From a young age, kids across the country start playing tee ball. Tee ball becomes Little League, Little League leads them to school teams in junior high and high school. With enough hard work and dedication, a number of athletes go on to play for a University – maybe a parent’s alma mater, or a school they admired and followed while growing up and perfecting their sport.
Gymnastics is one of the the most popular sports for both girls and boys alike, especially at a young age. Multiple gyms and clubs groom young gymnasts to become elite athletes. Gymnasts, just as baseball players, soccer players, football players – you name it – spend years devoted to a sport that they love. However, only a handful of universities offer gymnastics programs. The only two universities in the state of Texas with a gymnastics program are Baylor and Texas Woman’s University. While Baylor is a Division I school, their program has no tryouts and no coach. Haley Poinsette has successfully brought gymnastics to the University of Houston as Founder & President of Coog Club Gymnastics.
Poinsette has been a gymnast for the majority of her life, until an injury during her junior year of high school brought her practice to a halt. With scholarship opportunities taken away from her, she decided to attend Arizona State University, where she would train for 8 months in an attempt to walk on to the ASU gymnastics team. Due to unforeseen obstacles, Poinsette moved back home to Houston.
“I was forced to move back home, from there I kept training hoping to get a scholarship as a transfer student,” Poinsette said.
Because very few universities offer gymnastics programs, there weren’t any schools that could offer her any kind of scholarship when she was looking to transfer to a school with a team. Poinsette ultimately chose to attend the University of Houston because of the close proximity to her roots.
“After a few weeks, I decided that if no one wanted to take [me] as their gymnast, then I would just make it happen on my own. From there I heard about NAIGC (National Association of Intercollegiate Gymnastics Clubs) and all of the amazing things they do for people like me who still love the sport of gymnastics.” Poinsette declared.
Since then, she has put tireless effort into her passion of establishing an official program for gymnasts just like her who want the opportunity to compete and represent the University of Houston proudly.
“I had just spent almost a year getting back into shape and training so there was no way that I was gonna let that all go to waste.”
Her efforts have already begun to pay off. Poinsette has succeeded in getting Coog Club Gymnastics recognized as an official student organization. She began as the sole member of the club, where she represented U of H at Nationals and won multiple medals. In the fall of 2015, three additional members joined the club, followed by an additional 13 students in the spring of 2016. 10 members of Coog Club Gymnastics now compete and represent U of H in gymnastics.
Although Coog Club Gymnastics started off as more of a personal goal for Poinsette, it has blossomed into something much bigger. Her goal now is to make gymnastics an officially recognized NCAA sport at U of H.
“I am currently in the process of taking this AS FAR as U of H and the community will let me.”
There is currently a petition to President Khator and the University of Houston in an effort to bring a gymnastics facility to campus. You can view and sign the petition on Change.org here.