Update! Inside Gymnastics was On the Scene July 30 and 31 for College State of Mind! Look for more coming soon on CSOM including interviews with Kyla Ross and Megan Skaggs to InsideGym.com and in the September/October issue of Inside Gymnastics magazine!

“Self, Team, Together’”

From the dream to the team to showtime, College State of Mind Camp creates a sense of belonging and self-confidence

By Christy Sandmaier

The Dream

This weekend 65 gymnasts will descend upon Brooklyn, New York for the very first College State of Mind gymnastics camp. 

Created by Gotham Gymnastics, College State of Mind is a high-performance camp open to all ages and all levels and pairs together a star-studded coaching lineup including Kyla Ross, Megan Skaggs, Olivia Karas, Lacy Dagen, Lexi Funk and Mollie Korth, with a schedule and curriculum all specifically designed to motivate and inspire each athlete who attends to set individual and purpose-driven goals towards a future competing in collegiate gymnastics. 

Over two days, the camp will focus on five key areas: Academics, Personal Development, Gymnastics, Social Media and Give Back – an opportunity to align their heart to their impact and pair performance with purpose – while at its core, offering the athletes a camp experience solely dedicated to exposing gymnasts to the ins and outs of college gymnastics. In addition, the athletes will have the unique opportunity to take part in both a collegiate-structured workout and competition, as well as participate in a post-meet press conference hosted by Inside Gymnastics in real time, and learn effective strategies to grow their personal brand using social media.

The team at Gotham sat down this past winter to dream up ways to remove some of the pressures that their athletes were facing as they pursued their college dreams. Motivating and inspiring their athletes towards chasing their goals and dreams has consistently been a core value Gotham pours into their community. After sitting down, the concept of College State of Mind was born. 

I recounted a memory I had to the Gotham staff, sitting at a college camp and looking into the eyes of Level 9 and 10 athletes. The athletes were sitting so prim and proper with perfect posture,” said Athlete Enrichment Director of Gotham Gymnastics, Cory Tomlinson. “And I love prim, proper and perfect posture. But the pressure I could sense in their eyes and their hearts that the fate of their college gymnastics career was in my hands, when it wasn’t – it was a pressure that needed to change.”

The mission at Gotham was to create a camp specifically to inspire the next generation of athletes pursuing their collegiate dreams while concurrently elevating their confidence level and integrating a college experience into the mix. 

Their number one goal for the athletes who attend College State of Mind is simple: “The biggest thing we want athletes to take away is that we want them to be motivated and inspired about college gymnastics, and that what they’re doing in the gym every single day is working towards something that’s very possible for them to achieve,” stated Gotham Gymnastics Co-Founder, CEO and Head Coach, Daniel Miranda.

Recognizing the importance of each athlete’s individual dreams and the opportunities college gymnastics offers, Miranda noted the current excitement and saturation surrounding college gymnastics as a huge asset to College State of Mind. “The accessibility underscores the excitement for young athletes who might not see themselves making a five-person Olympic team every four years as a realistic goal, but can very much see competing at a university to further their education and their gymnastics career a true possibility,” he said.

“People can see their heroes on TV because there’s so much broadcast access these days, and media access to see the sport in action. That access is allowing young athletes the opportunity to see themselves on that playing field and set their sights six, seven, eight years down the road of where they want to see themselves that would then give them the opportunity to flourish academically and athletically in the same space.”

Starting the camp at Gotham Gymnastics has also presented the unique opportunity to integrate the college gymnastics model in what they’re doing as a club gymnastics gym and opened the door for the gym’s own athletes to participate.

“Gotham Gymnastics is looking forward to hosting gymnasts from all over the country this weekend for our first College State of Mind Camp! It was important to us to create an opportunity for developmental athletes to learn what it means, physically and emotionally, to be a college gymnast,” said Miranda, “We are excited to welcome an amazing line-up of accomplished NCAA coaches to Gotham to share their experiences with the athletes and inspire them to pursue collegiate gymnastics.”

Putting each element into place and bringing the camp to life has been a true labor of love for the staff at Gotham, and they are so excited the weekend is finally here. They are not only focused on taking the pressure off of the athletes over the two days, but committed to teaching them how to set themselves apart, as well as setting themselves up for success. “College State of Mind Camp was created to help you prepare for how you can be the most confident version of yourself; bringing your best personality, leadership qualities, characteristics, efficiency – all important elements that college coaches are looking for in a prospective student-athlete,” said Miranda, emphasizing the importance of the athletes being able to communicate with prospective coaches about the qualities they have on and off the floor.

And together with their goals in the sport and in the classroom, College State of Mind Camp is equally as motivated and inspired to help develop the athletes as people. “We just want a little bit of a personal development realization for every single athlete. We really hope that everyone walks away with their head held a little higher. Their heart a lot stronger. Knowing that they walked in as an individual and they get to walk out of camp feeling like we’re together. All part of one team.”

“My goal is to create an environment where athletes feel safe and excited to learn and grow in the sport! I can’t wait to work alongside some very talented coaches and have a lot of fun!” Lexi Funk, CSOM Coach

When it came time to choose the lineup of coaches, Tomlinson chose those whose goals, experiences and devotion matched the mission and sentiment of the camp and those who, yes, already got along very well together. 

