Senior gymnasts’ energy helps overcome adversity

Temple Gymnastics senior Madison Brooks is the “loudest in the gym” and sparks her teammates with her energy day in and day out.

Temple gymnast Madison Brooks has brought "unmatched energy" to the team this season. ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

When Temple senior gymnast Madison Brooks enters the gym, the team notices. Even though she might be a few minutes late because one of her classes went long, Brooks brings the same unique energy she’s brought to Temple since her freshman year: a loud, verbal excitement to be in Pearson-McGonigle Hall with her teammates working to master the sport they all love.

“When she walks into the gym, she’s loud,” said head coach Josh Nilson. “She’s the energy. If she’s sitting here [in the corner of the gym], everyone can hear her. That’s hard to find.”

Brooks started her final season with Temple in January, but as someone whose spot in college gymnastics wasn’t always stable or without injury, she is grateful to bring an energy to the program she is proud of.

She has been the first routine in two of Temple’s three matches so far this year, setting the tone for the rest of the team. In those competitions, Temple has a 7-5 record (3-2 East Atlantic Gymnastics League), including a win against Long Island University (5-6, 0-4 EAGL), who is ranked ahead of Temple in the EAGL standings.

Brooks fell in love with gymnastics at an early age. In high school, she harnessed her craft at Sun Country Gymnastics in Gainesville, Florida. During her junior year, her performance at events across the country earned her a scholarship to the University of Illinois-Chicago, where she ultimately committed. Some time later, in March 2019, UIC ended their gymnastics program due to funding issues, leaving Brooks without a scholarship and a college.

“When I heard the program was cut, I stopped,” Brooks said. “I didn’t know what to do.”

On top of losing her scholarship, Brooks suffered a back injury that caused her significant pain when twisting or landing. She was forced to stop competing for a few months to focus on rehabbing, which switched her focus away from college recruitment for the time being. 

“I tried everything,” Brooks said about recovering from her injury. “I tried therapy, x-rays, and stem cells. Nothing happened.”

After months of recovery and training to get back in competition shape, Brooks competed for Sun Country in Florida’s state championship tournaments. Though Brooks was deterred by those circumstances, her competitive nature pushed her to keep working to fulfill her dream of earning her spot on a Division-I team.

“I wasn’t going to give up,” Brooks said. “I had already gotten this far. I went into the gym the next day and kept working.”

During the summer of 2018, Brooks attended a gymnastics camp at Temple after hearing about the event from Nicole Smith, a former Temple gymnast and friend Brooks met on the competition circuit. As soon as she went to the camp, Brooks fell in love with Temple’s gymnastics program.

“I’m from a small town in Gainesville, so the city was super cool,” Brooks said. “I felt like I automatically clicked with the girls and the coaching staff. It just felt like home.”

Nilson was excited upon seeing Brooks’ skills and energy at the camp. Despite her injury history and lost scholarship, Nilson saw a confidence and determination in Brooks that outweighed any other concerns and set her apart from the other gymnasts’.

“The biggest thing to me was that she was extremely vibrant,” Nilson said. “I missed one of her turns, and she made a comment like, ‘Oh, that was fantastic,’ or something like that. I knew her program had just been dropped, which is a terrible situation to be in, and I just loved her energy.”

Though she isn’t a captain of the team, Brooks’ unique style of leadership lends itself to her role as the first routine, kicking off the team’s meets with a focused energy and passion that sets the momentum for the rest of the group. Her position also allows her to cheer for her teammates throughout the contest, a support that doesn’t end at the conclusion of an event. 

“Maddy’s a great teammate and friend,” said freshman Ashley Glynn. “She’s always there and making sure I’m good. She helps me with my gymnastics and keeps me on track with school. She’s super supportive.”

As the Owls’ season continues, Brooks is working hard to leave a lasting impact on the program that has meant so much to her. She has won two conference championships and several individual accolades, including ECAC Co-Rookie of the Year in 2020 and Second-Team All-EAGL Tournament Team in 2021. 

“I want to leave the culture we created,” Brooks said. “The high energy. The love we have for each other. I want that to carry on forever. Scores are scores, but I want the energy to always be there.”

Brooks considers the energy she brought to her teammates her most important contribution to the program. As for how she wants to be remembered? In a word: loud.

“I want people to think of me and say, ‘She was the loudest in the gym,’” Brooks said. “She was always there when I needed her.”

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