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David Eaton

Posted on July 01 2022


Emma Spence is a remarkable young lady, she has balanced both academics and athletics with so much poise, it’s truly astonishing! We loved having her on the ‘global ERINista’ roster as an elite and now having her a part of our program.

Spence was a well-decorated elite junior: 1st AA at Elite Canada in 2018, 2nd AA at the Canadian Championships in 2018, silver medalist as part of the Canadian team at both the Pacific Rim Championships and Pan American Championships, and 3rd on VT at the Youth Olympic Games. She hit the ground running as a senior: 3rd on BB at the Szombathely World Cup in 2019, bronze medalist on VT at Elite Canada in 2020, bronze on UB at the 2021 Canadian Nationals, bronze on BB at the 2022 Canadian Nationals. Furthermore, Spence has made an immediate impact for the Huskers competing in the AA in every meet of the 2022 season! She claimed the AA titles in the meets against Iowa State and Ohio State. 

Though Emma's accomplishments are many, she is actually a really down-to-earth and humble person with wisdom beyond her years. We were so excited to ask her some questions about her life.

What are some of your favorite childhood memories of gymnastics?

“When I was younger we used to have Christmas parties at my gym and one year my whole group did ‘Dad & Daughter’ routines to perform in the show. My dad and I choreographed a routine together to a Christmas song and during the routine my dad went for a back flip and bailed half way through and crash landed hard in front of everyone. That was supposed to be our “grand finale” – it ended up being just that but definitely not in the way we were going for! Everyone still jokes around about that memory of us.”

“I was 7 when I attended my first meet ever. I started at the wrong spot on the runway, which messed up my steps and I ran stomach first into the vault table and had to climb up onto it and jump off and present to the judges and I was laughing so much after. I couldn’t believe that happened. That’s the key thing I remember when I look back on my first meet.”

Why is exposure to gymnastics important? Do you believe basic gymnastics skills are essential life skills?

I think exposure to gymnastics is important because it teaches athletes many important life skills; such as balancing social life, academics, athletics, and work. It inspires one to develop good time management skills. It also teaches you good ways to take care of your body and stay healthy (stretching, rolling, flexibility, cardio). Overall, participation in gymnastics builds a good foundation on how to stay active which you can use throughout your whole life.” 

What are some key takeaways from having participated in the sport competitively all these years? How will you apply these lessons learned in other aspects of your life?

“Key takeaways:

It's important to have a good balance with everything you are doing. I find that balance makes you more engaged and motivated to do what you are doing and overall makes things more enjoyable.

Make sure that you’re doing what makes you happy. When you are happy you thrive and everything is more fun and easier - even the harder things will feel less hard because you're pursuing an activity you love. 

Stick to your morals even if it is difficult at times. Do what’s best for your own physical and mental health even if it isn’t always the easiest thing to do; whether it comes to taking care of injuries, standing up for yourself, social life, etc…

I apply these takeaways with my academics, my gymnastics, and my social life. I find that focusing on these things makes me the happiest and allows me to be the best me I can be.”

What makes a 'favorite practice leotard' a favorite? How should it make you feel, what important attributes must it have?

“The essentials:

  • It makes me feel comfortable/ has a comfortable fit
  • Not too tight, more of a looser fit to it for the long hot practice days 
  • I like the colors of it and the design 
  • I feel confident in it 
  • I like wearing it
  • I feel like I can do good gymnastics when I wear it! Even though it's just a leo, one can’t deny that sometimes the leotard you’re wearing can impact your mood going into practice!"

  • When starting to design this look what did you have in mind? How does being in the design seat make you feel? 

    “Design elements I had in mind:

  • I knew I wanted something that is red because it felt like it tied in both my country of origin (Canada) and my new college colors (Nebraska)
  • I wanted to create a leo that would be comfortable 
  • I wanted the look to be mature so that older gymnasts would want to wear it as well (including myself)”

  • “I was a little nervous to start the design process because I wanted to make something that girls would want to wear and I wasn’t sure if I could be creative enough to make a good one. However, in doing some research on patterns and designs I was able to come up with one that I, myself, would be excited to wear and I'm hoping other girls will feel the same way. I never thought I'd have the opportunity to do something like this and I was super excited to create my own leotard for other girls to wear too!”

    What are your favorite attributes about the leo now that the design process is complete? What are your hopes that gymnastics-leotard shoppers will notice?

