That Time I… went to a gymnastics event

Sports outside of the “Big Four” in America often get overlooked, undervalued and underappreciated. While I believe they are still fairly covered and promoted by the media and schools, I sometimes think that spectators never give these sports a legit chance from the start. I certainly was one of those people.

This past Sunday I attended my first ever gymnastics event as NIU hosted Illinois State University and Winona State University at the Convocation Center. Arriving in the early afternoon, I truly did not know what to expect at all; quite frankly, I knew nothing about the scoring, the setup or what the atmosphere would be like for the sport. I’m here to tell you that it was one of the most entertaining and electric events I have ever attended since starting my schooling at NIU.

For those like myself who were unaware, gymnastics is divided into four different events: vault, bars, beam, and floor. Vault is a running-start onto a platform that competitors literally vault themselves off of to perform incredible aerial maneuvers. Bars is one of the most well-known events with two bars staggered at different heights and athletes spinning around and flipping off of them. Beam is a full routine performed on a raised balance beam that includes difficult yet elegant mounts and dismounts. Finally, floor is a more traditional open dance routine with gymnastic stunts done all around the flat mats.

Personally, I often get disappointed by some of the major sporting events at NIU having lower attendance and quieter crowds than other Division I schools. With that in mind, I figured that gymnastics would be more of the same. That idea couldn’t be more incorrect. From the students who showed, to the supporting families, to the athletes on the floor themselves, each and every area of the arena was beaming with high-energy. The teams from every school were loud and showed unwavering support for both their teammates and their peers from across the mats. Every corner of the arena had infectious music playing, whether for the routines on the open floor or during breaks in the action. NIU’s Silverettes even entertained the onlookers during each and every transition in events.

Of course the athletes competing are the highlight of the sport. Their impressive ability to control their bodies and do incredibly dangerous-yet-awe-inspiring maneuvers all while entertaining the judges and the crowd is nothing short of amazing. Each and every competitor openly shows their skills, their passion and their dedication of countless hours of hard work with each move in every event. I can’t believe there are still people out there who don’t think gymnastics, or anything similar to it, is a sport.

Next time a quiet weekday evening or weekend afternoon finds its way onto my schedule, I certainly will no longer overlook the idea of going to watch one of the less “mainstream” sports in person.