USA Gymnastics: The Big Show

Last week was one of the busiest weeks of my life. From Monday at 9 a.m. to Saturday night at 10:30, I was going non-stop in Louisville for the USA Gymnastics Championships — the national championships for trampoline and tumbling, rhythmic gymnastics and acrobatic gymnastics. It was my first time seeing any of these disciplines live and I have to say, I’ll be going back for more.

Not only is rhythmic gymnastics a photographers’ dream, but trampoline, double-mini and tumbling keep you on the edge of your seat the entire competition. Not to mention my back ached just watching the acro pairs and groups perform.

Monday was setup day for the competition. My boss, Leslie, and I drove down mid-day, IMG_4125checked into our hotel, picked up our USA Gymnastics-issue apparel for the week (!!!) and headed to two hour-long meetings from 9-11 that night. We also had dinner with Karl Schmitt of the Louisville Sports Commission. He’s been around forever and knows just about everyone in the business, so he’s not a bad person to know, that’s for sure. Greg Fante of the sports commission also was at dinner. Hearing the stories Karl and Leslie threw around so casually about Richard Mellon (yes, of Carnegie Mellon), the nine gold-medalist boxers at the 1984 Olympics and so many more was very cool.

The real fun started the next morning with the first day of competition. My main setup wasIMG_4164 IMG_4160 at the Kentucky International Convention Center where all of the Junior Olympic and elite tumbling and double-mini competition would be held. My job while I was there was to collect results and type up the champions in AP style for the website (Elizabeth Grimsley, Decatur, Ga./Atlanta Gymnastics Center) as well as help with media coordination. Leslie was the KFC Yum! Center contact. We were set to have our first media come in, so instead of throwing me into shark infested waters without a chainmail wetsuit, she setup shop at the convention center to show me the ropes before heading over to the Yum! I’d like to pause for a second and say how much I like the Yum! Center. It’s one of my favorite arenas I’ve been in and even has a whole side of windows that looks over the Ohio River to Indiana. it’s pretty cool to say the least.

IMG_4158Whitney Harding of WHAS11 and her camera man arrived to shoot pieces on the tumblers’ rod floor and the event itself as well as interviews with our COO Ron Galimore and former acro world champion Arthur Davis. We escorted her to the rod floor and then to the acro floor to get b-roll. Whitney was a former gymnast with the infamous Bela Karolyi and was very friendly, so she was a great first media relations project for me.

That morning Leslie and I also scoped out the best spots for photographers to shoot from should they come. I took test shots from the stands, the competition floor and various other parts of the arena to find the best area for potential photographers. All week, I only had one photographer come to the convention center and she decided the angle was better from the spectator areas, so my job was made much easier since I didn’t have to escort her through the training areas or on the competition floor.

Wednesday was the day before the elite competition was set to begin as well as media day. Six of the top competing elites from the three disciplines came over to the Yum!IMG_4149 Center to talk to reporters about the event, their stories and anything else they might have been asked. Preparing for media started a while back. We had to lineup the athletes in advance, create fact sheets for the athletes and send our information to the media so they would know where to come, what to do and why they should be there. While were were expecting only a couple people to show up, we were surprised with at least six or seven photographers, TV crews and reporters. I also went around with our video services coordinator, Peter, and did video interviews of each of the athletes. After the interviews photographers and TV crews were allowed to go anywhere in the arena and shoot footage of the training going on at the time.

After media day ended, I ran back to the convention center to meet a radio reporter to do an interview with a local louisville kid competing in the J.O. competition as well as talk to Karl about the economic impact of the championships.

That day I also wrote a couple releases for things not having anything to do with the championships. Just because you’re spending all your time at an event doesn’t mean the other disciplines are at a standstill. The men’s national qualifier was being held in Colorado Springs that weekend and the Pan American Olympic Festival was set to begin the next day. We also released the names of all the competitors competing in Chicago at the Secret Classic in two weeks (which I also found out I will be going to!).

After a hectic day of running back and forth between the Yum! Center and convention center about four different times, my feet were seriously starting to hurt. But the day wasn’t over yet. That night we had our staff dinner and I got the privilege of meeting 2000 bronze medalist at the Olympic, Elise Ray, who would be commentating on the live webcasts at the Yum! Center.

