Society often provides opportunities for people to compare themselves to one another, and this is especially prevalant in sports. However, the University of Utah women’s gymnastics team feels sports provide women with the ability to empower each other and find joy through both team and individual success.
“In general, I think sport is a great way to empower women,” said co-head coach Megan Marsden. “I think it’s a great way to learn some valuable lessons about life. I actually enjoy that [the] sport is something that really isn’t a sport that many of them will go on to do past their younger years, so it encourages them to learn quite a bit from it and then take those valuable lessons and apply them in some other ways and maybe into another career.”
One of those lessons is that an athlete can be good at the individual level, but become greater when they’re part of a team.
Gymnastics is an individual sport until college and for some, it can be an adjustment. In elite gymnastics, the focus tends to be on personal scores and performance. In college, there is a larger emphasis on team points. They must empower each other to rise.
“College has taught me that, number one, being a part of a team makes achieving a goal so much more exciting,” said senior Maddy Stover. “Being able to be in a girl’s corner and cheering her on and making sure she’s being the best she can be because the better she is, the better our team is. That is the type of mindset you need to have as a college gymnast.”
Even after dealing with multiple injuries throughout her career, junior Kari Lee finds a sense of strength in her sport.
“Just gymnastics in general, you see all the flips, twists and stuff we do, [and] it looks like a lot of glam, glitz and all that jazz, but really, gymnastics is hardcore,” Lee said. “Women should feel mighty and strong when doing gymnastics. … Gymnastics is a strong sport; you have to be very strong to do it.”
Lee likes cheering for others and seeing them succeed, because it challenges her to be her best as an athlete.
“You never know where you’ll end up in life,” Lee said. “I always try to root for one another. Obviously, we want to win, but you want the best for them because when they’re at their best and you can still beat them, that really shows who showed up that night.”
One of the biggest lessons Stover has learned from sports is that her best performance might be totally different from someone else’s, and that is just fine. She is also excited about the future of the sport.
“I’ve seen the good days, I’ve seen the bad days, but I’ve seen the integrity of the sport and the character of the girls it produces as just something that is very reflective of what you’re seeing right now,” Stover said. “Girls are coming together, girls are intelligent, they’re strong and they’re mentally and physically tough, and everyone sees the dedication and passion they bring to the sport.”
Marsden has been around gymnastics as both a gymnast and a coach and the lessons the girls take away from sports is something she loves.
“This is their career right now,” Marsden said. “They will go onto another career, but they’re going to be successful there as well because of much of what they’ve learned in their gymnastic days, and it won’t be the flipping and twisting — it’ll be other valuable lessons in life.”