What Is an SID and Why Should You Care?

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and the same is true for successfully running an NCAA gymnastics team. One of the most important behind-the-scenes roles is that of the sports information director. SIDs are the consummate utility players, serving as statisticians and meet organizers in addition to managing the team’s press and public image.  

“We’re mainly responsible for the promotion of teams,” said Lindsey Morrison, who served as SID for the top-ranked Oklahoma Sooners for the past five years. “We’re that media relations piece of [the program], constantly reaching out to pitch stories or having media come to us and say, ‘Hey, we’d love to write a story,’ and then connecting them with coaches, athletes, trainers or whoever it is that needs to be interviewed.”

Morrison’s tenure in Norman coincided with the college career of one of the biggest names in the sport’s history, Maggie Nichols. “It was tough for me being thrown in right away and having to handle a major, high-profile athlete, but that was how I learned that I need to protect my athletes and I need to be their advocate as well,’” Morrison said. “I was so protective of my girls in interview situations, and I never wanted to post anything that could harm them or that would make them feel uncomfortable or too vulnerable.”

Second-year Missouri SID Emma Donnelly echoes just how crucial the online element of the job has become in recent years, having turned to social media to learn about the sport she would be overseeing. “My first experience ever working with a gymnastics team was last September. I followed a lot of the main people in the gymternet on my personal Twitter. It was just like, ‘Wow, this is addictive!’ You do get immersed in it,” Donnelly said. “Jumping into gymnastics, that was out of my comfort zone. I had to do a little more research into it, and I think I fell in love with it that way.”

Missouri head coach stresses the importance of having an SID that not only knows the sport but is a fan as well.

“If they’re a fan of your sport, they’re going to do it even better,” Welker said. “They’re going to understand what we’re up against because it is a competition. We’ve got to be able to compete with the other schools that we’re trying to beat out for recruits, and SIDs are a pivotal part of that.” 

Welker and the Tigers are coming off of a record-breaking 2022 season, culminating in a top five finish at the NCAA championships, and he’s quick to acknowledge the role Donnelly plays in building on that momentum. “I don’t even know where to start to write her job description anymore… We sit down every week and talk about what we have coming up, content planning and just kind of big picture stuff. Along with coordinating all the people that go into those things, she’s responsible for pushing all of that stuff out the door,” Welker said. “People in those positions don’t always get the recognition they probably deserve.”  

Even with a year and a half of experience now under her belt, Donnelly is still looking to the gymternet for ways to raise the program’s profile and grow its fanbase. “I look around and see this is what [fans] are excited about. This is what gets their attention. This is what’s doing well for other teams. So let’s see… How can we play off of that with our own team voice?” 

One thing that all gym fans can universally agree on? Wanting to see more coverage. Taking a cue from the gymternet, Donnelly made a point of providing a high-quality stream of the team’s Black and Gold intrasquad this preseason.

“I saw the interest of people wanting to see this thing and thought, ‘It’s so silly not to have this livestream [that’s] easily accessible. Why are we not doing that?’ It’s still on our main feed right now.”

She’s also well aware that the gymternet can be fickle. “It’s hard to make every single person happy, but we’re doing the best we can. There are sometimes reasons why we don’t or even can’t show certain things behind the scenes.”

Morrison agrees, saying, “It’s easy to attack the person running the account and say, ‘Oh, they shouldn’t have posted this,’ or ‘Why did they post this?’ or ‘Why aren’t they posting enough?’ I wish people understood that there’s a person behind the account writing recaps and previews, researching stats, having meetings with coaches, watching practice—not just running Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.”

Whatever the challenges—online or off—that come with the job, both Donnelly and Morrison agree that the relationships make it worthwhile. “It’s amazing. They make me feel so loved every time I walk into the gym, just the sweetest group of girls,” Donnelly said. “And then seeing them fulfill their dreams is so rewarding to me. Being able to have a small part in that is awesome.” 

Morrison and Oklahoma head coach KJ Kindler knew heading into the 2022 NCAA championships that it would be her final competition with the Sooners, and the team sent her off in style. “I was like whatever happens happens. When we were in fourth, I was like, ‘It’s OK. Your goal was to be a national championship SID, and you’ve done it.’ But then we came back [and won], and I was like, ‘This is amazing!’ I’m literally on TV crying, just sobbing.”

Though she’s transitioned to a new career, Morrison is still in close contact with past and present Sooner staff and gymnasts. She’ll be assisting with scorekeeping at Oklahoma home meets in 2023 and has even asked Nichols to be a bridesmaid in her upcoming wedding.

“I haven’t met a gym SID yet who didn’t care about their team. We’re their biggest fans, and we’re trying to do the best we can to make everyone their biggest fans. We want to show everyone why these teams are so important to us,” Morrison said. “You truly become a part of their little gymnastics family, and it’s really, really awesome.”

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Article by Claire Billman 

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