IMG_4179If I thought I was busy Tuesday or Wednesday, I was in for a rude awakening with the start of elite competition Thursday. My day began at 8:30 that morning at the convention center. Once competition ended there at 4:30, I ran over to the Yum! Center to take video of the Kick-off Celebration at the plaza out front for Karl. Then the senior elite competition began at 6 p.m. and I was on the clock for results, releases and anything else that came up. The scoring system we use for these disciplines doesn’t have the ability to give us results in any form besides a PDF, so I had to manually type and track results after each routine to be able to get the top three put into AP style in time for newspapers’ deadlines. The IMG_4274spreadsheets I had made the previous week with the athletes names, hometowns and clubs ready to go in AP style were a lifesaver. While I worked on the results and took some pictures, Leslie worked on the release. After the competition we traded tasks to fact check all the scores and names as well as check for grammar mistakes and anything else. In the end, everything turned out fine as we got our results published in the agate of the Louisville Courier-Journal each day of elite competition.

Friday was much of the same with more competition at both buildings, more running back and forth, more results and more releases. The highlight was definitely the doube-mini and tumbling senior elite prelims. I have to give a shout out to Jerrett Jensen who stuck the crap out of a tumbling pass that I’m still in awe about. He not only qualified in second to the tumbling final and second to the double-mini final but qualified to the individual trampoline final as well. Saturday was a fun day and not just because the week that felt like it was lasting forever was finally almost over. In the morning, Leslie and I talked to the trampoline youth Olympians Nicole Ahsinger and Cody Gesuelli and put them through a short media training session. Both junior gymnasts, neither had much experience talking to the media, so we told them the dos and don’ts as well as what to expect and how to handle sticky situations. it was definitely interesting seeing what Leslie told them to do around media and be on that side of things. Now I know why interviewees act the way and answer the way they do somethings. It’ll help me better understand the process and hopefully help me become a better interviewer as well. After the media training, Nicole and Cody then got some practice in as I interviewed them for features I’m doing on the youth Olympians for the website (yay journalism!) with Nicole going before her competition and Cody just after he won his third consecutive junior national title. I have to say, even though they’re basically rookies in the interview game, both were great subjects, and I’m pretty excited to write up their stories. So keep an eye out for those coming to the USA Gym website soon.

That night was the final day of competition for the senior elites. Individual trampoline, rhythmic and acrobatic titles as well as national team spots were on the line. After finishing trampoline prelims, Jeffrey Gluckstein was in third. After semifinals, he was in second. After finals, Jeff made his way up to first and grabbed his second consecutive national title. After the meet, I took Kenzie Winstead of the Courier-Journal down to the floor to talk to Jeff for his story. I also got rhythmic co-champions (for the first time ever) Rebecca Sereda and Jazzy Kerber for Kenzie to talk to. After interviews we rushed to get results, the recap releases and the national team releases finished and sent out to the media before deadlines. By the time we left the arena it was 10:30 and the event was finally over. I might have been stressed and anxious the majority of the week, but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it. Not only was the job part of my time there fun, but I truly enjoyed getting to watch the competition as well.

Logan DooleyIt all seems so crazy and hectic when I tell it this way and it may not seem like it, but there was some time to sit back and really enjoy the competition. I have a new respect for all three disciplines and hope that everyone can be exposed to them in some way. Gymnastics isn’t just the stuff you see on TV or watch during the Olympics (although, not to shock you, but trampoline and rhythmic is at the Olympics). I think if more people watch just one routine, they’ll be hooked and the sport will grow, which is the ultimate goal in the end anyway. I’m still amazed at how high theIMG_1256 trampolinists jump in the air or how they can correct their bounce when it looks they’re
about to crash. I’m still amazed at how double-mini trampolinists can do such difficult flips on a trampoline no bigger than a twin bed. I’m still amazed at how a power tumbler can do the equivalent of three artistic tumbling passes Hannah Silverman, Christina Antoniades, Emily Ruppertin one go and make it look effortless. I’m still amazed at how acro gymnasts can bend then bodies inRonit Shamuilov such a way or have the strength to hold up a 60- or 70-ish pound person in the air for long periods at a time. I’m still amazed at the ease rhythmic gymnasts do their skills and how they are able to catch a ball or hoop or clubs or ribbon from the air all while doing a leap or walkover.

