By Analeigh Hughes
If you’ve never heard of Gymkana, they’re probably on your radar after the men’s basketball game Feb. 10.
The troupe wowed spectators during halftime as they performed a variety of tricks, including jumping through a flaming hoop.
This performance was just one of many that they will do this semester. The gymnastics and acrobatics troupe is an outreach program of this university’s School of Public Health. Along with their basketball halftime performance and home show, the troupe travels to different schools and organizations in the area to perform and spread their message of living a drug and alcohol-free life.
The troupe practices what they preach. Although previous gymnastics experience is not a requirement, a commitment to remaining substance-free throughout the school year is.
Third-year member Morgan Janes does not mind the pledge. The junior bioengineering major said she was never big on the drinking scene.
“To me, being on pledge is a very minor sacrifice given what you can gain from being on the team.”
Janes was always interested in gymnastics, however she never continued with it past elementary school. After watching gymnastics in the 2012 Summer Olympics, she said she decided she wanted to give the sport another try. Other than basic gymnastic skills, Janes learned everything from training with the troupe.
Members work on their skills during practice hours. Once they master the skills necessary to join a routine, they can start performing.
Freshman Henry Santer is in his second semester with Gymkana, performing in the ring and pommel horse routines for the first time. Without any previous gymnastics experience, his martial arts background helps with flexibility.
Santer was originally drawn to Gymkana because he is interested in calisthenics and exercise. When he found out about the pledge, he became even more drawn to the troupe.
“It’s important because the people that join the troupe tend to be of a certain type, they’re people that really care about being healthy and care about their bodies a lot.”
Gymkana members must practice for a minimum of eight hours a week in the fall and six hours a week in the spring. Balancing Gymkana, school and free-time can prove challenging to troupe members.
“They sort of started telling us in the fall semester that there would be a point where your Gymkana time is your free time and that you’re sometimes not gonna have a lot of time outside of that, and especially in the spring I found that to be true some weeks,” Santer said. “So you know sometimes it’s pretty non stop with the practice requirement and getting up early for shows and missing Friday classes if you have any.”
Senior Jeffrey Brown said he feels his time management skills have improved in the three years he has been a member.
“Back when I was a sophomore, Gymkana kinda was my free time, that’s just because I didn’t manage my time well,” he said. “I was irresponsible. But now, no, I guess because I’m in an exec position it’s less a free time and more coming here and, not work, but I am making sure that all the first year and second years, that they’re going to be ready for it when the seniors leave. I definitely have a lot more time to spend to spend outside of here with my friends and stuff.”
The kinesiology major is currently serving as Gymkana’s historian. He first joined Gymkana after one of his friends invited him to watch a practice.
While the late nights, early wake-ups and sore muscles may be a challenge, Janes, Santer and Brown all said they felt it was worth it. Reflecting back on his Gymkana experience, Brown said he feels that the lessons he learned have helped prepare him for what lies ahead after college.
“Aside from the leadership stuff, just learning how to get over your fears, how to take risks and understand the mechanics behind your risks.”
Featured Photo Credit: Jeffrey Brown somersaulting in the air at Gymkana on Feb. 26, 2018. (Lisa Woolfson/Bloc Photographer)
Analeigh Hughes is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.