Natalie Sorel (26C), who serves as Emory Gymnastics’ director of public relations, was not planning on doing gymnastics in college. Sorel had started gymnastics when she was four years old and was burnt out from practicing routines and competing for over a decade. But when she walked past Emory Gymnastics’ table at the fall 2022 club fair, she could not resist writing her name down and giving the team a try.
“I wish people knew that if you’re even interested in coming, please do … just come one time to see how you like it because I’m sure you will,” Sorel said. “You might be intimidated when you come the first time, but there’s really nothing intimidating about it. I came to a couple of practices, and everyone’s just super welcoming and nice.”
Emory Gymnastics is a supportive community that is open to everyone — no prior experience required. Members range from people who have never attempted gymnastics before to lifelong gymnasts. Emory Gymnastics President Jayden Davis (25B) joined the team last year with a lot of passion and zero prior experience.
“I had always wanted to do gymnastics, but my mother would never let me, so I reached out to Tracy Eng, the president at the time, for some information regarding weekly practices and somehow ended up becoming the president myself,” Davis wrote in an email to the Wheel. “It was nice to begin learning it in an environment that is so judgment-free and supportive of each other.”
While gymnastics can be inaccessible and often exclusive to people who do not fit the “gymnast” stereotype — incredibly fit, strong and disciplined athletes who have been honing their skills for decades — Emory Gymnastics prides itself on being nothing like that. Davis wrote that Emory Gymnastics actively encourages people to join — especially if they are new to gymnastics.
Emory Gymnastics Treasurer Maja Jovanovic (21Ox, 23C) joined the team during her junior year after graduating from Oxford College. Jovanovic said the team is a welcoming space for people of all backgrounds, from those who want to practice handstands or cartwheels, to those who want to compete at a high level.
Sorel mentioned how even students who join for one practice or come to a practice halfway through the semester are welcomed with open arms.
“It’s super supportive, everyone’s super kind, everyone’s funny,” Sorel said. “We love to joke around with each other during practice. Also, our coaches … [are] all awesome.”
Practice is held every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8 to 10 p.m., and Davis wrote that members usually carpool or share Ubers on the way to and from Intown Stars Gymnastics in Decatur, Ga. During practice the gymnasts do everything from tumbling and line drills to cartwheels, handstands and front handsprings, and students can experiment with any other skills they are interested in.
Emory Gymnastics is almost completely student-run. The club’s executive board organizes the team’s logistics, practice schedule and recruitment. Coaches, who work at Intown Stars Gymnastics, help students practice and learn new skills, but Jovanovic said that they are not very involved with most of the team’s logistics.
On Feb. 25, the team helped host the National Association of Intercollegiate Gymnastics Clubs (NAIGC) Southeast Regionals, bringing in teams from Clemson University (S.C.), the University of Tennessee, the University of Alabama, Kennesaw State University (Ga.) and the Georgia Institute of Technology. Emory’s team received a number of individual medals in the Xcel Silver and Xcel Platinum divisions, placing third overall for women’s Xcel Platinum.
“It required a lot of planning, coordination and communication between everyone on the team, but it was a great opportunity for us to showcase our skills and meet other gymnastics teams,” Davis wrote.
Looking forward, Davis said he hopes that the team will get to go to more competitions. Due to COVID-19, the team was unable to compete at the NAIGC Nationals for the past few years, but they are planning on going this year. In addition, he hopes Emory Gymnastics can start collaborating more with other nearby teams such as Georgia Tech and Kennesaw State.
Jovanovic echoed Davis’ sentiments, stating that the club is hoping to do more fundraising so that the team can enter more competitions. She added that she is looking forward to seeing how Emory Gymnastics grows over the next few years.
Emory Gymnastics is a unique community that prioritizes student passion over prior experience and competitive success. If you are brave enough to try it out, you may just find your new passion there.
Jessie Satovsky (26C, she/her) is from San Francisco, California, and is studying international relations and environmental science. Outside of the Wheel, Satovsky is the Secretary of Plastic Free Emory and volunteers with the Atlanta Urban Debate League. She loves chocolate, reading, and spending time in nature.