Overall I really did enjoy my time in Louisville. Sure it might have been stressful or chaotic at times, but what job in media isn’t? Now it’s time to get back to the office after a much needed day off today and start final preparations for Chicago in just 10 days. I’ll also be a guest on THE gymnastics podcast Gymcastic this week to talk about the championships. And if you want to see all the best pictures I took at the event, go to the public Facebook album I created. Or check out the best of the best below.

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I have two weeks left in Indianapolis, and I intend to make the most of it.

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USA Gymnastics: prep for the big event

So much has happened since my last post, but I’ll try to keep this on point. It’s been one busy week. For a while now we’ve been preparing for the USA Gymnastics Championships that are going on all next week in Louisville. It’s basically the national championships for trampoline and tumbling, rhythmic gymnastics and acrobatic gymnastics on the elite level and four junior Olympic levels, which is the step below elite.

I’ve been running around like a cat that just had a particularly large dose of catnip. Everyone in the office has been going nonstop trying to get everything squared away so we’re prepared. But before I get into all of that I’ll explain a little big about the different disciplines. What you see on TV and love to watch during the Olympics is artistic gymnastics. Trampoline and tumbling has three and a half disciplines basically. There’s individual trampolinesynchronized trampolinepower tumbling and double-mini. This is not your ordinary backyard trampoline. Rhythmic gymnastics is all about flexibility, dance, balances and dynamic movements. With rhythmic there’s individual and group routines. Its events for this quad are rope, hoop, ribbon and clubs. Then there’s acrobatic gymnastics. It’s similar to the stunt work done in cheerleading or the balancing acts you see in Cirque du Soleil shows. In acro there’s mixed pairswomen’s pairsmen’s pairswomen’s group and men’s group. While watching acro worlds live today, I was already envisioning pictures I could take next week.

Back to what I’ve been doing to help prepare. I honestly worked on a little bit of everything to get ready for the championships. A lot of the things I did were to make life easier next week — my kind of work. I wrote a field of competitors release for the championships (there are more than 1,600 competitors!), which took about three days to get completely finalized and ready to send out to the media. I reformatted a spreadsheet for ease when it Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 8.00.06 PMcomes to posting results and wrote a media opportunities release for the local media to let them know what each session contained and when it was and writing media advisories for the media day and kick-off celebration. I got to use my fancy Excel formula, which was exciting. Call me a nerd. Go on. The formula turns all that jumble in the picture into something like this when you plug it in: Elizabeth Grimsley, Decatur, Ga., and Caitlyn Stroh of Thomasville, Ga. both of University of Georgia.

I also worked on a lot of releases not having anything to do with the following week’s championships. Eddie Penev was awarded the USOC June Athlete of the Month, which I filled out the application for. Kerri Strug had her second child. The field of competitors was released for next week’s men’s national qualifier. The USOC announced the official delegation for the Youth Olympic Games, which includes four gymnasts. I also proofed releases coming in from France where Scott is covering the 2014 World Acrobatic Gymnastics Championships.

I sat in on a call with a local Louisville newspaper editor as he and Leslie discussed feature story ideas and media day for next week. I also had what felt like 50 meetings, which I don’t actually mind all that much. I was even so busy Thursday, I almost forgot to eat. I definitely know what Nick means when he says sometimes being hungry is just so inconvenient.

Although this week was non-stop work, it should make next week a lot easier and a pretty fun event. I even get to take some pictures of the gymnastics going on when I’m not doing anything else, so be warned you’re about to have a lot of images coming your way in the next post. I also made sure to plant the seed that if there was a feature story idea a reporter didn’t want to write about, I would be MORE than happy to write it up for the website. I’m hoping next week I’ll not only get to take some pictures of stunning gymnastics but write about those stunning gymnasts as well. Besides that, I’ll be coordinating media at the convention center during the day and helping Leslie with that task at the Yum! Center at night. I might also get to finally meet some of the trampolinists (trampoliners?) in real life that I interviewed for stories over the phone a while back when I was writing for Inside Gymnastics during the Olympics.

Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 9.03.30 PMThat’s it for now. Next week is going to be crazy, but I’m sure with it will come some great stuff to write about and even greater pictures to help tell the story. I’m just hoping I survive Louisville! Until then, go on over to my personal blog and read about all of this plus a 20,000 member Jehovah’s Witness convention, descriptions of clouds and flying at night, my Indypendence Day and much more.

