The Future of NCAA Men’s Gymnastics

The current state of NCAA Men’s Gymnastics isn’t looking too great. It seems to be a sport that is declining which, is very unfortunate because Men’s Artistic Gymnastics is an Olympic Sport for the United States. Gymnastics is a sport that most people enjoy watching because of the high flying flips and twists gymnasts perform, but what they struggle with is understanding the sport. People enjoy going to college competitions but rarely do they know how the scoring system works or what skills are more difficult than others. Due to some of these confusions, Men’s Gymnastics at the colligate level is not popular or revenue producing compared to other collegiate sports. With a trend like this, NCAA Men’s Gymnastics isn’t going to be around too much longer.

In order to grow the sport in the future, let’s explore some options that can be positive influences towards NCAA Men’s Gymnastics.

More Invitationals/Multiple Team Competitions: Throughout my collegiate career, the competitions that I enjoyed and appreciated the most were the ones that had more than two teams competing. Invitationals are great because there are multiple teams competing at once which, helps create a competitive atmosphere with lots of excitement. The Windy City Invitational is a wonderful competition because of the excitement it brings to each team. It allows each team to start off the season in an intense atmosphere where they can compare themselves to other teams they’ll be competing against throughout the season. The Big Ten Championships are great as well because there are 7 teams competing and the NCAA Championships are even more exciting because there are 12 teams which compete over the span of 2 days (Team Prelims & Team Finals) and then a third day that includes Event Finals. I feel that when there are more teams at a competition it will draw a larger crowd, more people might be willing to go if they know there will be a handful of schools there with some of the best gymnastics college has to offer.

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2014 NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Championships Team Finals (Ann Arbor, MI). I don’t own the rights to this photo.

 

More Junior Olympic Competitions at the same venue and on the same weekend as Collegiate Competitions: Having more Junior Olympic Gymnastics Competitions at the same venue and on the same weekend as a Collegiate Men’s Gymnastics Competition would be very influential on the sport. Since there aren’t many Men’s Collegiate teams left, it is rare for younger gymnasts to get the opportunity to watch Men’s Collegiate Gymnastics competitions. If younger gymnasts had competitions in the same venue and on the same equipment as collegiate gymnasts, then there is a greater chance that they’ll want to watch the college competition that weekend. Having younger gymnasts at these collegiate competitions will also be very inspiring and motivational for them because they’ll be seeing older men compete in a sport that they’re doing as well. It will give the kids motivation to keep working hard because they too can one day be a college gymnast and compete with some of the best male gymnasts in the country. I remember when I was a kid and I would compete at the Whitfield Classic at the University of Michigan and then go watch the Michigan team compete at night. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world and loved going because it was both inspirational and motivational. Those are the types of experiences that keep the sport alive. The Windy City Invitational is like that as well, not only are there Collegiate Teams that compete on Saturday night but there are junior teams that compete throughout the weekend and then go watch the collegiate teams.

Exposure/Awareness: Men’s Collegiate Gymnastics needs more exposure. The best time for men’s gymnastics is every four years, when the Olympic Games are taking place. People across the country watch as the United States of America competes in the Olympics and lots of young children want to become a gymnast and win a gold medal for the USA at the Olympics. This type of experience is what sparks that fire in kids hearts to want to compete in the sport of gymnastics. This is the time when enrollment at Gymnastics Clubs all across the country shoot up for men’s gymnastics. One of the unfortunate things that happens after the Olympics are over and kids have enrolled, is that these young boys realize how difficult the sport truly is and they don’t want to do it anymore. Part of the reason why I think they lose motivation is because they aren’t seeing gymnastics done by older men enough. You see tons of women in the sport and there are tons of Women’s Collegiate teams that people watch but that’s not what younger boys see as motivating. It’s not until the next Olympic Games when they watch Men’s Gymnastics on TV and get inspired again. I feel that if more men’s competitions were shown on TV then there would be a greater chance that these young gymnasts would be inspired and be motivated to stick with the sport. The more boys we have stick with the sport, then the more likely they can go to college and do gymnastics and hopefully it will keep the sport thriving at the collegiate level.

