BRISTOL, Tenn. – Last weekend, King University acrobatics & tumbling coach Amber King and athlete Amanda Smith got the opportunity to travel to the U.S. Olympic Training facility in Huntsville, Texas to attend a training session for the sport. The duo, along with coaches and athletes from other National Collegiate Acrobatics & Tumbling Association (NCATA) member institutions, attended the event. The event was hosted by USAGymnastics at the Karolyi Ranch.
Acrobatics & tumbling athletes come from a variety of different backgrounds, including artistic gymnastics, trampoline and tumbling, acrobatic gymnastics, competitive cheer, and even swimming and diving. Like many other acrobatics & tumbling coaches, King will continue to recruit athletes with wide-ranging backgrounds as the sport grows from infancy. As feeder programs develop over the coming years, athletes with a background specifically in acrobatics & tumbling competition will begin to make their way onto collegiate rosters.
Earlier this summer, USA Gymnastics announced that the acrobatics & tumbling discipline would be placed under its Gymnastics for all program, an organization that provides opportunities for competition and performance for participants of all ages. Gymnastics for All will serve as a feeder program for collegiate acrobatics & tumbling, allowing athletes to participate in the sport through high school with very similar rules to prepare them for intercollegiate competition
Head coach Amber King was the only collegiate coach in attendance that brought an athlete to the event. "Amanda [Smith] was the only acrobatics & tumbling athlete there," said King. "So being the only athlete there, she was very hands on. She did all of the workouts with everybody, but there were a lot of coaches and instructors teaching tumbling progressions. There were classes with tumbling progressions, acrobatics, toss, pyramids, jumps and everything. She was in every single session doing the tumbling, doing the warm ups, doing handstands, all of it. That was really good experience for her."
As the only participant experiencing the weekend from a college acrobatics & tumbling athlete's perspective, Smith hopes to be one of the sport's top athletes when the season begins in February.
"I got to see the coach's point of view and an athlete's point of view because I got to do both," said Smith. "I got to sit in the meetings with the coaches and listen, and then I got to be hands on with the girls tumbling. What I really liked about it was compared to what I'm used to, the coaches all sat in a room and talked about, how we can make this bigger. What can we do to help grow the sport?"
One of the biggest takeaways from the weekend at the Karolyi Ranch for King was being able to teach acrobatics & tumbling to athletes of all ages.
"On the final day, the gymnastics for all athletes were put into groups and each group performed a little mock acrobatics & tumbling routine," King said. "Seeing those kids was encouraging because these are the kids that are going to get to grow up and participate in this sport, and they are learning about it now. Seeing those kids learn about our sport, they were excited about, and their coaches were excited about it. We are blazing the trail for these athletes."
King's 25th sport will open its inaugural season on February 9, 2014 in Adrian, Michigan against Adrian College. The first home meet will be February 16 against Alderson Broaddus University at the Student Center Complex.