Community, self-love and dedication

Gymnastics club teaches students perseverance in the face of opposition

On February 25, 2014

  • Coach Kelli Demarco (left, standing), a psychology graduate student, and Katilin Walsh (swinging), a sophomore economics major, practice and lead gymnastics routines every day of the week. Yusong Shi, The Spectrum

When Samantha Considine, a junior exercise science major, broke her foot practicing gymnastics her freshman year at UB, she was forced to choose between giving up her sport and fighting past the injury.

For her, the choice was obvious.

Injuries are not foreign to members of UB Gymnastics, a Student Association club. Kelli Demarco, a psychology alum and team coach, broke her hand in high school practicing for gymnastics. Kaitlin Walsh, a sophomore economics major, broke her ankle. Considine, Demarco and Walsh all actively participate in the gymnastics club, undeterred by past injuries.

The club, which has 15 members, serves as a haven for its participants.

"Gymnastics is the one place I can go to where I can let all my stress go," Demarco said. "It's my sanctuary."

For Considine, the club's secretary, the sense of community has kept her coming back for more, despite her injuries.

The club meets Mondays through Fridays from 4-8 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. UB does not offer transportation to Flips Gymnastics & Sports in Lockport, so the members rely on each other to get to practice by carpooling.

Gymnastics became an important part of Demarco's life at an early age. She has been practicing gymnastics since she was 7 years old, but she was diagnosed with asthma when she was 14. Doctors told Demarco she cannot be "overly stimulated" due to her asthma - they thought her condition would limit her ability to compete in the sport. Yet the gymnastics club, she said, has had the opposite effect on her and has inspired her career goals.

After graduate school, Demarco wants to be a therapist for young girls.

"Gymnastics brings out a lot of pressure about body image issues," Demarco said. "But [these issues] don't exist in the gymnastics club because we're all so close and non-competitive."

Demarco said the club helped her to fully understand how difficult it is to face issues regarding self-image. She believes that she can bring this knowledge to counseling young women about their own self-image issues.

The feeling of "safety" and "sanctuary," which Demarco loves, is not what keeps Walsh coming back to Flips every week. Fighting fear is her motivating factor.

"Gymnastics makes me prove to myself that I'm better than I think I am," Walsh said. "Every time I get on a beam, I'm terrified. If you're afraid, you won't do well. I constantly have to tell myself to work harder and not be afraid."

The club has taken part in several competitions. The group competed in National Association of Intercollegiate Gymnastics Club (NAIGC) meets last spring, which culminated in going to Nationals in Minneapolis, Minn., on April 6, 2013.The gymnastics club will have its first NAIGC meet of 2014 on Saturday at Cornell University. 

But the club's main focus isn't competition. Considine said all someone needs to be part of the club is a love for the sport. More seasoned gymnasts teach members that are new to gymnastics in an open atmosphere that breeds community and not vicious competition, she said. 

"The club and our competitions mean more than just gymnastics," Demarco said. "It's about meeting people who do what I love."



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