Live Stream/TV Broadcast: Having more live broadcasts of Men’s Collegiate Gymnastics would help with the growth of the sport. As I mentioned earlier, it would help with exposure and it would help keep younger gymnasts motivated if they saw college gymnasts competing more. The Big Ten Network does a pretty good job with this, they try to air many of the Big Ten Men’s Competitions throughout the season and they always air the Big Ten Championships. Because gymnastics is such an interesting sport, I feel that many people will watch it when it’s on TV. Another thing that I have noticed more within the last couple years is the amount of live streaming available for competitions. This has been helpful for teams who have a decent sized fan base, and for families who want to watch their son perform, or just other teams who want to watch their opponents. The more live streamed competitions we have, then the more likely people will probably watch NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Competitions. This year, NCAA.com did pretty well with coverage of the NCAA Championships. They had the team finals covered and individual event finals covered as well. The thing I appreciated most about it was that they had a camera set up at each event and you could watch every single rotation throughout the competition instead of just one person at a time on the event that was being broadcasted. This gives any viewer the ability to see all of the gymnastics that was done throughout those two days of competition.

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A list of full replays and recaps from this years 2015 NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Championships on NCAA.com

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This full replay shows all the teams competing on the Still Rings throughout the Team Finals.

Conclusion: These topics that I covered could definitely help the future of Men’s Gymnastics in the NCAA. I realize that there are a lot more factors that play a role in why the sport isn’t doing too well overall but I don’t feel I have all the knowledge to get into more depth about it. I love this sport and I would love to do what I can to help grow the sport. I hope that the points I’ve made are clear and hopefully they’ll be helpful to some people in the future and to peoples awareness about NCAA Men’s Gymnastics.

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Facebook…a platform for good?

Facebook is a useful social media platform that should be used for “good.” I usually look through my Facebook timeline a couple times a day, it’s natural for me to do so, and each day I find myself thinking about why some people post certain things that seem very negative or share articles containing information that isn’t very reliable. One thing I appreciate most about Facebook is that people can post just about whatever they want, and most of the time people post things that are positive and informative. These two things are what I believe to be some of the initial intentions of Facebook.

Facebook is set up nicely because the user can post articles and information for their friends to see. This is helpful because people can scroll across something on their timeline that they may never have seen before until their friend posted it, therefore allowing them to be more informed about something that could be very serious and important. This social media platform allows people to stay connected and network more easily. It gives people instant access to news and updates on current events going on in their hometown to around the world all the time. I believe it is natural for people to want to inform others of positive news or exciting news that will get folks to start a conversation or take action about something. I also believe that people want to be helpful towards others in whatever ways possible, even if it is through a website such as Facebook and they post something that warns others about a terrible tragedy that has happened or anything of that sort.

A great example of Facebook being used for “good,” is through an informative post that one of my friends posted yesterday about how the University of Michigan had stopped a showing of the movie American Sniper because it offended some people.

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If it weren’t for this post, I may not have seen this headline until the next day or from someone else. Considering it deals with my university I probably would have heard about it either way, but thankfully because of Facebook I was exposed to it earlier and could share the news to others.

Some people do post bad stuff on Facebook and use it in a negative way, but I believe that if the user can identify what’s “good” and what’s “bad” then they can utilize it for the right purposes.

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Sam Mikulak Video Interview

Here is an interview with my former teammate Sam Mikulak. Sam competed for the University of Michigan Men’s Gymnastics Team from 2010-2014. He is a member of the US National Team and competed in the 2012 London Olympic Games.

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Photo Story: The Basics

  Thank you Adrian de los Angeles for being the subject in my photos.

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Slow Motion Recording

Slow motion recording is improving the sport of gymnastics. Technique is a main component of gymnastics and when trying to hone in on certain skills to perfect them it is very helpful to record that skill on video. Better yet, having a camera that captures the skill in slow motion allows for gymnasts and coaches to really critique the skill and know exactly what went wrong so they can fix it. This useful tool has helped gymnasts around the country and around the world not only perfect skills and improve their routines but also push gymnastics to the next level. With the ability to watch a skill in slow motion, a gymnast can see possible changes they can make in order to increase the difficulty of a skill. For instance, on the Floor Exercise if someone is working a back twisting skill like a triple twist, then they can improve that skill by watching it in slow motion to see what they can do differently to make a back twisting 3 and a half.

