NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Nashville's Fisk University has officially launched the first-ever women’s gymnastics team at an HBCU.
Black gymnasts, in the past, have been forced to make a tough decision between attending an HBCU institution or pursuing a passion for gymnastics, according to those at Fisk.
Now, lifelong gymnasts such as Zyia Coleman, a Fisk University incoming freshman, are able to participate in the best of both worlds.
"We’re making history," Coleman said on a call with Fox News Digital.
"I’m really excited to be a part of history," she added.
The 18-year-old described the opportunity as "breathtaking." She expressed her excitement about displaying the skills and abilities that she and her teammates offer — and, of course, to have fun and keep learning while doing it.
Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Coleman said gymnastics always came naturally to her as the daughter of a gymnastics coach who taught advanced skills to her at a young age.
"I started competing at the age of five and ever since then, I just fell in love with gymnastics," she said.
Eight years later, Coleman admitted that she wasn’t sold on the thought of college at all until the opportunity to attend an HBCU and practice gymnastics presented itself.
"When you think of HBCUs, you think of the band, the great music, the majorette team," she said.
She added she hopes that "when you think of HBCUs in the future, you’re going to think of gymnastics."
In an interview with Fox News Digital, Fisk University athletic director and head coach Corrinne Tarver considered the development "long overdue."
Tarver, who was herself a U.S. National Team gymnast and a national gymnastics champion at the University of Georgia, suggested the hold-up in finally launching an HBCU-based program may be due to the fact that the sport is popular mostly during Olympic years.
"When you look at gymnastics traditionally, the only time you saw it on TV was when it was the national championships and sometimes the world championships," she said.
"So, people didn’t really see it other than [during] the Olympic timeframe … That has a lot to do with public perception of gymnastics."
Regardless, Coleman said she’s "just happy to be a part of it today."
For Coach Tarver, taking on the historic team as head coach is a continuation of her barrier-breaking gymnastics career. She was the first Black gymnast to attend UGA and win an NCA all-around title.
"For me, it’s exciting to take it to the next level," she said.
The Fisk University gymnastics team is expecting to compete against other collegiate teams this season from across the country, including teams from George Washington University, Towson University and the University of Michigan.
Coleman said she’s most looking forward to introducing Fisk gymnastics to the rest of the nation and representing her college.
"Coach Tarver — she’s recruited many great gymnasts," she said.
Tarver also said she’s eager for the team to be "successful."
Said Tarver, "I’m throwing my girls in the deep end."
The team’s first practice took place on Aug. 8, which Coleman described as "lively."
She reported that the team "just clicked," even though the women all come from different areas of the U.S.
"I was so excited just to see everyone working," she said. "We were all cheering each other on."
"It was just great vibes, great energy, and it was a connection."
After the first practice, Coleman posted a video on TikTok showcasing the girls in action.
The video went viral, receiving nearly 780,000 views as of currently — and an outpouring of support in the comments section.
"It’s a lot of pressure, but I’m excited," Coleman said. "We’re ready."
Tarver agreed that the overall reaction from the public has been "very positive" and gave a shout-out to Brown Girls Do Gymnastics, an advocacy organization.
Fisk University gymnastics is currently on a mission to raise $2 million in funding to build an on-campus training facility.
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