Only a few months removed from the 2012 Summer Olympics, the U.S gymnastics team that dominated in London is still fresh on everyone’s mind. “The Fab Five,” as they were dubbed from spectators and commentators alike, took the world by storm with their all-around team gold medal. The whole world was watching, including the NAU Gymnastics Club.
The NAU Gymnastics Club, established in the spring of 2008, was created by a few students with the intention to continue gymnastics, but who did not want to just take a class at one of the local gyms.
While the gymnastics club may not be on the same level as the Olympians, they are no stranger to competition. The club competes in the NAIGC, the National Association of Intercollegiate Gymnastics Clubs.
The NAIGC was established in 1988. They are a non-profit corporation whose primary purpose is to support collegiate gymnastics clubs in the United States.
While competition is important to all of the athletes at NAU, having fun always comes first.
Yaeren Hernandez, a junior from Rio Rico, Ariz., explained how she has improved from competing.
“My confidence has improved and I have gained unforgettable memories from these competitions,” Hernandez said. I also have learned a lot of new skills that I would have never had before if it was not for the club.”
Most of the girls on different club teams know each other from their high school club teams, so competitions are a chance for them to reconnect while doing something that they still love.
In 2011, they traveled to two competitions, one at the University of California-Davis and the other at the University of California-Berkeley. They placed third and fifth overall at the two events. At UC-Davis, sophomore Ruby Harrison from San Diego placed third on vault and junior Danielle McWilliams from Patterson, Calif., earned fifth on floor.
At UC-Berkeley, Harrison placed third on vault and second on floor, and McWilliams placed third on floor and third on the uneven bars.
There are currently no other club teams in Arizona, so the club mostly competes in California. Competitions are held around the entire U.S., and the club looks to compete in more this year compared to the previous year.
The NAIGC Nationals will be held in Minneapolis from April 11-13, 2013, and the club hopes to send a few standout athletes there.
Being in the club can be a life-changing experience for those involved. Hernandez agreed and said her life would not be the same without gymnastics.
“I would not have made such good friends. Friends change over the years, but the friends I have made in gymnastics have been there since I began,” Hernandez said. “We are like a family, even though we have such different lives, we are always there for each other.”
Club president Michelle Norris, a senior from Sunnyvale, Calif. said there are a lot of mental barriers that you have to get over to perform certain moves or obtain new skills.
“I think for every skill I ever learned in gymnastics I had a mental block before I did it,” Norris said. “What we learn how to do is scary, flipping through the air and having the confidence in ourselves that we will land with our feet on the floor instead of on our face or our back is daunting.”
The club is open to all skill levels, whether you only know how to do a cartwheel or you have competed your entire life. The goal of the club is to learn new skills while at the same time having fun in a relaxed atmosphere.
Norris also agreed a relaxed atmosphere is the ideal situation to practice in.
“For most of us who did gymnastics in high school, practice used to be a stressful situation where you were yelled at by coaches to do skills, conditioning and be flexible. We do not want to be a club like that; we want to have fun doing the sport that we love.”
At the moment the club currently has a lot of people new to the sport of gymnastics, and a lot of girls and guys who have been competing since they were small children.
They encourage anyone who wants to try the sport to come out for at least one practice. If you are interested, they practice at Summit Gymnastics Academy on Fourth Street on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 pm.