When senior Maddy Stover of the University of Utah gymnastics team was a freshman, she attended Student-Athlete Advisory Committee meetings (SAAC). The following year she served as the vice president, this past year she was co-president and this year she is the president. Her leadership skills, ability to make friends easily and the way she is able to include people helps her not only in gymnastics, but outside of the sport.
“In college, one of the main things I’ve tried to do is see other aspects of my life that I could get involved in and create an identity outside of my sport because I know, especially for gymnasts in four years, this is the pinnacle, this is the end all be all of our career,” Stover said. “Most people don’t go on, there are the occasional ones that do, but for us we don’t go up on a balance beam when we’re 30 years old and flip around.”
Growing up, Stover was shy, but she discovered who she is through gymnastics. She knew she was good at tumbling and performing on the balance beam so she pursued the sport that helped her feel confident. But not every athlete always feels that way. During her time at Utah, the All-American gymnast has watched her friends and teammates struggle with different challenges — both mental and physical. Stover has tried to use her talents to help them along the way.
“Athletes are extremely mentally tough, it doesn’t matter what sport you do,” Stover said. “So a lot of the time you can’t see that they’re struggling, and they’re going to hide their struggling because that’s how we’ve coped to get through our sports and push through things.”
Co-head coach Megan Marsden has been coaching at Utah since 1985. Based off of her experiences, she knows how much work goes into being a successful gymnast who can overcome challenges.
“I think that they would be amazed in all that goes into it,” Marsden said. “Start with climbing a rope without your legs. It would start right there with some of the physicality of this sport. Just what they fit in a days time and how they are so directed in all aspects of their life to reach a high level. It carries over, that perfect 10, it carries over. They’re trying to be perfect in all aspects of their lives and it is the best of what gymnasts are, and once in a while it can be the worst too, when they don’t cut themselves any slack.”
Stover, who plans to stay involved with college athletics even after her time of being a collegiate athlete is over, knows the importance of schools giving student-athletes the necessary tools to help them succeed in their sport and outside of it.
“It’s a big topic that really needs to be touched on and given more attention to, not only by individual institutions, schools, coaches, NCAA; and I know it is since I’ve been involved in a lot of administration work,” Stover said. “Our school is at the forefront with our wellness team. We have a sports psychologist, we have a normal psychologist, we have a nutrition specialist. We have every kind of wellness-oriented specialist at our school for us to utilize outside of our four walls that we train in.”