USA Gymnastics: Week Three(ish)

Nothing like a little tornado to thrust some excitement into the workplace. I’d say that was the highlight of the week (well, besides setting a World Record and all). It’s not like our lives were in danger or anything. Just a little tornado strolling through Plainfield, Ind., no biggie. I’d say some of the women in the office thought differently though (mainly those who live around that area — understandable), but I digress. Let’s move on to actual internship activities because that’s why you’re really reading this, right?

Last week was the start of week three at the internship. Although things weren’t as busy as they could have been, the week seemed to fly by. Monday was Olympic Day, so the office was all about the World Record being attempted in Pittsburgh (spoiler alert: A new record was set!). Once we got the news about 735 participants having successfully cartwheeled at the same time (with no collisions or injuries), I filled in the blanks on the release and up it went on the website. I also took the initiative to create a Storify for the event. Although there weren’t that many people tweeting from the Roberto Clemente Bridge, the tweets that did exist were quality ones. With that and my sleuthing skills on Twitter, I was able to find a good number of tweets and pictures from Pittsburgh to use in the curation. I think the final product turned out pretty well, and I hope USA Gym readers liked their first taste at a Storify. I also collected clips from all the places that published stories or videos on the World Record event in Pittsburgh. AP writer Will Graves, who got separate, individual time with Gabby, had a nice story about her comeback. The World Record was seen internationally and was even on the Today Show. I’d say that’s successful promotion.

The press release trend continued with releases on some trampoline national team members traveling to Switzerland to compete (and how they did as well as some juniors that did well), Bill Cosby holding a benefit concert for the Temple men’s gymnastics program and a recap on the Gymnastics for All Nationals that were held in Orlando two weekends ago.

After the excitement from Olympic Day, I got to do something even more interesting — listen to a webinar on Google Grants and take notes to later share with the marketing department about the program. I kid with my sarcasm, though. It was actually pretty interesting, and some of the things you can do with the program are pretty cool.

10516734_10152583906641934_4832670033515713191_nThat’s pretty much all the work stuff I did last week besides the usual scanning of pictures and “get it done before you leave in August” tasks. I’ll be in Louisville for the USA Gymnastics Championships for seven days helping with the event in about two weeks. I also get to go home TOMORROW for the Fourth of July. It’s only been four-ish weeks, but it’s felt much longer. It’ll also be the first time I ride on a plane by myself, so that’s fun.

As always, check out my personal blog that includes all this stuff plus pictures from my trip to the Indianapolis Zoo. Stay tuned.

USA Gymnastics: Week 2

IMG_3916Busy is an understatement for how my week was. I haven’t just been busy. I’ve been swamped — overloaded in press releases, proofing, and preparations for tomorrow’s Olympic Day celebrations. The week is mainly one blur and the weekends a time to relax and really explore all Indianapolis has to offer.

This weekend is the rhythmic gymnastics national qualifier, which is the final competition for the U.S.’s rhythmic gymnasts to qualify to the USA Gymnastics Championships in Louisville in mid-July. To prep for that, I wrote three releases — the field of competitors release to say who all was competing, a skeleton for the halfway point in the competition and the results release to say who qualified to nationals. With the field of competitors, I learned a very cool trick in Excel that automatically formats the competitors information into the style we use in the releases (Elizabeth Grimsley, Decatur, Ga./Atlanta Gymnastics Center), so inputting 126 competitors was a breeze.

Now that I think about it, this week was all about rhythmic, trampoline and tumbling and Olympic day. I also wrote releases on the recent international success some of the rhythmic national team members have had, the T&T scholarships that were announced at the Elite Challenge and a preview for Olympic Day as well as a skeleton to use after the new cartwheel world record is set if everything goes well. I also wrote up a short release on the Gymnastics For All nationals that are happening this weekend in Orlando, Fla. If I can’t call myself an expert at writing press releases by the end of this summer, something will have gone terribly wrong. I am still trying to get used to the “no fluff” approach.

Of course, with an internship comes typical intern duties such as fact-checking the FIG archives to make sure the former and current U.S. representative’s information is correct as well as more scanning of pictures and sitting in on meetings. There’s also been a lot of proofing, which I actually enjoy. Call me crazy.

It hasn’t all been releases and busy work though. I got to think of a hashtag for Olympic Day and might even get to Storify the World Record attempt from the office tomorrow. Storify is something my boss has never used or even heard of, so I’m excited to show her how cool and effective it is.

