Lights. Camera. Gymnastics.
Technically the sport is action, so the wording switch works.
Corny Hollywood line aside, the TV coverage of college gymnastics really has increased over the past few years. Six of Alabama’s 11 regular-season meets aired live this season. Another one was tape delayed.
“Well, if I had a percentage, I would tell you I feel like it’s (increased) 3,000 percent because we’re relevant,” Alabama coach Dana Duckworth said. “We’re on national television.”
Next weekend is the NCAA Championships, too. Alabama will compete in the Friday’s afternoon semifinal, which starts at noon in St. Louis’ Chaifetz Arena. The evening session is at 6 p.m.
Twelve teams will be there, splitting up six and six. Three teams from each semifinal advance to Saturday’s Super Six at 6 p.m.
Every single moment of competition can be watched live on TV. ESPN2 will broadcast the afternoon semifinal. ESPNU will have the evening semifinal and then the Super Six.
“It definitely helps me because whenever I know more people are watching, I don’t get pressured but I like the pressure,” UA senior Nickie Guerrero said. “I feel like it definitely helps me competitive wise. But I also definitely believe that it’s just helping the whole college gymnastics world, getting more exposure, so that’s so awesome.”
The first time gymnastics’ NCAA Championships aired live was in 2016, thanks to ESPN’s different networks. It continued the final round coverage in 2017 and this year.
Not only that, SEC Network added Friday Night Heights to its docket. The series features eight consecutive weeks of SEC regular-season matchups. There were 18 meets aired this year, normally showing more than one every Friday with a doubleheader schedule.
Keep in mind meets ended up on other ESPN channels, too.
“It just represents how awesome of a sport gymnastics is and how people can’t really do this on an everyday basis, but we literally train our lives for that moment,” senior Kiana Winston said. “Just to see college gymnastics out there on the stage because a lot of people see the elite world and how it’s kind of intense, but you don’t get to see a lot of college stuff. When you see the college teams having fun and laughing, it shows a different side of gymnastics.”
It floors Duckworth how far college gymnastics has come. She was a gymnast at Alabama back in the 1990s, then a volunteer and an assistant coach for many years before ultimately becoming head coach in 2014. She has seen the evolution firsthand.
Duckworth never competed on live TV, but she coaches on it now regularly.
“To whom much is given, much is expected,” Duckworth said. “To me, having the opportunity to be on live television week after week is a privilege and you never take it for granted. Just like you never take going to the national championship and the opportunity to compete at that level for granted.
“So it’s probably not 3,000 percent, but I tell you, I feel like it is.”