Having slow motion cameras set up in gyms during practices can be very helpful for gymnasts. Also, having slow motion cameras available on smartphones such as iPhones and Android phones can be useful. Gymnasts and coaches can video record skills and routines throughout practices and get instant feedback by watching the recording. This allows for visual feedback to be much more constructive because the gymnast can see exactly what they’re doing wrong instead of just having to hear it from their coach. The visual aspect helps confirm the coaches feedback to the gymnast, therefore allowing them to make changes without any doubt.

Another useful thing about slow motion recording is that people who are not familiar with the sport of gymnastics can watch a skill in slow motion and get a better understanding for what the gymnast is doing. The skill can be broken down part by part so the person viewing the slow motion video can comprehend how many flips or twists the gymnast has executed.

Below is a video of Japanese gymnast Kohei Uchimura doing a triple twisting double layout off the High Bar. The dismount is put into slow motion at 1:08. Here you will see clearly how many twist and flips he does when releasing himself off of the High Bar.

Here is a slow motion video of myself working a Kaz Full on Vault.

Another slow motion video of myself on the Floor Exercise. The first skill is called an Arabian Double Pike and the second floor pass consists of two skills combined, a front double full punch front 1 and a half. A pass with multiple skills combined is known as a connection pass.

The last slow motion video is myself on the Still Rings. The skills in slow motion are called Yamawaki Tucked & Yamawaki Piked.

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Video Fun: Michigan Men’s Gymnastics

The collaboration of sports and technology is amazing because people can create terrific video montages. With the help of comedy, motivation, and information, video montages can be very entertaining. Throughout my years as a Michigan Wolverine and as a member of the Men’s Gymnastics Team, I have been blessed to be a part of some amazing team accomplishments (2013 & 2014 Big Ten & NCAA Championships). Other components that have added to my action packed experience are all of the goofy, exciting, serious, and unforgettable moments with my teammates. In order to capture many of these moments, our team created some videos (since 2012) to help give people a better idea of our team chemistry.

Below are some videos our team created. Ordered most recent (March 15, 2015) to oldest (February 5, 2012).

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Satirical News Shows…

I rarely watch satirical news shows but for this assignment I watched The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. In last nights segment (02/24/15), Mr. Stewart poked fun at Bill O’Reilly regarding Mother Jones challenging Mr. O’Reilly about claiming to be in a war zone in the Falkland Islands (1982). Also, Mr. Stewart was reported to by Samantha Bee about Vice President Biden’s groping problem. Stewart even talked about VA Secretary McDonald misstating that he was a part of the Special Forces to a homeless Veteran. Lastly, an interview with Lynsey Addario to discuss her photojournalist life and her memoir “It’s What I Do.”

The difference between satirical news and straight news is how the information is presented. Similar videos clips are shown but with satirical news they’ll add some type of effect to add a funny twist to the story. Then, followed up with a funny or sarcastic remark to give the topic more flare. Interviews, I believe are more relaxed on satirical news shows because the guest usually gets some good laughs in during the show.

Satirical news show viewers probably don’t need much knowledge about what’s happening currently because the content of the shows are similar but satirical news is more entertaining. I found myself needing to look up some of the information talked about because I couldn’t tell if the story was being twisted a lot or a little. I do my best to watch the news 4 to 5 times a week and if I happen to see a satirical news show it will make more sense to me what the host is talking about. I give straight news shows more credibility because I watch them more often than satirical news shows. But I do enjoy getting a good laugh out of hearing a satirical news host be overly dramatic.

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Network TV News in the Digital Era

At 8am I turned on the television to the Today show on NBC. First, some introductions of topics talked about live from NYC which, included; Kayla Mueller and her Familys reaction to her boyfriend risking his life for her, contraceptive that women use, Kid Rock there to perform, and Joey Logano who won the Daytona 500 there as a special guest in Today’s Winner’s Circle.

