Despite seeing happy, excited athletes on competition day, the road to competing in college gymnastics often causes a great deal of anxiety. That’s where recruiting consultants come in. These consultants’ jobs are to educate gymnasts about the process, help them get in touch with college coaches and assist them in making their final decision, often taking care of the necessary documentation.
To get recruited, “everybody knows that they have to be able to do gymnastics and they have to be able to talk to a college coach, but nobody really knows when, how or how often,” Houry Gebeshian, the co-founder of Full Out Collegiate Recruiting, said.
Gebeshian, a collegiate gymnast at Iowa from 2008 to 2011 and a 2016 Olympian for Armenia, started thinking about launching a recruiting company in 2015 when she noticed that young gymnasts at her gym were missing out on opportunities because they didn’t fully understand the recruiting process.
“There was a type of disconnect with what the athletes needed to do and what the expectations of college coaches were,” Gebeshian said. “So I started guiding them while I was training alongside them, and after I retired I was like, ‘You know what, I really enjoy staying involved in the gymnastics community, as well as helping guide these athletes.’”
As a result, in late 2017 Gebeshian and her business partner Wendy Campbell founded Full Out Collegiate Recruiting, whose primary goal is to educate gymnasts about every step of the recruiting process.
If recruiting is complicated for American gymnasts, it is even more so for international athletes, who struggle to understand U.S. collegiate athletic and academic rules, as well as the timing and pace of the recruiting process.
“International gymnasts tend to leave it a little late,” Danusia Francis, the gymnastics advisor for College Sports America, said. “I don’t think they realize how competitive recruiting is, so this is often a challenge, as many teams have given their scholarships away early and international athletes who are extremely talented can lose out.”
Similarly to Gebeshian, Francis, a British-Jamaican gymnast who competed for UCLA from 2013 to 2016, began to advise athletes unofficially about collegiate recruiting the moment she graduated from college, as she had “an amazing time” as a Bruin. Then in 2019, College Sports America, a company that helps international athletes gain athletic scholarships in most American collegiate sports, asked her to come on board as a gymnastics advisor.
“College Sports America was receiving applications from gymnasts,” Francis said. “So they reached out to me to see if I was interested in coming on board as none of the team knew much about gymnastics as a sport.”
Knowledge of and passion for their respective sports are features that all advisors share. At College Sports America, everyone was on a college scholarship or coached a collegiate team in the United States, which is what drove them all to help the next generation.
The three advisors who joined Gebeshian and Campbell to form the current Full Out Collegiate Recruiting team also have a strong relationship with gymnastics and underwent a strict training procedure. “Wendy and I are very proud of our product,” Gebeshian said, noting that the company boasts a 100% placement rate. “We take a lot of time to train our advisors.”
While both companies share the ultimate goal of finding a collegiate home for their clients, their approaches are a bit different.
College Sports America takes care of most of the recruiting process. After athletes have an initial chat with their advisor, the company helps them create a profile on the website, puts them in contact with collegiate coaches and advises them on such technical aspects as the SAT, their VISA application and eligibility rules. If an athlete changes their mind during the process or even decides to transfer during their collegiate career, the company takes care of that, too. “We are there to assist them with everything throughout their college experience,” Francis said.
Full Out Collegiate Recruiting follows a similar pattern, facilitating the recruiting process and even editing gymnastics videos for their clients. Its emphasis, however, is not as much on presenting gymnasts with a ready package as it is on providing them with the necessary knowledge and skills to produce successful applications, which will improve their chances of getting recruited and being awarded an athletic scholarship.
Full Out’s clients take six classes, each of which teaches gymnasts about a specific aspect of the recruiting process. These include which schools to target, when to start reaching out to coaches, what to say in phone calls and how to behave on college visits.
While some information is quite obvious—“If a kid is a level 8, they’re not going to reach out to UCLA,” Gebeshian said—other aspects of the recruiting process are more obscure. For example, while gymnasts are not allowed to talk with college coaches until the end of their sophomore year, they can talk at them, as Gebeshian calls it. That is, they can already start introducing themselves in emails and sending them training videos.
“It looks stressful because there are so many topics,” Gebeshian said of the company’s system. “But what I think makes our company stand out is how structured our program is. We lay out everything you need to do in a step-by-step manner.”
Once gymnasts are educated about the recruiting process, the skills they’ve learned help them build solid relationships with collegiate coaches over emails, phone calls and social media, as well as impress them when they go on college visits.
Gebeshian is convinced that the skills her company teaches are important also because athletes can use them beyond gymnastics. “Teaching our clients life skills is one of our key things,” she said. “And a big life skill is just being able to communicate through phone calls, through emails, on social media—not just hiding behind them—and presenting yourself in an interview. All those things can be translated when you’re out looking for a job or out on a date.”
Ultimately, both companies invest in the recruiting process because they want to fulfill their athletes’ dreams and see them thrive in college and beyond.
For Francis, the best part about her job is seeing her clients’ and their families’ excitement when she presents them with a scholarship, as well as “seeing the gymnasts competing for their teams and having the time of their lives.”
Gebeshian, too, claims that “it warms her heart” to see her clients happy in college, accomplishing their athletic and academic dreams and building relationships inside and outside of the gym.
“I think my favorite part is actually watching the athletes grow through this whole process,” she said. “It’s really amazing to see how [they change] from the time we do the first consultations to their exit meeting, when they are young, mature, almost-adults ready to go into the real world.”
“There’s a lot more to life than gymnastics,” Gebeshian added, “and we really hope to use this recruiting process and to use gymnastics as a platform to allow them to grow.”
Article by Talitha Ilacqua
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