By Daniel Curren
Everyone who attends Springfield College knows how much the school takes pride in its athletics. The college has 24 teams that compete at the Division III level, but most of them don’t have any experience like the men’s gymnastics team. To start, the team is filled with student-athletes from all over the country. This year’s roster features athletes from 15 different states, and even one gymnast from Germany. Some have come from as far as California, Nebraska, Colorado, and Florida to name a few.
If you’re wondering why the Springfield men’s gymnastics team attracts athletes from all over, a lot of it has to do with the status of the sport itself. While the NCAA sponsors 62 women’s gymnastics teams, men’s teams don’t get nearly as much support with only 15 teams around the country. Among those 15 teams, three of them are military schools. So for high school gymnasts looking to compete in college, but not looking to go into military service, there are only 12 schools across the country to pick from.
Although it may seem easy for Springfield College to attract recruits with the limited competition, there is one factor that leaves the Pride back at a major disadvantage. Until next season, Springfield will have the only Division III men’s gymnastics program in the nation. This means, unlike any other men’s gymnastics program, the Pride can not offer athletic scholarships. However, they still only compete against schools who can offer their athletes scholarships. The upcoming season will be the last where this is the case, as Simpson College in Iowa and Greenville University in Illinois will be added into Division III.
Luke Dinneen is a junior in the Rehabilitation and Disability Studies program who traveled 1,400 miles to Springfield College in the fall of 2019. Dinneen, who had trained at the Nebraska School of Gymnastics in Lincoln, continued a tradition of athletes from the Cornhusker state making their way to Alden Street. Nick Cramer came from Nebraska to compete on the Springfield men’s gymnastics team, and graduated in the class of 2020.
Dinneen and Cramer had been competing together since their days in Nebraska, and Luke first learned about Springfield through Nick. Luke took Nick up on all his advice and was recruited to Springfield through him. The tradition has since continued as Nick’s younger brother Dane also went to Springfield and is currently a sophomore.
One of the most grueling aspects of being one of 15 teams in existence across the country is the travel. Springfield is the only men’s gymnastics team in New England, and one of just three teams in the Northeast. The closest other team is Army in West Point, which is still two-and-a-half hours from Alden Street, longer than many of the road trips taken by other teams on campus taking on NEWMAC opponents.
Some of Springfield’s upcoming road trips for the upcoming season include bus rides to West Point, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. For head coach Matt Davis, this extended travel serves as an opportunity for his team to form a closer bond.
“It’s an awesome experience.” Davis says. “You get to know the team pretty well, it’s good memories that we have travelling. We do go by bus but sometimes we do fly so some of those trips are really good experiences.”
Gymnastics has a rich history at Springfield College. The annual Home Show has been running for over a decade, and it’s one of the longest-standing sports the college has. Although the college doesn’t offer gymnasts an athletic scholarship like Division I scholarships can, there are other things like that which can make up for it.
The team is enduring the end of an era. After this year, it will no longer be on a different playing field as the rest of its competition. The Pride have been playing as underdogs with house money for years and they deserve your respect.
Photo: Gillian Dube/The Student