IMG_3747On Thursday, I got out of the office for lunch with two of the girls in the office. One of them works with Steve Penny and the other works in the women’s program. She’s basically the Hagrid of the office — the keeper of keys/secrets with the women’s program. I enjoyed hearing about what some of the other jobs are like there and not just those in the communications department. I also though it was funny that they thought it was so hot and humid outside when it was only in the mid-80s. Normally I’m the one saying how hot it is, but this is nothing compared to Georgia. The fact that it can rain at any moment is more like home though. I swear it can be sunny one moment and then downpour the next. It did cause some amazing sunsets though.

IMG_3679That’s pretty much been it so far. On tap is a feature (yay journalism!) I’m doing on Youth Olympic Games qualifier Laura Zeng as well as some more work with the International Triathlon Union and their 25th anniversary project. As always, check out my personal account of the last week, including my time at the NCAA Hall of Champions, visit to the Ansel Adams exhibit at the Eiteljorg Museum and the Indianapolis Indians baseball game from last Sunday.

USA Gymnastics: Week 1

IMG_3588With no two days exactly the same, it’s been a hectic first week to say the least. Life on the other side of the field, as I like to call it, is different. The verdict is still out on whether or not I’m a fan of media relations, but that’s the point of this summer. I do have to say I miss the journalism side of things. Sure, I’ll be doing a feature here and there, but my life is now being consumed by press releases, media outreaches and media advisories. I’m promoting a sport now rather than covering it, and that’s definitely new for me. It’s difficult to turn my “unbiased training” off and allow a little bit of promotion and fandom start to leak in.

Anyway, down to what all I’ve been doing. To tell you the truth, so far it’s been a little bit of everything. I wrote an obituary for my first assignment on the job. I rewrote someone else’s press release about Olympic champion Gabby Douglas getting a wax figure made of herself. I covered a trampoline and tumbling event remotely and filed press releases about the competition even though I was on the other side of the country. Plus, I did all of that stereotypical intern stuff such as scan hundreds of old film slides, proof releases and stories and transcribe off of a video.

Non-writing related, I did my first media outreach where I basically acted as the equivalent of an SID and set up an interview with a journalist and an athlete. This coming week I’ll also be writing a media advisory for a “celebrity” site visit event in Louisville as well as writing the skeletons for press releases for the rhythmic gymnastics national qualifier next weekend so that they are ready to finalize and send out to the media as soon as the results are in after the competition.

So far, I wouldn’t call the work fun. However, it’s not uninteresting either. The main different
between what I know about journalism jobs and media relation IMG_3577gigs is that so far my environment has been a plain grey cubicle for eight hours each day. I did get to go out on a bit of a field trip with the USA Track & Field interns to see the Indy Eleven office, which is the city’s North American Soccer League team. Since the team’s only been around for less than a year, it was cool to hear about how the program was built from the group up and how the people there are continuing to promote the team.

On a non-work related note, Indianapolis is truely a sports city. My room is literally across
the street from Lucas Oil Stadium where the Colts play and I park next to the Bankers Life Fieldhouse where the
Pacers and Fever play. I’m also planning on going to an Indianapolis Indian’s game against the Gwinnett Braves Sunday. A little taste of home up here in the north should be a comfort.

I’m sure things will pick up even more, but I’ll try my best to write all about it. I’m even going to get to go to an event in Louisville in mid-July. As always, feel free to check out my personal account of my experience here.

USA Gymnastics: Day 0

photo 4As you probably know by now since you’re reading this, my name is Elizabeth, and I’m doing an internship this summer with USA Gymnastics this summer. I arrived in Indianapolis Friday and have been trying to settle in before my official first day tomorrow.

Overall, I’ll be doing a lot of different stuff with the company including media relations, social media and helping out with the magazine. However, the first day is expected to be all about paperwork, introductions and getting to know my surroundings before jumping in. I’ll try to give updates throughout about my experiences and everything I get to do along the way, including some things not exclusive to my internship such as visiting the NCAA headquarters or going to an Indianapolis Indians baseball game. I’m excited but nervous to get started and see where this summer leads me!

If you want a more personal look into what I’m up to, check out the blog I’m going to attempt to keep about my experiences in Indy. I hope anyone who reads this enjoys it or at least gets something out of it! Feel free to comment or follow me on twitter as well.