Ashley Patenaude has a passion for gymnastics, and when she stopped competing after her freshman year of college in 2017, she felt she was missing something in her life. As a commuter at Bridgewater State, she did her best to find classes but the commute to Cambridge everyday was too long to handle.
She always imagined starting a club team on campus, and that dream was finally realized this spring semester! Starting this February, the team can compete in the 143-team National Association of Intercollegiate Gymnastic Clubs (NAIGC). Since clubs are not funded through the school, the gymnastics team is staying within the New England area.
The first competition for Bridgewater State is at Simmons College on Feb. 22, where a team of five gymnasts represent the Bears. Two weeks later, the team competes at MIT for the Northeast Championships on March 5. The team expects to be out in full force for the competition. Before the Nationals, the team will have potential joint practices with local college teams. The teams secured a Financial Aid package with the NAIGC to allow Bridgewater State to send five of their gymnasts for no additional cost. The competition takes place April 15 in Providence, RI. The team’s most recent work is a video competition judged entirely online.
The gymnastics team squad also includes members that do compete but still attend each practice. This is because the team is open to learners and supports anyone with an interest in the sport. The support of the coaches is something that can not go unnoticed as their support is nonstop for all levels of skill with there assistance at all gym stations. The team practices in North Attleboro, MA on Mondays from 7 to 9 p.m. and Fridays from 1 to 3 p.m. at Tri Alpha Gymnastics. The team also has a requirement of one meeting a month on campus as they also need a $10 dollars per practice, with carpooling as well to the Attleboro setting.
Club president Ashley Patenaude has competed in gymnastics since the age of 15, relatively new compared to most gymnasts at her level. She described how most of the athletes in the sport have been practicing since they could walk. Starting at a young age in gymnastics is common and while Ashley fell in love later in life, she is beyond capable of keeping up with the crowd. After watching YouTube videos and gaining a higher interest, high school was really where Ash took her first steps and became a member of the team.
Soon after high school, she still found herself practicing five day a week with the Xcel program. Patenaude found her time and love of gymnastics slipping with the demands of a college schedule, and she found and eventually found herself away from the sport for a while. She continued to coach for another year, allowing her to stay in the sport. Last spring, she found herself doing handstands and cartwheels in the living room and decided to start the gymnastics club. Now that the team is fully formed, she had high hopes for the team’s future after her graduation: “One day after graduating in the spring, I hope to be able to coach this team down the road,” said Patenaude.
The team has hopes of someday competing at faraway events such as California, New York and Orlando. They emphasize an open invite for anyone with a ranging interest in gymnastics. Growth is an important vision for Ashley Patenaude and she is excited for the future of the club, and the possibility of its addition as an official sport at Bridgewater State. Anyone interested in joining the club can email Ashley at email@example.com or follow the club on Instagram @bsu_gymnastics.