ANAHEIM – Jan. 25, 2020 – Today, NCAA members in Division II and Division III voted to approve Acrobatics & Tumbling as an emerging sport for women. The vote took place during the annual NCAA Convention at Saturday afternoon’s governance meetings in Anaheim, California. Women’s wrestling was also approved as an emerging sport by Division II and Division III leadership.
Saturday’s votes passed with overwhelming support during both governance sessions.
“Today is a historic day for Acrobatics & Tumbling,” said Dr. Renee Baumgartner, President of NCATA. “We’re thrilled the membership believes as we do in the opportunities that Acrobatics & Tumbling provides for female student-athletes, and demonstrated their confidence we will continue our growth nationally. We are so thankful to our member administrators, coaches and student-athletes, and for all at the NCAA who have shared their support and encouragement during the process.
“We will celebrate this roundly, and enjoy this important step in the process that leads to creating new opportunities for young women in our effort to reach NCAA Championship status. We’re looking forward to the DI vote in April, and the conversations this important news will generate across the board.”
Janell Cook, Executive Director of NCATA, also praised NCAA membership for sharing the vision of the association and helping it provide opportunities for women in collegiate athletics.
“Today’s votes were extremely validating for our association and members, and we are celebrating this important milestone with all in the Acrobatics & Tumbling community, as well as with our friends in the wrestling community,” said Cook. “It’s an emotional day, when we stop to think about the opportunities for women that have been created over the past 10 years, and all those we hope to add in the future.”
The vote marks a ten-year journey for the sport of Acrobatics & Tumbling, which was created at the collegiate level specifically to meet the interests and abilities of young women across the country. NCATA staff and members, as well as current and former student-athletes, celebrate this important step forward for the development of the sport.
“I am excited for women’s sports across the national NCAA landscape and, more importantly, for our programs here,” said Michael Duffy, Director of Athletics at Adrian College. “This is a great opportunity for the national governing body in the NCATA, too. A lot of hard work behind the scenes by several people and groups led us to this historic time for the sport of acrobatics and tumbling.
“Adding acrobatics and tumbling is a nice addition to the NCAA arsenal of sport offerings, giving another platform for teams and student-athletes to showcase their skills and enjoy the total student-athlete experience.”
Gary Pine, Director of Athletics at Azusa Pacific University, also shared his appreciation for NCAA leadership and their confidence in the growth of acrobatics and tumbling.
“I appreciate the DII and DIII membership recognizing the unique offering that acrobatics and tumbling presents to all women in college athletics, and the new avenue of growth for NCAA schools,” said Pine. “This sport, which didn’t exist ten years ago, was created by coaches and administrators for the growing number of young women who needed another path to a college education.”
The sport is an evolution of the various disciplines of gymnastics, combining the technique and power of tumbling with the grace and balance of acrobatics gymnastics. Millions of young women across the country train in gymnastics, but many opt for other sports or activities as they reach high school age and opportunities to excel competitively in gymnastics disciplines narrow. Some use the body positions and technique they have learned to become divers or as a pole-vaulter, and some join cheerleading teams.
Acrobatics & Tumbling was created for women, by women. A decade ago, a group of female collegiate coaches came together to conceive of a new sport for young women competing in this skill set. Together with administrators on their campuses, six institutions began a movement that would provide opportunities for young women who were not served by the current opportunities in NCAA Gymnastics and looking for more than a typical spirit program experience.
“What a monumental day for all current and future collegiate acrobatics and tumbling student-athletes, said Felicia Mulkey, head coach of the Baylor University acrobatics and tumbling team. “This is an important time in the journey of this sport, but I can’t help but be excited for what’s next. These votes will propel our expansion efforts forward and continue to exponentially increase new opportunities for female athletes. This is only the beginning!”
Kristi Kiefer, who joins Mulkey as one of the six founding coaches of the sport, also shared her excitement and reflected on the NCATA’s journey to this point.
“As one of the founding females of Acrobatics and Tumbling, it is very surreal to be a stakeholder of a newly created sport that has been granted advancement in emerging sport status by the NCAA,” said Kiefer, who is the only head coach in the history of the Fairmont State University Acrobatics and Tumbling program. “This moment began over a decade ago with the vision of female coaches and athletic administrators working together to create opportunities for women in collegiate athletics. It is a day of celebration for everyone who is part of the Acrobatics and Tumbling community.
“The support of alumni, student athletes and athletic departments have been vital through this process and will play a significant role as expansion of the sport continues. The impact of today will open many new opportunities for student-athletes as the sport continues to grow,” Kiefer added.
During the past ten years, the National Collegiate Acrobatics & Tumbling Association (NCATA) and its members have propelled the sport forward: becoming a discipline within USA Gymnastics; growing from six to thirty-two varsity programs on college campuses; and with a positive vote in April, as a NCAA emerging sport for women in all divisions. This spring, over 680 women will participate in NCATA competition.
Division I NCAA members will vote on legislation in April. The NCATA expects increased interest and program announcements following the DII and DIII votes, as well as interest within conferences to add Acrobatics & Tumbling as a championship sport. Current membership includes 30 NCAA programs across all divisions. To be considered for NCAA Championship status, a sport must have a minimum of 40 NCAA members competing.
ABOUT THE NCATA
The goal of the NCATA is to create opportunities for young women across the country to compete, and to have the transformative student-athlete experience that is shown to compel women to greater things in their post-collegiate life. Simultaneously, the sport of Acrobatics and Tumbling has created opportunities for women to coach. In fact, 94% of current coaches are women, with 74% of them being former student-athletes at member institutions who have translated their passion as competitors into leading teams.