By Erika Davis
Nashville, TN – History was made at Fisk University in February 2022 when the school established its first women’s intercollegiate gymnastics team. Fisk University is now the first historically black college and university (HBCU) to field such a team, breaking barriers and paving the way for other HBCUs to follow suit. The team is led by head coach Corrine Tarver and assistant coach India Anderson who built the team in a unique way, using various methods to recruit gymnasts, including social media, without holding traditional tryouts.
“There were no tryouts,” said Tarver. “I recruited them, but many of them found out through social media posts that came out from the university.”
Social media was not the only way the university and the coaches could contact the gymnasts. “I looked into the transfer portal as I was still in the process of being hired,” said assistant coach Anderson. “We had a bunch of students reaching out to us and I in return reached out to them. We also had Derrin [Moore] from Brown Girls Do Gymnastics give us a list of girls.”
After deciding to establish a women’s gymnastics team, Fisk University began searching for coaches to lead the new program. They contacted Coach Tarver, who was on a short list of potential hires. As Tarver explained, “I was on that list, and they contacted me, and it just went from there. I was living in New Jersey at the time.”
The team opened its first season in Las Vegas on January 6th, 2023 losing against the University of Washington. Despite facing early setbacks with losses in their opening matches, the Fisk University women’s gymnastics team continued to grow and improve throughout their debut season. As head coach Tarver explained, “This is our inaugural year, the first season of competition for us, so we are excited about it.” The team’s determination and hard work paid off, culminating in a final victory against Greenville University.
Next up for Fisk University is competing in the USA Gymnastics (USAG) Collegiate National, held in Austin, TX, on April 6th. This will be the last competition of the year for some of the gymnasts who could qualify due to their scores throughout the year. “We have about 4-5 girls that are qualifying,” says assistant coach Anderson. “One we are unsure right now, but we know for sure we have four that are actually going to the USAG Nationals.”
The Fisk University gymnasts have been practicing daily, with the exception of Wednesdays and the weekend. The team’s coaches have been guiding the gymnasts through rigorous training sessions, preparing them to compete at the national level.
Despite the demanding training schedule, the gymnasts have remained focused and driven, fueled by the prospect of competing in the upcoming national championship. “They are super excited. To see the joy on their faces, they are like, ‘Do we still get to go?’ and I’m like, ‘Yes, you still get to go,'” said assistant coach Anderson. “The postseason is a special part of gymnastics that not all gymnasts get to experience, so it’s exciting to know that five of our girls will have the opportunity to compete at this level.”