This summer, Augustana announced that Kaelyn Cowan would become the inaugural head coach of the Augustana acrobatics and tumbling team, set to debut in the 2022-2023 school year.
Cowan, a three-time national champion as an athlete at Baylor University, comes to Augustana
after working as an assistant coach at her alma mater since 2019. She also coached the Baylor Bears to their latest national championship this past season.
“It became clear right away that this is who we were looking for,” (associate athletic director for operations) Luke Groth, said. “We love her passion and attitude for the sport and the way she carries herself. We think she’s going to do a terrific job.”
Cowan also has experience starting a program from scratch. She was the head coach at Limestone University in Gaffney, South Carolina, where she led the Saints to a 6-2 record in their inaugural season during the 2018-2019 academic year.
“It’s been cool to learn from that experience, and you know, tweak things that I think I could’ve done better,” Cowan said. “Everybody has been a huge help, just with the processes of getting into a new place and helping me get what I need to be successful.”
Cowan understands the added importance of recruitment when starting with a blank roster. She has already been actively recruiting since she was hired.
“Before she actually had her start date she asked if she could take her recruiting test,” Groth said. “She was like, ‘I got a couple of girls that I want to go recruit,’ so she’s clearly doing a great job so far.”
Recruitment around the region is wide open for Cowan. Augustana’s nearest opponent is Concordia University Wisconsin, which is over seven hours away from Sioux Falls.
Groth said that there aren’t many options for young girls in the sport of gymnastics after high school. The emergence of acrobatics and tumbling can lead to more opportunities for women in sports.
“I was actually able to start [recruiting] here in Sioux Falls,” Cowan said. “We’re the first school in the Midwest, so I’ve been able to teach a lot of people what the sport is. I’m kind of recruiting everything currently. The cool thing is that you might see somebody that is 4-foot-11 and 5-foot-11 on the same team, they just play different positions like you see in other sports.”
What is acrobatics and tumbling?
Acrobatics and tumbling is an NCAA emerging sport with close to 40 teams around the nation. The teams currently compete in the NCATA, or the National Collegiate Acrobatics and Tumbling
“Acrobatics and tumbling is a mixture of different disciplines of gymnastics,” Cowan said. “We take all sorts of different aspects of gymnastics and put it into one sport.”
Meets are broken into six events: Compulsory, Acro, Pyramid, Toss, Tumbling and Team. Throughout the two-hour event, the teams are scored based on difficulty and execution of the various stacks, flips, tumbles and synchronized routines. The highest possible score for a meet is 300.
“It’s a really unique sport,” Cowan said. “I know it’s going to take some time, but I’m going to try and get around campus to try and explain to people what the sport is. Just keep your eyes open.”
Along with Cowan spreading the word to campus, the school will be planning to reach out and gain community interest.
“We’re going to do our best to promote it,” Groth said. “We might even have to do more so than football, basketball which kind of sell themselves. I think it’ll be new and exciting. I feel really good about this place buying into it.”
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