University of Nebraska-Lincoln athletics and Greek life may never go hand in hand to some.
However, for many student-athletes at UNL, belonging to Greek life is an escape and the two happen to be connected more than outsiders may believe.
While sports are a way of life for many, that chapter ends for most when they walk across the stage at high school graduation. For Emma Simpton, a member of the Nebraska women’s gymnastics team, her dreams started to turn into a reality after she graduated high school.
Simpton is a freshman at Nebraska where she is currently living out her dream as a Division I gymnast. However, there is much more to Simpton than her athletic abilities. While Simpton is a stud in the gym, she is also a member of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. With her involvement both inside and outside the gym, Simpton has shown that being involved in Greek life and collegiate gymnastics has actually brought the two communities together.
Coming to Lincoln from Dallas, Simpton said she was worried about the transition and being nearly nine hours away from home.
“Moving here in the summer made it difficult,” Simpton said. “No one was on campus and I was taking one class while trying to get closer with my teammates and grow as a gymnast. It was hard to be away from my family, especially when it is so far. Some have the luxury of going home for weekends or even just for a meal with their family, but I cannot do that being nine hours from home.”
Simpton said she was in search of a home away from home, so she decided to go through sorority recruitment. After a long week, Simpton fell in love with Kappa Alpha Theta and by the end of the week was a member of the house.
“I am so happy that I decided to join Theta,” Simpton said. “I have met so many amazing people and I am so lucky that Gabby was one of them. She has really been supportive of me and gymnastics while also being a great friend.”
Gabby Weinrich is a sophomore at the UNL. She said she talked to Simpton throughout recruitment and instantly wanted her to be a part of the chapter. Weinrich said she knew that she needed to show Simpton that being involved in things outside of just Greek life was highly encouraged by the chapter.
“I know Emma was nervous to go through sorority recruitment in the fall, because of her busy schedule, but Theta really encourages members to be involved and is understanding when members have other things going on in their lives,” Weinrich said.
To Simpton, joining Greek life was about more than just creating a busy lifestyle, but also getting involved on campus and meeting as many people as possible.
“Being a part of both Greek life and gymnastics has done more good than harm” Simpton said. “While it can be hectic at times, Theta is very understanding that I am here at UNL for gymnastics and for school. If anything it has allowed me to introduce the two to each other. It has brought more friends and fans to the meets and my teammates have loved getting to meet my friends from Theta.”
Simpton said she enjoys the fact that she has an escape. Gymnastics allows her to escape stresses caused by school or friends and allows her to be in her element. Greek life allows her to escape the stress and nerves that gymnastics brings at times and allows her to soak in being a college student. On top of that, she gets to spend time with friends while getting involved on campus through different Greek life events.
On days that involve Kappa Alpha Theta events as well as gymnastic requirements, days can get busy. Simpton’s Mondays start with school, but quickly transitions into gymnastics. By 12:30 p.m, Simpton is at the Devaney Center and ready for practice. From 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., Simpton is in the gym followed by the weight room. Following practice, she makes her way to the sorority house for chapter meeting.
“Going to chapter meetings after a long practice can be hard on Mondays,” Simpton said. “However, it is nice getting to see everyone and hear about each other’s weekends.”
With two different aspects of Simpton’s life demanding for her time and commitment, things may not go as smoothly as she would hope at times.
“At the end of the day gymnastics comes first as that is the reason I am here,” Simpton said. “The only downside is sometimes with gymnastics I am unable to go to events such as chapter meetings on Mondays if we have a meet or spending formal nights with friends.”
Something that really shows her it is all worth it is seeing the support from her sorority sisters.
“It has been so fun getting to watch Emma succeed on the mat” Weinrich said. “Not only getting to watch her do her thing, but being introduced to her teammates and being introduced to that side of her. It really is neat getting to see this other community and coming together through Emma.”
Simpton said she believes her support system has only grown and as Weinrich alluded to, this has allowed the two groups to support one another and come together. Members of the sorority have been able to cheer Simpton on and members of the team have been able to support the sorority in charity events and even attend Greek events through Emma.
Kinsey Davis is a sophomore on the women’s gymnastics team. Davis is a teammate to Simpton, but more importantly a great friend.
Davis personally is not involved in Greek life, however, she said she believes there really is no effect on the performance of a teammate if they are or are not in a sorority.
“It can be hard to fully understand the ins and outs of Greek life while not personally being involved, but in general I believe the team has neutral feelings about Greek life,” Davis said. “I really don’t think the choice of a teammate being involved in Greek life has an impact on the team as a whole, or their performance.”
Simpton has received a lot of support as a freshman on the mat as she adjusts to collegiate gymnastics. According to Davis, that support is a reflection of the team’s overall culture.
“As a team we uplift and encourage each other during a meet by spreading positivity and talking up our teammates,” Davis said. “It’s important to give each other the benefit of the doubt and to shower them with positivity and love. We have to come together as a team so the performance of each individual has an impact on the team. With this being said the only option is to work together with one another.”
Simpton’s sorority family works in a similar fashion. In a sorority each member has to hold their own whether it is academically, socially or through involvement in the house. The two being similar in this aspect allows for Simpton to know her role as a team member to both Greek life and the gymnastics team.
Being involved in both gymnastics and Theta has allowed Simpton to become the best version of herself. As she moves forward in her collegiate journey, she’s looking forward to remaining involved both on and off the mat.
“The two have definitely benefited my life in more ways than I could imagine,” Simpton said. “I am looking forward to growing in both involvements for the rest of my time at UNL.”