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Joey Logano joined the Today’s Winner’s Circle

 

The show switched to Dylan Dreyer who was aboard the USSCGC Willow on the Hudson River, covered in ice but fortunately the steel hull of the ship could break through the ice  allowing for larger ships to transport whatever cargo they had safely. The next story was about VA Secretary Robert McDonald apologizing for “incorrectly stating” that he had served in the Special Forces, according to him it was a “misstatement.” Then they moved onto another political topic stating that Congress was trying to break a deadlock for the passing of funding a Homeland Security Bill.

The next story reported new findings by CDC Birth Control Report say that women have increased use of long acting implants. A 5 fold increase in the last 10 years. Followed by a short interview with Dr. Natalie Azar, an NBC News Medical Contributor. The next short story was about a first grade teacher in Texas who was giving one of her students (6 year old Matt Parker) her kidney for a kidney transplant. After this, some weather was reported and cold weather covered the country. Even a glimpse weather in Michigan was shown. After all of this, the commercials appeared but even then they showed that Kid Rock was going to perform live at 8:46am and at 8:40am Greg Norman would be on the show.

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These stories are interesting but I noticed how fast the information was reported. Frequently I paused the news and rewinded it so I could get the smaller details. The pace at which they report allows for them to fit in a lot of stories. I believe they go quickly because they’re only on the television for so long and need to give as much information to viewers as possible. Since people can access the internet, there’s no need to give every detail about each story on the air. The order of the stories was fascinating. They start out with some simple inviting introductions, then move on with some political stories that are a little more controversial and negative. To wrap it up before the commercial though, they give an uplifting story to make people feel good about certain things happening in todays society, along with weather reports for smoother transitions.

With the help of technology I see news programs having the benefit of providing all the information on stories in multiple ways through live interviews, videos, photos, debates, reports, and even special stories that give great detail. News programs have an advantage because they’re able to provide stories in ways that truly capture the viewers and hopefully engage them to become more interested in current events.

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The Value of Visual Data in Collegiate Gymnastics

Visual Data has transformed the way collegiate gymnastics is analyzed. Pie graphs, line charts, and bar graphs give gymnasts and coaches the ability to analyze trends of each team and individual gymnast by competition. Road to Nationals is the best and only website that I know of that takes all the results and statistics of each competition and displays it in a visual form.

Road To Nationals: Home Page

Road to Nationals: Home Page

The benefit of seeing competition results on a graph or chart is that negative or positive trends in a team or an individuals performances are salient. This allows for changes to be made by the coaches and gymnasts. If something has been hindering a gymnasts potential to score well and help the team, then the change can be made with more confidence and certainty due to the evidence of the visual data.

Team Consistency Chart: University of Michigan (2015)

Team Consistency Chart: University of Michigan (2015)

Another huge advantage of visual data for collegiate gymnastics is in the way pie charts are used. Team MVP shows how much each individual is contributing to the overall team score. You are able to see how many points a gymnast contributed each competition, each event, and even for the season. The more events you do, then the more points you’ll be contributing to the team. This gives people a sense of how important each individuals scores matter and how they impact the teams success. The Impact Difference Chart is another very useful visual data tool because it shows how much the team would be effected if a certain gymnast on the team didn’t compete on certain events. This chart shows how many points lower the team would score on an event, which gives the team a better understanding and appreciation for how much each member impacts the teams success.

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Team MVP: University of Michigan

 

Impact Difference Chart: University of Michigan

Impact Difference Chart: University of Michigan

Visual data has been very beneficial for collegiate gymnastics because it allows for teams to take notice and keep track of how other teams in the nation are performing. Teams can make sure they are keeping up with the difficulty of the other top ranked teams and see where they need to improve in order to be more competitive with top ranked teams as well. It’s a great advantage seeing other teams scores because it helps teams make sure they are doing the right things in order to come out on top at the end of the season.

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How Media and Technology Have Changed The Sport of Gymnastics

I spent a small amount of time discussing with my teammate, housemate, and team captain Nick Hunter about how media and technology have helped change the sport of gymnastics.

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