Grambling State University is setting its sights on becoming the first HBCU to offer women’s gymnastics.
“Our university leadership is looking at young gymnasts in our community and realizing and understanding the path from toddler gymnastics tumbling to the Olympics for a black and brown gymnast is arduous,” Raven Thissel, marketing and public relations direct for the The Doug Williams Center at Grambling, told The Associated Press. With a women’s gymnastics program, the school hopes to make that path a “smoother one.”
Right now, the school is in the exploratory phase of bringing a program to its campus, though it recently hosted a gymnastics conference.
The Louisiana university recently opened its doors to 100 Black and Latinx gymnasts for the Brown Girls Do Gymnastics conference which was first launched in 2015 by Derrin Moore to provide “scholarships, coaching, training and other forms of support to athletes from underrepresented and marginalized groups.”
While the organization helps train athletes, it also works to educate parents about helping their gymnast get to the next level.
“It’s just giving families a little edge,” Moore told Nola.com. “We want to give them information so they can step into the gymnastics arena and be confident and advocating for their girls.”
The program is coming at a ripe time in women’s gymnastics –– which has long been dominated by white athletes. From the reign of Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles, to Olympic newcomer Jordan Chiles, the US women’s gymnastics team has grown more diverse over the years and is inspiring legend-in-the-making to start and stick with the sport all the way to the top.