Cubs before Cougs: Sydney’s journey to BYU gymnastics

For nearly two decades Sydney Benson has been practicing gymnastics. Several hours a day, balancing school and work, and fighting through numerous injuries, Sydney kept working towards her goal of performing at the college level.

Now, she’s a senior at BYU participating in all categories.

So, what did she do as a cub that led her to become a Cougar?

Sydney’s experience as a cub

Sydney Benson of BYU Women’s Gymnastics Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU February 10, 2023 © BYU PHOTO 2023 All Rights Reserved (801)422-7322

Growing up in Riverton Utah, Sydney started doing gymnastics when she was 8 years old.

“I definitely was more of a late bloomer,” she said.

Most gymnasts start learning the sport much younger at only 3 or 4 years old. So when Sydney began, she had a lot to catch up on.

Although she started later, she said she was able to progress quickly and “moved up in levels pretty quick in the first year.” In just 9 months, she went from the lowest beginner classes to participating on a competition level team.

Sydney explained how she immediately fell in love with the sport and started working very hard to progress quickly and reach her goal of competing in college. As much as she loved what she was doing, Sydney said that it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows.

“It was hard. I can’t lie, it was hard,” she said. “It taught me a lot of discipline and where my priorities should be.”

She became a part-time student starting in 4th grade and remained part-time until starting her career at BYU. Sacrifices were a daily occurance, all to get better at the sport she loves.

“It was just a lot of discipline and I had to prioritize some things, and not have a social life for a little bit,” she said. “But it was worth it.”

Sydney’s top priorities were aimed towards getting into a good college where she could compete in all categories. Therefore, to reach her goal, her schedule revolved around those top priorities. Her daily schedule went as follows:

  • 6 a.m. – 7 a.m. early morning seminary (starting in high school)
  • 7 a.m. – 12 p.m. school
  • 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. practice
  • 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. coaching at the gym (starting in high school)

“I really didn’t have a lot of time to do stuff besides school and gym,” she said.

Overcoming injuries and mental strain

BYU Women’s Gymnastics athlete Sydney Benson performing at a competition on floor. Credit: BYU Photo.

With a full life revolving around gymnastics and earning good grades, Sydney often felt overwhelmed and stressed. As if that wasn’t enough, she also received many injuries throughout her young career that made life even more difficult. To help her get through mental struggles, she began seeing a sports psychologist.

“After seeing her I was really able to flip a switch, and I’ve actually been doing pretty well with all of that,” she explained.

Sydney says receiving mental help made her a better athlete because by releiving her stress at the gym, she was able to practice and perform to her best abilities.

Now, she expresses that one of her greatest accomplishments is how she fought through those injuries and became better because of them.

“Obviously I don’t love getting injured, but [I love] being able to come back from my injuries and just get better,” she said. “Every injury I’ve had I’ve progressively gotten better and mentally stronger.”

Looking back through the years, Sydney says the best lesson she learned is that, “Hard work really pays off.”

Advice for cubs hoping to become Cougs

BYU Women’s Gymnastics athlete Sydney Benson celebrating at a competition. Credit: BYU Photo.

Going into her fourth year as a BYU gymnast, Sydney says her best advice for anyone who wants to play a collegiate sport is to maintain drive and passion; Never letting hard times pull you away from your goals.

“If you love it enough, just work really hard and don’t give up. Because there are going to be times that it’s going to be really hard, and you feel like you want to quit or you have an injury that could be career ending, but from what i’ve learned is that if you have your mind set to it, you can do anything you want.”

Read More:

Cubs before Cougs: Jaque Dunyon and Bobo Huang’s rise to BYU glory

BYU triumphs over Cincinatti 35-27 for the program’s first Big 12 victory

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