The Kent State gymnastics team is currently ranked No. 12 in the country and is one of the few athletic programs to be ranked nationally at Kent State; however, much of the public and student body do not seem to connect with the sport.
Kent State coach Brice Biggin said a big reason why people may not understand the sport is because it’s not a sport people usually grow up with such as basketball or football.
“Gymnastics is a sport a lot of people don’t get involved with at a young age and then don’t stay with it,” Biggin said.
Senior Christine Abou-Mitri said gymnastics is not a popular sport and doesn’t usually bring in a lot of money, which most people are interested in.
“Our program is different because we are all about tradition, and we’ve been doing things for a long time that hopefully impresses people,” she said.
However, Biggin credits Laing Kennedy, former Director of Athletics, for giving more opportunities to women’s sports in terms of the budget, and Joel Nielsen, current athletic director, seems to be doing the same thing along those lines.
“We enjoy a lot better opportunities and a lot better budgets than we did years ago,” Biggin said. “But as a coach you are always hoping for better.”
Abou-Mitri said people cannot relate to gymnastics because it is different from the typical sports where the players run up-and-down a field or court.
“We are using all parts of our bodies, and we are doing things most people can’t even dream,” Abou-Mitri said. “I think that’s what is interesting.”
Senior Christina Lenny said the fan base has grown, and the student body is more aware of the team than before.
“Gymnastics isn’t as publicized as some of the bigger sports,” Lenny said. “But due to our progression, people are finally taking notice that we have a good program here.”
She also said the team makes Facebook pages promoting all of the upcoming meets, and the girls usually make an announcement in all of their classes as well.
Biggin said visibility of the team and gymnastics in general has improved over the years, and the team has had many successes at the conference and regional levels, which has given the team a pretty good reputation.
“That is one of the things we have been pushing with this year’s team,” Biggin said. “It’s not just about the [Mid-American Conference], it’s what you want to do regionally, and what you want to do nationally.
“With the team being [No. 12] in the country right now, there are people starting to take notice of this program, and we are starting to get some nice things said about it. That is the little start that can sometimes get the ball rolling.”
Contact Tyler Goddard at [email protected]