“When we were putting the staff together, a huge element was we wanted to make sure that before camp starts, we could look this staff in the eyes and know that the sentiment of what the College State of Mind is will, without a doubt, be carried out by every coach in every word, in every direction they give, and in every inspirational moment that they have,” Tomlinson said. “We’ve all experienced the college state of mind in different ways, but in unique ways for us to be able to tell the story properly and to help grow our sport. We all want to carry that sentiment forward and make sure that more athletes experience the experience that we had as athletes, too.”

In addition to Ross, Skaggs, Karas, Dagen, Funk and Korth, Tomlinson will also be coaching, as will Ryan Ruckdaschel, NCAA Team Manager, Director of Operations, and Social Media Manager for the University of Iowa. With multiple Olympic, World and NCAA titles, in addition to over 60 combined first team All-American honors among the team of coaches, Gotham has paid particular attention to ensuring the athletes would feel comfortable and inspired, rather than intimidated by such a decorated staff. With that in mind, they sought to build an atmosphere where the athletes and coaches would meet in the middle with accessibility as a prime focus.

College State of Mind Camp wants the athletes to not only know what it feels like to train and compete in college but know what it’s like to line up alongside the best of the best.

“We want them to feel what it would be like to go next in line after Kyla Ross lands a perfect double layout dismount,” Tomlinson said. “We want the athletes to raise the access point so that they’re able to see themselves in their shoes and that they can chalk up right after an Olympic champion and to say, ‘I got this because she’s on my team, too.’ A lot of people see Kyla for the 22 perfect tens, all of those pieces of the puzzle that went into her success, the first ever Olympic, World, NCAA champion – all these pieces. I could go on and on about the accolades on paper for Kyla, but the character of the human being that Kyla Ross is, is something I want to make sure people are exposed to.

“The truth is that we’ve all experienced the college state of mind in different ways, but in unique ways for us to be able to tell the story properly and to help grow our sport in the sport of collegiate gymnastics in that way. We all want to carry that sentiment forward and make sure that more athletes experience the experience that we had as athletes, too.”

Meet the Team Here!

“Focusing on a team atmosphere with healthy competition and tons of support, gives a whole new level of excitement and experience to the sport.” Mollie Korth, CSOM Coach

3,2,1… Showtime

From concept to creation to actually aligning goals with a schedule, the team at Gotham Gymnastics in Brooklyn were extremely deliberate about how the two days would be designed including their structure and theme. 

Day one is designed to feel like a college gymnastics practice and help gel the team and the experience in order to educate and motivate the athletes, but also ease some of the anxieties they may already be experiencing as they look ahead to their own college gymnastics journey such as shorter warmups, workouts and assignments. Day two is meet day and will be dedicated to simulating a college gymnastics competition centered around a theme of belonging. It will be a chance for the athletes to don their leotards, do their college makeup, hair, showcase their skills and throw in a college salute or two if they like. Teammate training will also be a large part of the equation throughout the two days – setting the boards, getting the chalk, cheering, encouraging – it’s all part of the process of bringing the athletes together.

We’ve come up with these three words – ‘Self, Team, Together’and it’s really the journey that we want to take everyone on,” Tomlinson said. “We hope everyone walks in as themselves, their truest best self. We are going to promote that. We’re going to believe in that. We’re going to invite that. We hope that they leave that day feeling like they’re part of a team. Then when they walk in on day two, we want them to walk in knowing they’re a part of a team bringing their best self, to be the best member of a team. We want them to leave day two feeling like they are together.”

The competition phase on day two will also incorporate the “Give Back” portion of the event with the Tiny Bow Project activation (athletes will have the opportunity to wear bows from Skaggs’ Tiny Bow Project during Day 2 – each ribbon representing different causes that align with the athletes passions), something near and dear to both Tomlinson’s and Skaggs’ hearts; as well as bringing camp to a close full circle by focusing on what the athletes have learned as teammates.

The camp staff  is also open to changing up the routine during camp if something amazing occurs that could turn into a teachable moment. “If some element of what I just said ends up happening or doesn’t happen, but if we think of something better or greater or more fulfilling or more accessible or more inspiring, we’re going to do it, because that’s the way college gymnastics works.”

And when the chalk settles on College State of Mind this year (plans are already in the works for 2023!) and the athletes return to their home gyms, Gotham hopes if nothing else, that the athletes are inspired for another day and that their time spent together in Brooklyn becomes an integral part of their journey.

“The overall sentiment we want to carry forward is one you’ve heard me say many times in our conversations. We have a couple things that we are really passionate about. The one that we are able to carry forward with this camp is giving athletes access to their heroes. And the other is that access can turn into inspiration and motivation to chase goals for a very long time.

“I don’t ever want our sport to feel untouchable or unreachable for an athlete,” he said. “I want them to see themselves in the shiny leo on the competition floor with tens of thousands of fans. Whether they see themselves in the PMAC, or they see themselves in Pauley Pavilion. Or, if they see themselves on a competition floor that might not see a lot of fans, I want them to be able to picture themselves achieving goals they personally set. When they see themselves achieving them, they can be proud of the journey that they’ve taken to get there. I hope that College State of Mind is one step on that journey.”

Look for more on College State of Mind on InsideGym.com, in our September/October issue of Inside Gymnastics magazine and on our Instagram!

For more see collegestateofmindcamp.com  @collegestateofmind

Photos by Lloyd Smith for Inside Gymnastics; Hannah Phillips for University of Kentucky; UCLA Athletics; Allison Cheng for CSOM

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