My experience learning about gymnastics scholarships with Jill Hicks
As the old saying goes “knowledge is power” and the more knowledgeable you are about an area, the better positioned you are to take advantage of the opportunities that present itself in the area. The same rules apply to earning a college scholarship, especially with how competitive gymnastics is. If you have read my previous blog titled Why Most Athletes Miss Their Goals you will know I am all about being as knowledgeable as possible. Being a track coach I have come to believe that many athletes miss out on scholarship opportunities merely because they are not knowledgeable enough about the process and the politics that go with it. Track and gymnastics are very similar in that both generate very little revenue when compared to other sports. At the college level with football being the dominant sport both track and gymnastics scholarships are competitive because there a very few available. Knowing that I knew very little about gymnastics and questioned the accuracy of the information that I did know. I knew I needed to get educated by someone who understood gymnastics at a more detailed level and that is how Jills Hicks Consulting came into the picture.
This past summer I took the opportunity to reach out to Jill. The goal was to use this Jill and her company to help educate me as well as other parents within our gym about the process for earning a college scholarship in gymnastics. Being a track coach initially I reached out to the usual suspects like NSCA, but to my surprise, they didn’t offer much by way of consultation for gymnastics. While searching the web, I stumbled upon the Jill Hicks Consulting company. After talking to Jill Hicks and researching her background, I knew she would be the person to provide us the information we needed. For those not familiar with Jill Hicks she is a former college gymnastics coach and continuously featured blogger on flogymnastics.com. Although her company supports various sports, she seems to have carved out a niche in collegiate gymnastics due to her previous experience as a college coach.
For the remainder of this blog, I will talk about my experience with the conference call and some of the high-level things parents learned from the conference call. Unfortunately, I won’t be giving away too much of the juicy details of the call with her because after all, we did pay a pretty penny for her services.
The call we had with Jill lasted approximately two hours. 1.5 hours was allocated to a PowerPoint presentation provided by Jill and the last half hour she dedicated to answering questions from parents. During the meeting, Jill went over a considerable amount of information. Most of her information revolved around gymnasts at Level 8 or higher.
40 is great, but 38.5 is a realistic target
That’s right! You read it right, 38.5 is the score most colleges want you to have completing Level 10. Given that score, it is understandable to see why athletes repeat level 10 multiple times. Jill didn’t go into a lot of detail of how the score or 38.5 needed to be comprised or if all events were weighted equally. That information is probably provided if you sign up for her service. Looking at it as a coach and from a physiological perspective, I would think that there would be a priority placed on bars and vault based on the power requirements for those events. Power is a quality that can’t necessarily be taught, but that is just my opinion.
Find competitive meets in your area.
Okay, I have to admit when Jill told us that traveling all around the country trying to find competitive meets wasn’t necessary my wife’s heart broke but my wallet was like “thank you, Lord.” Jill informed the parents just to seek out competitive meets in our area and ensure the athletes performed well in those meets.
Being a booster club board member, we often assist coaches with setting the competition schedule, and it is good to know that outside of giving the girls the joy of traveling and staying at hotels we need to just focus on ensuring we are doing competitive meets.
Skipping levels is “okay” provided you show proficiency in the current level
With gymnastics being a sport that is driven so heavily by age it is not uncommon to see parents especially those of older athletes wanting to skip levels. Although Jill wasn’t necessarily opposed to that idea, she did place the caveat that athletes should only skip when they have proven proficiency in the current levels skills. My follow-up question was how does she define proficiency, and her response was consistently scoring a 38.5
Colleges don’t want athletes with a lot of wear-and-tear
Gymnastics is a tough sport and the training hours alone does a lot of damage to an athletes body. The training coupled with how early athletes start the sport of gymnastics it is easy to see how wear and tear could be a primary concern for college coaches. Jill stressed that preserving an athletes body was the utmost importance for long-term success. Scoring and skills are essential, but with so few college scholarships available on a college team a coach having an athlete on scholarship with recurring injuries is not a smart investment.
Make your gymnast accessible to college coaches
Based on data provided by statista.com there were almost 20 thousand high school gymnasts in 2016 and 2017. Also, based on data provided by www.scholarshipstats.com the number of scholarships available at D1 schools is twelve, and D2 schools are 6. Given that there are only approximately 85 schools that off scholarships making your gymnast accessible to colleges if critically important. There are a variety of ways to accomplish this through social media, camps, and websites but the key is to ensure your gymnasts can be seen by the college they want to attend.
Finally, I think the conference call with Jill Hicks was invaluable as a parent. My daughter is eight years old and at the time of this writing in Level 6 so a lot of what Jill said will not be applicable for several years. Although I am currently unable to act on much of her recommendations, it did provide me with a game plan on some of the moves I should make moving forward. Someone should never discount the value of information. Many of the parents who attended the conference no longer view gymnastics within the confines of how their gymnast did in a particular meet but more from a “is she trending the right way” from a scoring perspective.
To learn more about Jill and her company, please visit http://www.jhicksconsulting.com/