Lindenwood University adds Women's Gymnastics
posted on 12/19/2011

The Lindenwood University athletics department in St. Charles, Mo., announced this year the addition of women's gymnastics to its sports portfolio, making a total of 82 institutions that offer women's gymnastics. Gymnastics will be the 27th program for the Lindenwood University athletics department, which is currently in the candidacy stage of becoming a NCAA Division II member.

Lindenwood University is the first school in 10 years to add the sport of women's gymnastics (University of Arkansas was added in 2001). Hopefully, Lindenwood University can be a springboard for other schools to add a women's gymnastics program to their athletic departments.

The Lindenwood University gymnastics program will begin competition during the 2012-2013 school year as a non-divisional program vying for qualification to the USA Gymnastics Collegiate National Championships, which includes NCAA Division I, II, and III programs. In the 2013-2014 school year, the Lady Lions will be an NCAA Division II program which will then be eligible for qualification to NCAA Regional and National Championships.

"I believe this is an incredible opportunity for the sport of gymnastics, Lindenwood and the surrounding community," said head coach Gretchen Goerlitz. "Young women will also have a great opportunity to be among the ranks of the first incoming classes of gymnasts. Together we will create a legacy and build a program full of traditions, excellence, excitement, and a culture of growth and positivity. "

The Lady Lions will be the third gymnastics program in the state of Missouri, joining the University of Missouri and Southeast Missouri State University. Gymnastics competitions will be held in the Hyland Performance Arena, which is also the home for the basketball, volleyball, and wrestling programs. In the initial stages of the program, the Lady Lions will be practicing at one of the best equipped Olympic-caliber gymnastics training facilities in the country Acaa GymQuarters gymnastics in O'Fallon, Mo. GymQuarters is owned by Scott and Debbie Cusimano who have had 38 gymnasts receive full scholarships to compete in college gymnastics and over 151 Junior Olympic national qualifiers.

"Lindenwood is in a perfect location for gymnastics," said Goerlitz. "There are so many great gymnasts in the local as well as regional area that will be integral in building this program from the ground up. There has already been such an outpouring of support for the program that I cannot wait to begin."

The gymnastics community can look to Lindenwood University as a great resource on how to add the sport of gymnastics to other universities. Lindenwood University can give details into their stages of the process they went through as well as their results. In addition, the NACGC/W has put together a Collegiate Gymnastics Growth Initiative Committee and coach Goerlitz is a committee member, giving insight to others on adding a women's gymnastics program to their university.

USA Gymnastics asked the administration of Lindenwood University a few questions about adding women's gymnastics to their athletic department. Here are their responses:

How did the discussion of a women's gymnastics program get started with your university?
Lindenwood University is currently in transition from NAIA to NCAA Division II. During this time, the athletic department evaluated all current athletic programs and determined what the needs were for new programs. A committee was very intrigued by the sport of gymnastics due to a high level of interest in the local club organizations, the ability to have another spectator sport that is also an Olympic sport, and the ability to provide a facility through a club organization.

What were the steps to make it happen?
A committee was formed that consisted of athletic administration, NCAA compliance, public relations, and a faculty liaison. The committee accepted proposals for facility rental, as well as put together the basic structure of the program, for example coaching qualifications, budgetary projections, and a timeline for implementation. The committee took the final proposal to President James Evans for his approval and the proposal was then approved in February 2011 by the Board of Directors to begin in the fall 2012-2013.

Are there plans to build a facility or will the team continue to train at the private club?
There has been talk of having a training facility on campus. This is an item that will be discussed in further detail with the administration and coaching staff in the coming months; however, we do know that we will train at a private club for the first few years of the program.

Congratulations to Lindenwood University for adding women's gymnastics to their athletic program. Hopefully other universities will follow their lead.