A Decade of Growth: The Path to Emerging Sport Status

A Decade of Growth: The Path to Emerging Sport Status

August 1, 2020 – The official efficient date of NCAA rising sport standing for the game of Acrobatics & Tumbling.


Right this moment is a day of celebration within the Acrobatics & Tumbling neighborhood. A day that many exceptional girls fought to attain in a mission to supply distinctive aggressive alternatives for younger girls. There are 4 girls specifically, Felecia Mulkey, Mary Ann Powers, Colleen Kausrud, and Kristi Kiefer, that set the imaginative and prescient of making a brand new sport and made it a actuality.


Felecia Mulkey cheered on the collegiate stage at Kennesaw State following her time at Southern Union. Mulkey served as the top cheerleading coach at her Alma Mater, Kennesaw State, the place she was inducted into the Athletics Corridor of Fame in 2019. Mulkey started her profession in Acrobatics & Tumbling on the College of Oregon the place she was the top coach of the Geese till 2014. In June 2014, Mulkey departed the College of Oregon to pursue an Acrobatics & Tumbling head teaching job at Baylor College, the place she at the moment leads this system.


Mary Ann Powers cheered on the collegiate stage at Southern Connecticut from 1978-1982, the place she led as workforce captain throughout her junior and senior years. Powers started her collegiate teaching profession as the top cheerleading coach at Quinnipiac College. Powers transitioned into main the Quinnipiac College Acrobatics & Tumbling workforce as head coach in 2009, the place she has remained since.

Colleen Kausrud served as the top cheerleading coach at Azusa Pacific College, starting her collegiate teaching profession in 2004. Kausrud transitioned the Azusa Pacific aggressive cheerleading workforce into the Acrobatics & Tumbling workforce. In 2013, she was acknowledged as NCATA Coach of the Yr.

Kristi Kiefer was the top cheerleading coach at Fairmont State College and later remodeled the aggressive cheerleading program into Acrobatics & Tumbling. Kiefer has been named NCATA Coach of the Yr twice. Kiefer just lately introduced her retirement from her place as head coach of the Fairmont State Acrobatics & Tumbling workforce, however her legacy might be eternal. Though Kiefer has retired as head coach, she is going to proceed to function Affiliate Athletics Director and Senior Girl Administrator on the college.

All 4 founding coaches share a background in teaching collegiate cheerleading.  And every had a imaginative and prescient of one thing extra. The College of Maryland made aggressive cheerleading a sport in 2003, which facilitated a motion. Azusa Pacific College, Fairmont State College, and Quinnipiac College have been all fascinated with elevating their present cheerleading applications into aggressive cheerleading and making it a sport, whereas the College of Oregon and Baylor College deliberate to create aggressive cheerleading as a further girls’s sport.

These 4 girls rapidly recognized they shared a standard objective  that was centered on creating alternatives for a various set of potential student-athletes.  They needed to compete in a fashion that targeted on athleticism and execution, and stuffed a niche for younger girls who weren’t served on the time by current aggressive alternatives. To find out how they might proceed, there was steady communication amongst coaches and directors from the founding faculties main as much as the primary Teaching Summit on the College of Maryland in 2010. The group got here collectively to debate the operation of the game, together with what it could be named. 

The main focus has at all times been in regards to the alternatives that the collegiate athletics expertise gives.


“I at all times beloved sports activities and ended up going to a school on a full journey scholarship as a cheerleader,” mentioned Mulkey. “At Southern Union, I used to be handled as an athlete, and nobody questioned that we have been athletes. I believe for me my ardour got here from having that chance, which was life altering. I am the primary individual in my household to go to school and that is the explanation I received to go.


“We needed to take these talent units, that are comprised of various discilines of gymnastics and cheerleading, that so many younger girls are captivated with, and put them in a pleasant little package deal on the collegiate stage,” Mulkey defined.


Mary Ann Powers was compelled to Acrobatics & Tumbling as a result of she needed “to be sure that [her] student-athletes and the student-athletes taking part in these very troublesome talent units, whether or not from gymnastics or aggressive cheer, had the chance to compete on the highest stage with the absolute best advantages that could possibly be afforded to them.”

Colleen Kausrud was drawn to the notion of Acrobatics & Tumbling as a result of the game was based mostly purely on the athletic capacity of the student-athletes.


“As a coach and individual, I am very aggressive. When issues do not appear honest, you do not wish to coach that. It’s extremely irritating. I needed to do one thing that wasn’t based mostly on camp or garments or something of that nature,” defined Kausrud.


Kristi Kiefer highlighted how all 4 founding coaches had a standard objective, which introduced them collectively and made them so profitable.


“I’ve at all times been concerned in athletics and at all times needed to supply extra alternatives for females. I needed the popularity and sources for my student-athletes. The opposite founding coaches all just about had about the identical reasoning behind it too.”


