Chasing a feeling: How Baylor created an Acrobatics and Tumbling dynasty

By Nate Smith | Sports Director

Baylor’s Acrobatics and Tumbling team has been at the top of their young sport for half a decade now, and show no signs of slowing down. But how did Baylor become the powerhouse they are today?

According to Head Coach Felecia Mulkey, all you have to do is look back to her first year at Baylor. 

“In all honesty, that first team and their success is the reason we’ve continued our success.” Said Mulkey. “Because when those seniors bought in, then the program changed. This program has been really successful, but they’ve maintained humility, they stay hungry and that’s just part of who we are. That’s just a part of our culture now because of what we implemented there in year one.“

Despite the millions of young women across the country who have the skill set to compete in Acrobatics and Tumbling at some level, not many people know the sport exists. So when coach Mulkey is looking for athletes for her program, letting them know the opportunity to compete in college exists is half the battle.

When compared to other sports, the amount of awareness that athletes have about acrobatics and tumbling is striking.

“Four or five years ago I spoke to the softball team, Coach Moore had asked me to come in.” Said Mulkey. “I asked the softball team:  ‘when did you know you were going to play softball in college ?’ They were like, aw man I was five, I was seven you know, and I explained to them the majority of women on my team at that time did not even know about the opportunity of acrobatics and tumbling until they were in high school.”

Everyone knows that winning is important. But the bears are motivated by a feeling, rather than a few pieces of hardware. 

“How you stay hungry is going through the journey, and not just sitting down and going ‘ I want to win a national championship’” Said Mulkey. “Of course you want to, why in the world would you even try if you don’t want to win. There has not been one national championship that I have been fortunate enough to win that the happiness came with the trophy. Every championship was won, in our minds, well before they called our names, and unless you’re in the middle of it you don’t understand it.

For Cam Bryant, it’s the feeling of finally getting to the top of the mountain, particularly when the bears did so in the Ferrell center in 2019, that keeps her coming back for more. 

Bryant recalled Baylor’s last national championship win glowingly. 

“I was like ‘ lets all come together, rally together’.” Said Bryant. “ We did team event, we won team event, tears immediately rushing down everybody’s face. We were so excited, we knew we won in that moment. We didn’t care about the score, we didn’t care about anything, it’s just that feeling. I came back for that same feeling, because I wasn’t able to get that feeling last year.”