Doug Williams Center to host girls gymnastics seminar in July

Press release

Brown Girls Do Gymnastics’ fifth annual conference will be hosted on Grambling State University’s campus in collaboration with The Doug Williams Center and Ruston Lincoln Convention & Visitor’s Bureau.

The event is set for July 23-2.

Registration is open now for ages 6 and up to learn advanced gymnastics and acrobatic techniques. For more information or to register for the Conference, visit

The conference aims to increase exposure and access to gymnastics among women and girls of color, provide mentorship from high-level gymnasts, and offer resources and information for the parents of these young gymnasts.

Previously, four BGDG Conferences have been hosted in Atlanta, and in 2020 one was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 185 families from 15 states have attended along with national judges, elite coaches, and college recruiters who have led workshops for gymnasts and parents.

Blazing a Trail for Gymnasts of Color

Only months after the untimely death of the first Black woman to win the U.S.A. Gymnastics national championship, Dianne Durham, Brown Girls Do Gymnastics (BGDG) leads a grassroots initiative to introduce competitive gymnastics to Historically Black Colleges & Universities’ (HBCU) athletic programming. Durham set the world stage for Black American gymnasts, paving a path for stars like Dominique Dawes, Gabby Douglas, and Simone Biles.

Following their success, there has been a rise in national participation of young Black women and girls. According to the NCAA Demographics Database, 9% of Division I women gymnasts in 2019 were Black, a significant leap from 4.5% in 2008.

As the sport continues to produce Olympic qualifiers of color, there is a growing need to provide platforms for these athletes to pursue their craft while continuing their education in the safety of inclusive spaces like HBCUs. Because there are no HBCUs currently offering gymnastics programs, those who wish to pursue competitive gymnastics at the college level do not have the option to attend an HBCU.

Grambling State University is answering this call by hosting this event and looking to the future.

“Our rich history of athletic excellence and Black firsts makes GSU the perfect home for the first HBCU competitive gymnastics program,” said GSU President Rick Gallot. “The need is clear and we are motivated by the opportunity we can provide for young gymnasts of color. With the right partners and sponsors, we are ready to bring the sport to life right here on our campus and build a platform for young women to advance their athletic and academic pursuits.”

GSU has a rich legacy of sports excellence including launching the careers of athletes like NBA champion Willis Reed, quadruple double queen Shakyla Hill and women’s basketball legend Patricia Cage Bibbs. Under the leadership of legendary Coach Eddie Robinson, the University’s football program has sent more players to the NFL than any other HBCU to date.

One of those pioneering players was Doug Williams, the first Black quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl and now the namesake of Grambling State’s latest advancement arm, The Doug Williams Center. The Center is a learning commons founded to provide research and create real solutions to college and professional sports’ racial and gender disparities. The Center will work in tandem with BGDG and the University’s leadership to elevate access to this sport for prospective HBCU students.

“Access to sports creates opportunities and the lack of said access for Black and brown youth is a social justice issue,” said Raven Thissel, marketing and public relations director of The Doug Williams Center. “Hosting the Brown Girls Do Gymnastics conference at Grambling State is our first step to introduce a new avenue for advancing girls and women of color.”

For more information or to register for the Conference, visit To learn more about investment and sponsorship opportunities for the first HBCU competitive gymnastics program, email or call Grambling State’s Office of Institutional Advancement at 318-274-3330.

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