The primary Acrobatics & Tumbling meet was held in 2010. The inaugural season the included six founding faculties – Azusa Pacific College, Baylor College, Fairmont State College, College of Maryland, College of Oregon, and Quinnipiac College. That summer season the Nationwide Collegiate Acrobatics & Tumbling Affiliation (NCATA) was fashioned, led by directors from the member faculties. In 2013, USA Gymnastics adopted Acrobatics & Tumbling as a self-discipline below the “Gymnastics For All” program.  The dream was taking form, and curiosity grew across the nation from athletics directors contemplating the addition of a girls’s program.

Right this moment, there are 32 establishments sponsoring varsity Acrobatics & Tumbling applications, and the game continues to quickly develop.  Because of the laborious work and dedication of the 4 founding coaches and the directors that took an opportunity on this sport, over 650 student-athletes competed in Acrobatics & Tumbling on the collegiate stage throughout the 2020 season. The progress of the game is fueled by the number of participation alternatives it gives to younger girls who prepare in gymnastics and cheerleading.  

Acrobatics & Tumbling provides feminine student-athletes the chance to focus on particular abilities. Kiefer defined how the format of the game, various positions, and variety of occasions require a spread of talent proficiency.


“As an example, simply since you’re a great tumbler, it is not going to make you good in acro or make you a great base or prime. As a result of we broadened out via our completely different occasions that we have now inside our meets, it has given us the power to supply a number of alternatives for various athletes. In fact, you’ve got some athletes that may do all of it, however you do not have to have the ability to do all of it. You may specialize,” mentioned Kiefer.


“The great thing about it’s no matter piece of the skillset you’re coaching, there’s a place for you on an Acrobatics & Tumbling workforce. There isn’t any top restrict. There isn’t any weight restrict. That is all about athleticism, and athleticism seems to be completely different on completely different individuals, and that is what I believe is so lovely about this sport,” acknowledged Mulkey.


As alternatives have been created, the NCATA labored to make sure that the game developed within the mannequin of NCAA sports activities, together with compliance with divisional and convention guidelines.  The group agreed that every new program can be applied as a varsity sport as a way to meet Title IX necessities. 

A monumental milestone for the game was when NCAA members in Division II and Division III voted to approve Acrobatics & Tumbling as an rising sport for girls on January 25, 2020. On June 17, 2020, members in Division I voted to approve Acrobatics & Tumbling as effectively, making certain NCAA rising sport standing in all three divisions would change into efficient right this moment (Aug. 1, 2020).

Mulkey mirrored on a quote that has at all times caught together with her by Margaret Mead. It reads, “By no means doubt that a small group of considerate, dedicated residents can change the world; certainly, it is the one factor that ever has.” Little question, this small group of founders and directors modified the world for a lot of girls and proceed to take action right this moment.

“Personally, if anybody had informed me that twelve years in the past this might’ve been the highway I used to be strolling on, I actually would not have believed it. I really feel like I used to be blessed. I really feel like somebody was wanting over me and determined to present me a spotlight in one thing I am captivated with and that’s about teaching and mentoring, mentioned Mulkey. “It would not have been the entire expertise had it not been provided the full-blown means as a result of that is what I needed for my athletes. It allowed me to take one thing, and get the experience of an athletics division beneath my wings. After getting all of those teams round you making you a greater human, displaying you the best way, and permitting you to go that onto your athletes, I imply it does not get higher than that.”


Information of NCAA rising sport standing left Mary Ann Powers pondering of future student-athletes.


“Once they introduced it, I fell to my knees, and that is the reality… I believe for me it was simply lastly realizing that it was actual. That is actual, and that is going to be one thing for little ladies to look ahead to when deciding to do these talent units,” defined Powers.

Colleen Kausrud defined how NCAA rising sport standing “is completely large. It was a dream that all of us have been part of and received to place our little two cents value in, and I believe that a part of it’s simply so fulfilling. You are feeling such as you’ve completed one thing.”


“I am getting near retirement, so I did not know if I used to be going to make it to that time as a coach. I knew it could finally change into a sport, however I did not know if I used to be nonetheless going to be teaching at that time. I am positively glad and simply really feel completed that we have been in a position to do this,” Kausrud continued.


“How usually can somebody say that they’re part of creating a brand new sport, and the way usually is a brand new sport created? It isn’t a takeoff from one other sport. It is a fully new sport. I believe being part of that inception from the start, from even creating the title of the game, it’s simply so rewarding, mentioned Kiefer. 


“Moreover the skilled friendships that I’ve made all through these previous 12 years, particularly with the opposite three fantastic girls that I’m sharing the area with, in addition to different individuals within the group means a lot. Everybody within the group has such a excessive stage of integrity and needs to work laborious and do issues proper and to see it via,” Kiefer defined.


It has been an extended highway, and as many say it was “a highway much less traveled” by many coaches, directors and student-athletes, which makes the information of NCAA rising sport standing all of the extra rewarding for the Acrobatics & Tumbling neighborhood.

“I’m very pleased with our small group of people that did this. NCAA rising sport standing is what we have been taking pictures for for therefore lengthy. I believed in some unspecified time in the future we might get there and I might loosen up, however I can not now. We wish to get to NCAA championship standing. We have now many extra celebrations to return,” Mulkey exclaimed.

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