A Few Words with UF Gymnast Sierra Alexander

If you follow the UF gymnastics team, you know Sierra Alexander. What you may not know is that she is an English major with dreams to become an author. Whether Sierra is writing her next short story or performing a floor routine in front of a crowd, she always works her hardest. We sat down with Sierra to talk about her experience being a student athlete at the University of Florida:

Her Campus UFL (HCUFL): What does being a Gator mean to you?

Sierra Alexander (SA): It means being a part of a community that is bigger than yourself. It means holding yourself to a higher standard. It means working hard but having fun. The one thing about UF is that everybody is so smart, but we know how to balance work and play.

HCUFL: Tell us about your family and their role throughout the process of becoming a gymnast.

SA:Both of my parents are UF graduates. I started [gymnastics] when I was 2-years-old, and my mom thought it was really cool because she never did gymnastics. My dad actually played football here. But ever since I’ve started, I haven’t wanted to stop. Well, I have wanted to stop, because it does get tough. You want to go out with your friends or have more time to yourself, but gym is a year-round, practice for four or four and a half hours a day type of sport. My parents have always been supportive of me. They’ve always been the kind of parents who say, “You aren’t a quitter. You’re going to push through and try, and we are going to support you.”

HCUFL: How have you grown since high school through gymnastics?

SA: In high school, for me, gymnastics was very individual. I just went to gym, did what I had to do, and left. Here it’s the complete opposite. You can’t start practice and you can’t leave practice unless everyone is together, so if I end early, I have to wait until everyone is done. There’s 13 of us, and I know every little detail about every single person on the team, and I love that. It’s like we’re sisters. Also, I think about not just how my gymnastics affects me, but how it affects the team. I think about how my attitude affects the team. I think about how my workout affects the team. I’m thinking not just about me but how what I do impacts everybody else.

HCUFL: What was your first competition like as a Gator?

SA: My first competition as a Gator was amazing. I had never been to competition where there were so many people. I wasn’t even competing, but I was still so nervous and so in awe because there were maybe 9,000 people at our first competition in the O’Connell Center. It was overwhelming because I’ve never had that much support. People I didn’t even know would come up to me and say, “Sierra, hi!” and I would just think, ‘How do you know my name?’  It was crazy. I went from competing in front of parents to actual real-life fans. The first competition I actually competed in, I was so nervous. We were in Arkansas and the crowd was a lot smaller, but it was weird because the crowd was against us. I was the last person to compete, so I’m supposed to be anchoring the whole event down! It was really scary, but I loved it.

HCUFL: Would you say you have improved since the season started?

SA:Yes. This program is one of the most rigorous and challenging programs in the country. We are a very competitive team because a lot of the girls were elite, or Olympic level. So they’ve competed against Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman. I was never at that level; I just did club gymnastics and was OK. So coming here, my skills have improved, my form has improved, my outlook on gymnastics has improved and everything else has improved tenfold. I never realized I could be this good, or how bad I was, until I came here.

 

Sierra Alexander embodies the spirit and focus of a collegiate student athlete. Her perseverance, even through injuries, and her positive attitude make her an inspiration to gymnasts everywhere. The next time you see her walking through Turlington or on the North Lawn, say hello!

 

Picture credits:

Erin Long