A graphic reading A Day in Life of a College Gymnast: Season Wrap-up

A Day in the Life of a College Gymnast: Season Wrap-up

To say this was an exciting 2024 season is such an understatement! 

All of the work you put in throughout the year to get you where you want at the end starts the day you step on campus for preseason and doesn’t end until the last routine of your last competition. And then suddenly, it’s all done. It is truly such an odd feeling. Every day, you have a set schedule, you see the same people, you do relatively the same thing, and then, suddenly, you have all the time in the world. And it is super hard to fill this absence. 

For this day in the life, I’ll be sharing my experience with the ending of season, the transition into post-postseason, and what this time looks like moving forward. Along with how I navigated this, I got the opportunity to speak with two athletes at North Carolina: Julia Knower, who is going into her senior season, as well as Camryn Rueda, who is coming off her first year. 

Although there are many highs and exciting moments throughout the season, this three to four month span is incredibly exhausting. “Gymnastics is one of the hardest sports physically, but also the most demanding mentally,” shared Knower who is coming off her third season as an all-arounder. Competing at this level each week presents hidden challenges and a continuous learning curve. Fortunately, it’s not something you have to do alone.

“I lean on my teammates the most, the more I lean on [them], the better my results are. If I get in my head about competing all-around week in and week out, it can seem like the season goes on for a really long time,” said Knower. “I can’t take the credit when it comes to being mentally tough … it’s not just me. … It comes from the support of my teammates, and the unwavering confidence my coaches have in me that I can go out every weekend and perform.”

At the end of the season, there is a mandated ten-day period you have to be out of the gym following the conclusion of competition. After these ten days, you can start going back into the gym for practices, lifts, etc. Regardless of when your season ends, this break is so needed. This is the first time you’ve truly been given off since you came onto campus, so the opportunity to take a step back, reflect, and regroup is so important. 

Rueda, coming off her first season competing for North Carolina, shared, “This time away is really beneficial. It’s nice to be able to give your body and mind a break and get back on track and onto a schedule. For me, this break is what drove me to get back into the gym; to learn new things, and to be able to be with my teammates again.” 

Doing the sport you love should give you so much joy, and when there is no more pressure after such an intense couple of months, you can finally embrace this feeling again, and go into the offseason with a refreshed perspective. Along with taking the time to reflect on your own, you also have the opportunity to do this with the coaching staff. Typically, there are end-of-year meetings where you look at what you did this past season, and what you hope to do in the next. “The coaches will help you navigate that journey of what you want the next year to look like,” explained Knower on what coming back into the gym entails. “We focus a lot on the basics when we come in after this break, building the [foundation] for next season. We make the decisions on what we should pay more attention to moving forward. … The talent [for our team] is there, it’s just honing in on all those little things.” 

Returning to basics is a great strategy to start preparing for the next year. You not only get the chance to correct problem areas, but you also get to play with new skills you want to add in the coming year. “[I am taking this time to really] perfect my basics and continue to learn and build on the skills I already have,” said Rueda about what she hopes to accomplish in her first collegiate offseason. 

Knower, coming into her last season as a Tarheel shared this sentiment, making not only goals for upgraded skill, but also leadership goals for her final year. “[One of my personal goals] is to be able to consistently compete my 10.0 vault … and I want to be able to do that for my team. I would love to be leading in that way, and show that even though I am a senior and I am the oldest, there is always room for growth and improvement.” 

When all is said and done, the season goes by way too quickly, and at the end, there is this desire to get back out and prove what you can do. “[We are] going into next year with the attitude of unfinished business,” says Knower about the team’s first season competing in the ACC. “We have more to show, more to prove and are working toward peaking at the right time.” Both Knower and Rueda expressed how proud they are of the team for overcoming challenges and adversity throughout the 2024 season, but both know they have so much more to give. “Being able to compete for Carolina has been a blessing,” said Rueda. “We learned a lot this season… and [heading into next] we just really want to pick up where we finished.” 

Being able to reflect on the journey is one of the most important parts of growth in this sport. Allowing yourself to be proud of all you did, the work, time and effort you put in is truly remarkable and should be acknowledged. “Your body goes through so much wear and tear throughout the year, …. [but] I am extremely proud of the progress this team has made, continuing to build from January to March each week,” Knower said. 

Actually giving yourself time to be proud of all you accomplished, healing physically and mentally from the season is so essential to having a productive offseason and summer leading into the next year, which is what I will be getting into next time around! 

READ THIS NEXT: Looking Back at the Highs and Lows of the 2024 Season

Article by Julianna Roland

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