Dear Coach Bryant,
Last week, we had a scary moment where my daughter suffered a serious injury during a gymnastics meet. She’s about to start her junior year of high school, and her dream was to pursue a spot at a top Division I gymnastics program. Now, we’re not sure whether to reset our expectations or how to talk to recruiters, because we don’t know how severe or long lasting the impact of her injury will be. Can you give us some advice?
Unsettled in Urbana
Dear Unsettled in Urbana,
A serious injury is unfortunate and brings justified anxiety. After so many years of effort, an injury can turn the world of a young athlete upside down. Here’s what I advise:
Adjust your priorities and expectations.
Your daughter’s dream school may no longer be a certainty, but she can still have a satisfying and rewarding college experience. Sit down with her to make a new list of schools, including DII, DIII or club programs where she could compete for a coach that would be excited to have her, as well as schools that would be a good fit even if college gymnastics is not on the table.
Consider a gap year or postgraduate (PG) year.
In most sports, the NCAA allows students to delay college enrollment for 12 months after high school graduation. This could be a great opportunity to get back to full form while delaying the recruiting cycle by a year. While a postgraduate program would include some structure based around an academic program, a gap year may not. Therefore, a student choosing to take a gap year should develop a solid plan and consistent schedule. Without intentional planning, students can feel disconnected and struggle emotionally while friends are away starting their freshman year.
The Transfer Portal is hot right now.
If she recovers to top form during her freshman year, she could look into transferring to another program. Many schools would take the opportunity to welcome a talented, enthusiastic transfer student. However, I do not recommend committing to any institution with the intention of transferring; when a coach makes an offer, they are typically expecting a four year commitment in return. Additionally, changing schools also brings emotional and logistical challenges. These factors should be strongly considered before deciding to pursue this route.
Keep an open mind.
An unforeseen opportunity may present itself. I had a client in a similar situation who had to modify the list of schools she applied to after getting injured while playing soccer. During her recovery, a coach saw her play in a spring showcase and invited her to join a program at a school she hadn’t considered before. After a visit, the student decided to commit to that school. If she hadn’t been at the showcase meeting people face to face, she wouldn’t have had the opportunity to hear them out.
Cover your bases if the unexpected occurs. Hope itself is not a strategy, but if your daughter is flexible, ready to adjust her plans and communicate honestly, she could create her own luck. Don’t let a mindset of despair take over. Maintain communication with all kinds of programs, and stay motivated to find a path forward that can work for her.
All the best,