Over the past few years, collegiate gymnastics has gained in exposure and popularity. Several of the sport’s widely viewed viral videos have featured African American gymnasts who have used their floor routines to make cultural and social justice expressions. When the collegiate gymnastics season kicks off in January, there will be a new school on the scene as Fisk University debuts, the first HBCU to have a gymnastics program.

“It’s something that was long overdue,” said head coach Corrinne Tarver. Although most of Fisk’s sports currently compete in NAIA, the gymnastics program will be in NCAA competition. “Every place we are going will be Division I. We are going to compete against some D II schools as well at multi-team meets.”

Tarver, who is also Fisk’s athletic director, said collegiate gymnasts have found their voice. “You can find your voice through choreography. Maybe that’s why it has gone viral because there is something behind the choreography, not just movement. There’s personality, there’s a story. It makes things more relatable to people,” she said.

Some members of the Fisk team signed on because they wanted an HBCU experience along with competing, including a few sophomore transfers. Tarver said some of the girls on the team come from families where several members have attended HBCUs. All the student-athletes wanted to be part of history. She said the energy thus far has been good.

“It’s a fun team to be around,” Tarver said. “But it’s hard because most of our team is young, so they don’t necessarily know how all of this works. It’s a learning experience for them, and we’re still trying to get them to understand that you have to get out of the mentality of club gymnastics. It’s a different ballgame for NCAA. You can’t train the same way you did in club because your body will break down before you get halfway through the season. It’s completely different. That’s the one drawback to not having upperclassmen be able to help them navigate that.”

The team’s assistant coaches, India Anderson and Kourtney Chinnery, both wanted to be part of history. It’s an opportunity to be part of building a program. “We’re creating a blueprint for those to come behind us,” said Tarver. “We’re trying to get the routines and get them confident so they can do what they need to do.”

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