Madyson Howard balances her schedule like she balances in competition - with accuracy, strength and determination. A senior nursing major and Southern Utah University Gymnastics Flippin’ Bird, Howard pursues both of her dreams simultaneously with the support of family, faculty and coaches.
A gymnast since she was six years old, this Idaho Falls native always dreamed of competing collegiately and becoming a nurse. She chose SUU because it was the only university she could find that would allow her to be in the nursing program while competing on the gymnastics team.
“Being a student athlete and balancing classes and practice has always been challenging, but once I entered the nursing program, that challenge was taken to a whole new level,” she said. “From the beginning, my teachers and coaches worked with me to ensure I would have the necessary tools to succeed in both of my passions.”
Upon entering her senior year, Howard worried about finding time for everything in her life. SUU Gymnastics Coach Scotty Bauman convinced her to tackle both her education and gymnastics during her final collegiate year, and Howard is so glad she followed his advice. The Flippin’ Birds have had one of the best seasons in the history of the program, setting a new school record of 197.025 in March 2017 and seeing a gymnast score the first perfect 10.000. Howard herself has set a career-high of 9.925 on the floor this season.
Attending nursing school requires long class and clinical hours of Howard, while collegiate gymnastics demands 20 hours of practice and conditioning each week. Often, she would sacrifice a lunch break to get a quick workout in before nightly practice.
“I had to be very efficient in order to get all my schoolwork done and also get in enough practice to be ready to compete,” she said. “I’ve learned the importance of prioritizing my time and putting my best effort into everything I do.”
Bauman has coached her for the past four years and has seen the struggle Howard has faced in balancing her schedule.
“She was absolute magic the first time she competed for us this season,” said Bauman. “The incredible competitor that Mady has inside came out instantly. By the look in her eyes you could tell that the hard times were worth it, that everything would be okay.”
The support and confidence Howard received from her professors and coach made all the difference to her undergraduate education and athletic career.
“Scotty sees his athletes as more than just a score,” said Howard. “I feel so fortunate to attend a university where students are top priority and the coaches and teachers truly care about each one of their students and athletes as a person.”
SUU’s nursing program exposed Howard to various fields within nursing, which helped her find a passion for working with children and newborns. “SUU has given me the knowledge and experience I need to have a great career as a nurse, no matter what field I choose,” said Howard.
Howard will graduate from the SUU Nursing Program in December.