“We are not exactly a country club elitist sport, but it’s hard to translate to have an African American gymnast go to a private club, pay the tuition costs,” Williams said. “It’s a special environment where you can’t just run down the street and do it on a field or have a court nearby. You really have to economically have the ability to do that. The coaching, the use of facilities and all that stuff. And sometimes it doesn’t translate as well to the inner city period. Most of our athletes are suburban kids from more affluent backgrounds It’s a little bit more of a struggle maybe. But that’s just the reality of the way our sport is set up.”
For the current Sooners, they notice the lack of diversity on other teams. It’s not an uncommon occurrence for them to have the only black gymnast at meets. It’s something Reid says he notices right away how unique his team is.
“It’s a little bit different,” Reid said. “Most teams don’t have any. It’s just kind of nice. You always notice.”
However, each of them said they are starting to see changes in their sport as more teams start to diversify.
Williams credits the change to bigger name black gymnast getting exposure, such as Olympian John Orozco. But also grass roots effort by coaches and players around the country.
For the Sooners that means going to elementary schools and letting youth get to learn more about the sport and the gymnasts. As a byproduct the kids see a diverse roster at Oklahoma.
“I think it’s an important part of it,” Williams said. “When you have kids exposed to the same thing all the time, sometimes there is just a fear of the unknown if nothing else. Having my guys just become real people around them, they are representing my program, the university and the sport of gymnastics. I think that exposure to the community is obviously the key to anything.”