Kirsten Peterman Still Involved in College Athletics After Gymnastics Retirement

Kirsten Peterman was one of four Terrapin gymnasts whose final season was cut short due to the onset of the pandemic in 2020 after requiring hand surgery that same year. What she perhaps didn’t know at the time was that years later, she’d still hold an integral role in collegiate athletics. Peterman now works as an academic advisor at LSU with the school’s football players and is one of their biggest fans, often quick to celebrate the on-field and off-field accomplishments of the athletes she works with. 

After checking off competing at the 2014 world championships and 2016 Canadian Olympic trials, competing for the University of Maryland was a career highlight for Peterman—not necessarily isolated moments but the idea of leaving her comfort zone and focusing on her teammates. One of the largest differences between competing elite out of southern Ontario and doing so in a Power Five conference is the introduction of the game-day experience, which pulled her in immediately. “I loved college athletics, just the camaraderie around everything, how big the stages were, the fans—everything. It drew me in since I went and did it myself, so I knew I wanted to stay close to it in some facet,” Peterman said.

Merge the collegiate sports culture, the resources available to Big Ten athletes, and her dedication to mental health, and she had set her sights on working as an academic advisor for athletes. Her master’s research while at Maryland focused on the mental wellbeing of student-athletes during the pandemic, leading her through sports psychology to a seven-month internship in academic advising for the Terps’ golf program and women’s soccer team.


The move from College Park to Baton Rouge came with upgrading from an Optional Practical Training visa to a three-year TN visa. Peterman notes there are only two good times to hire per year (following each semester), and how it can be stressful to think about how to upgrade a visa while having to manage everything else on her plate. She affirms that LSU was helpful in making sure her documents were in order, allowing for a smooth transition into full-time work in the United States. Once settled in, the only hurdle left was the culture shock of moving to the south—she had just grown accustomed to the changes from moving between Ontario and Maryland, only to readjust again from Maryland to Louisiana. One of the biggest differences she notices is in the football culture and expresses that it’s an especially large aspect of life now because many of them are the athletes she works with. “Everything literally stops for a football game,” she said. “That was a big culture shock, but I love it because I’m able to work with those young men and see them achieve so much.” 

The overlap between her athletic career and her current position is sizable, and although not quantifiable, it’s present in how she builds relationships with her athletes. A big part of her job is to relate to her football players, which she does through sharing similar experiences and being forthcoming about how mentally and physically draining sports are. She’s big on weaving mental health into her practice and continually asks her athletes questions like, “What are you going to do for self care tonight?” These reminders help them focus on their sense of self outside of sport and academics, and to Peterman are a big step in addressing the stigma currently surrounding mental health in college athletics. Summed up, “It’s really about building trust and building relationships between you as the advisor and the athletes.”

Somehow when she’s not juggling work commitments and watching her athletes on game days, Peterman is also finding time to stay connected to college gymnastics. “I obviously still follow Maryland,” having formerly contributed commentary for the Big Ten Network. Now in Baton Rouge, she’s also taken in the production that is live SEC gymnastics. She enjoys staying involved in the sport, albeit now from a somewhat outside role. “I don’t feel like you could ever not be involved. Not maybe as involved as I want to be, but I definitely watch all the time.” With her split allegiance between the two institutions, she no longer has a clear favorite team to follow. She’s grateful for her community through Maryland and the team’s coaching staff, and would definitely root for them, but “might have to go with the Maryland shirt and the LSU shoes.” 

If anything, you can take the girl out of gymnastics, but you can’t take gymnastics out of the girl. You may even be able to take the girl out of collegiate sports, except if her name is Kirsten Peterman. 

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Article by Peri Goodman

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