The New Guy

My name is Paul Burney and in May of 2018, I signed with UIC to join their gymnastics program. Gymnastics has been a part of my life since I was just two years old. I have been training my whole life for an opportunity to compete for a Division I NCAA gymnastics program. After having trained for nearly 18 years, I had been accepted to UIC which was extremely exciting and fulfilling. However, all these years of sacrifice may have been for nothing as UIC is cutting their gymnastics program. I was devastated to hear about the news.

A Few Months Have Already Changed My Life

While I may be new to the team, I can already claim that being a UIC gymnast has impacted my life in a lot of different ways. When I completed my first high-bar routine in the gym and everyone was hyped up and cheered me on, I knew I found my new home. Many of the friends I have made here will doubtlessly be friends for the rest of my life. But not only did I make powerful personal connections, I have also improved my time & stress management skills and learned a lot about teamwork and perseverance. And yes, all of that in just a few months.

Additionally, I can feel how I advance academically. There are a lot of beneficial resources such as tutors or unlimited free printing that just make life much easier. In general, I can easily say that competing for the UIC Gymnastics team and being able to represent my school means everything to me.

Uncertain Future

But with the decision to cut the gymnastics programs after this season, I have very mixed feelings about my future. I really don’t want to leave UIC because I fell in love with this University and my team. However, I also don’t want to throw away my gymnastics career. Gymnastics means the world to me and I can’t picture a life without it. Also, transferring would mean having to go through the struggles of moving again. And in addition to that, with the rarity of NCAA gymnastics programs in the US, there will be very limited option to join any other team.

The Bigger Picture

What I think a lot of people are starting to grasp is that this decision will impact the whole college gymnastics community. Not just UIC. There is already a very low number of college gymnastics programs and now that another program is getting cut, less young gymnasts will be able to continue doing what they love. Or put differently; this decision is causing many young gymnasts to miss out on the experience of competing for a D1 NCAA gymnastics program.


FanWord is embarking on a series of stories from UIC’s current team members and other folks whose lives have been positively, and irrevocably, impacted by UIC Gymnastics. As you read what UIC Gymnastics has accomplished and the lives it has touched, I hope you will understand the need for these programs to continue into the future.

For more stories on this series, click here.



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