When she was a child, Maddy Dorbin was reckless. She threw gymnastics skills wherever she was, regardless of the danger, the technique, and the people around her. Always by her side cheering her on and improvising coaching advice, was her brother David.
From a very young age, David—two years her senior—was a major support system for Dorbin. “David and I have always had a competitive relationship, but he is also supportive and helpful,” she said. “[H]e’s taught me numerous life lessons I’ll never forget. For example, he’s helped me be more personable and more comfortable socially.”
Among the most recent advice David’s given Dorbin was guidance about the recruiting process. A freshman high jumper at Western Carolina University, he experienced recruiting first hand, and this summer he was ready to help his little sister commit to her dream school—Florida.
Dorbin’s long journey to Gainesville began in 2020 when she started competing as a level 10. Since then she’s soared to greatness quickly. In 2021, she qualified to her first Nastia Liukin Cup, won the Georgia state and Region 8 all around titles, and tied for gold on floor at her first national championships. The following year, she was crowned national all-around champion.
That all-around victory was the sweetest moment of Dorbin’s career. “I didn’t consider it a big deal until I started receiving praise for it,” Dorbin said. “I was able to fully comprehend everything when my coaches told me how difficult it is to achieve winning the all around at nationals.”
The excellent results—which included one more pair of state and regional all-around titles this season—were the product of years of experience, which allowed Dorbin to translate good practice sessions into good competition time.
This was especially true on vault. “Vault is one of those events where it goes well in practice but doesn’t carry over to meets for me,” she explained. “[F]ortunately, I’ve never experienced mental blocks, but I have experienced some frightening incidents when vaulting. … Although it is stressful, I sometimes need to take a step back and just maintain my composure.”
Thanks to the brilliant results of the two latest seasons, Dorbin entered the recruiting process in June as one of College Gym News’ five-star recruits. Helping her navigate it was her brother David.
“David has helped me so much throughout my recruiting process because he’s been through it and has watched so many other people go through it,” Dorbin said. “He was very knowledgeable about various topics, such as the NCAA conferences and divisions, and how to navigate certain conversations and maintain open communication.”
Despite her brother’s help, when her phone started ringing on June 15 Dorbin felt overwhelmed. Time management was a real struggle. “Being recruited made it a little harder for me to maintain a regular routine while properly spacing out calls and keeping up with practice, work, and school,” she said. “I prefer structure and organization, so being without it was stressful. I eventually found a rhythm after about a week, and it became a great experience from there.”
Dorbin visited three schools—Arkansas, Florida and Utah. She was also planning to pay official visits to Auburn, Clemson and LSU, but after her third visit she realized she’d seen enough. She knew she was going to call Florida home.
“I chose Florida because I felt the most at ease and supported,” she explained. “Early in the recruiting process, I developed a solid connection with the coaches; as a result, when I arrived on campus, I felt like I already knew them. The girls on the team were a major contributing factor. They accepted me immediately and were very genuine. That really made a big difference for me, especially throughout the visit. I definitely felt like I was part of the team during my visit.”
“[In] the end, choosing a school wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t particularly difficult either,” she added. “I loved every single campus I went to. Some had amenities that Florida didn’t have while others did. The people were what really set my choice of Florida apart.”
While her new life as a Florida Gator will not start for another two years, Dorbin already has clear goals in mind for her time in Gainesville. “My personal goals for college are to achieve academic excellence and balance my time between gymnastics and academics,” she said. “I’m hoping that as a student-athlete, I can excel in college because it’s all about personal development. I [also] hope I can contribute to the team immediately with hopes of winning a national championship.”
Article by Talitha Ilacqua