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.
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.
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.