When you think about your college and the sports teams that are on campus, what are the first ones that come to mind? Football? Basketball? Hockey? These are the popular sports – the common and well known teams that continuously gain the support of college students. But what about all the smaller teams that also need the support of their student body?
When I say these teams are smaller, I don’t mean smaller in size – I mean smaller in recognition. Gymnastics is without a doubt one of these sports – a sport that is commonly looked down upon in college athletics. Most students probably aren’t even sure if their college has a gymnastics team. While in some cases gymnastics may be a club or intramural team, it’s still a group of people that would like the support of their friends and school community.
When you attend a gymnastics meet, you sit down and immediately see a variety of objects spread out across the gym. From beams, bars, vaults, and floor mats – it can be difficult to take in. Most people, including myself, wonder how this could possibly be entertaining. Others may even speculate whether gymnastics is even a real sport, asking “how can it be a sport if you’re only moving around for a brief period of time during a routine?” But regardless of the questions you may ask, one thing remains certain – the absolutely incredible amount of stamina it takes to complete just one of those routines.
The people watching don’t understand the amount of training and courage it takes to complete a routine. Not only is this sport physically demanding – destroying your body little by little – it is mentally demanding as well. You have to prepare yourself every time you step out on the floor in order to get yourself through the routine. You hope that you don’t fall and you pray that you stick every landing without hurting yourself.
The most upsetting part about the unrecognized teams is that some of them are so good at what they do that they win championships. They win awards and get recognition for it, but not the same amount that the more popular sports, such as football may get.
Because football is the “American” sport, people are brought up to love it. People look forward to the start of the football season and speculating games on a week-by-week basis. It’s an all-time favorite sport that gains the admiration and support of entire communities. But other sports such as gymnastics, don’t receive the same benefits.
However, there is a time when gymnastics becomes one of the most popular sports to watch. A time when many underappreciated sports receive some much need attention; the Olympics. It’s incredible to see the world’s best gymnasts perform – throwing their bodies around and somehow managing to make it look completely effortless.
For the few weeks that the Olympics are on, gymnastics and other unrecognized sports gain fans from all over the world. By witnessing athletes achieve the impossible, people begin to appreciate these “smaller” sports. But once the Olympics are over, these people forget all about it and move on with their lives. While they could continue this interest by attending their school’s gymnastics meets and supporting their team, they choose to forget about it all together until 4 years down the road when the Olympics come on again.
These gymnasts feel under-appreciated and would love nothing more than to see packed seats filled with their peers. I’m sure they love having their families there, but there’s something special about reaching out and touching the lives of people that genuinely want to watch and show their support. It’s a simple love that all athletes desire. It would be great to see these sports get the attention that they deserve – because in reality, they are just as much fun to watch as football.
*Section Photo credit to John Kelley; Featured Photo (above) credit to University of Alabama, Media Relations