    I like how the design looks a bit like stars which represent the American part (my school) but also kinda look like maple leaves (reminding me of Canada). I spent a long time trying to find a pattern that can represent both my NCAA school and country to me. I love the top/back and how it’s very open and has a pretty styling to it. It's nice and breathable which should help gymnasts stay cooler while training. I think it looks classy, athletic, professional. Ultimately, I hope shoppers can appreciate the little details that I put thought into, so that it authentically represents me. I tried to make it unique - something that I haven’t seen or worn before.”

    Emma Spence Design

    Once you retire in gymnastics what sports or activities do you think you will want to try and spend more time on?

    I want to spend more time doing things outside, like hiking, biking, walking and just being immersed in nature. I want to get back into photography. I have a camera and I’ve loved taking pictures of my friends, pet, family, and nature, but I don't have much time to do that anymore. I want to get more into cooking and baking - I love culinary pursuits but it's often hard to find the time with my current schedule. I will also be spending time on the job/career I will be starting once I’ve reached the final chapter of my gymnastics journey/graduate from college.”

    Have you ever coached gymnastics, do you plan on coaching ever, what do you think makes a great coach great? Any shoutouts to past or current coaches or memorable quotes from either mentors or coaches from your journey?

    “I've never really coached gymnastics before, other than being a CIT for one summer. I'm not sure if I plan on coaching ever. I'm thinking if I do, it would be as a summer job sometime in the next few years as I am still in college, but you never know… things can change! 

    “I think a great gymnastics coach truly has the athletes’ best interest at heart, in and out of the gym. I think a great coach needs to have that connection outside of the gym world with their athlete as well so that they know the athlete better and will know how to approach the athlete in a way that will resonate with them best. I think the bond the coach has with their athlete is so important so that you guys can be honest & open with each other and be able to work together as a team to come up with the best training plans and preparations for you. I think that trust is also very important in a coach because when the athlete and coach have a great relationship built on trust, they will feel comfortable being themselves, expressing themselves and openly talking about concerns, requests and suggestions without feeling nervous or voiceless. I think those are key factors that make a great coach, which will allow the athletes to thrive in their training environment.”

    “Shoutout to Denis Vachon - he was my Canadian coach for multiple years. He coached me for 6 years, he prepared me for all my major meets, he traveled with me to all my international assignments, and he helped me overcome some difficult challenges I have faced regarding gymnastics. He would always put the focus on being in the moment and being myself at meets and that helped me enjoy the experiences so much more and for that I am so thankful.”  

    “Shoutout to Heather Brink - my college head coach. She has helped me rediscover my love and happiness for the sport again during my freshman year. We have such a good connection and she’s helped me conquer so many things inside and outside of the gymnastics world. I am so glad to have her as my coach and I’m looking forward to my next few years with her ahead of me.”

    As a serious athlete, what are 3 tips on how to get your mornings started right and 3 tips for how to get the best sleep?

    "Morning started right: having a good breakfast. I find listening to music when I'm getting ready and making breakfast puts me in a good mood and helps me get going. Also prepping things the night before so that I'm not too rushed in the morning (clothes, food, etc…) really helps."

    "Best sleep: doing something that calms me down before bed. A good wind-down routine (reading, tv show, talking to my sisters, journaling) is essential. I find that having tea before bed gets me feeling calm and helps me sleep easier, as well as avoiding electronics as much as one can right before falling asleep."

    Any interesting major differences between Canadian and American gymnastics? Is it fun to be able to participate on both sides of the border and why? Is it stressful and why?

    “I don’t really see much of a difference between Canadian and American gymnastics other than the popularity of gymnastics in America. That is to say, that there are a lot more Americans that do gymnastics and compete compared to the girls in the Canadian programs.” 

    “I think that it’s so fun being able to compete on both sides of the border because I learn so much from my American and Canadian meets that help me with one another. In my Canadian Elite meets I have learned so much about competing under high pressure situations at big events and having to hit my routines when it counts the most and in my American NCAA meets I’ve learned a lot about teamwork and having fun/enjoying competition. I am still competing in both those types of meets and being able to use those skills in both types of meets has helped me perform better, enjoy myself more, and overall become a better gymnast and leader in the sport.”

    “I try not to think of that as being stressful. I try to focus more on the little things I’m learning along the way and how each opportunity and type of meet has helped me become a better gymnast overall.”