vault, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor exercise. Each apparatus is lifted up onto a platform or podium in larger arenas, or they could be simply placed on the ground in smaller arenas. Hundreds or thousands of people pack into the stands with team colors on, pom poms waving in the air, and of course, the all important “perfect 10!” signs.

Right before the competition begins, the home team is announced. It is truly an experience like no other. The arena goes dark, and the spotlights come on. In height order, each member of the team is called out while their pictures are displayed on the Megatron. The fans go wild cheering for their favorite gymnasts, and it is a great way for the whole team to pump up before the meet. There is also an highlight video played in the beginning to introduce the team’s best skills. I believe the theory of the ‘home field advantage’ definitely weighs in during collegiate meets!

The main difference you can expect out of a college meet is the fact you are on a team with a TON of school pride. You will no longer be competing for individual honors, rather in effort to raise the entire team’s score. The energy flowing throughout a team during a meet is exuberant.

Here’s 5 tips to remember during your first meet:

  • After every girl competes on each event, the entire team must high five the performer to congratulate them on their performance.
  • The home team always competes in Olympic order: vault, bars, beam, floor.
  • All of the gymnasts have an autograph signing session after every meet where they get to see their families and meet their biggest fans.
  • Not only will you have to wear the team leotards, but you also have to place a small, temporary tattoo next to your eye to support your school mascot.
  • If you score a 9.7 or above, or you stick your landing on your dismount, you get to throw a t-shirt to the crowd!

Think you’ve got the basics? Put your skills to the test!