Winter Garden resident Bailey Ferrer committed to LSU’s gymnastics programs as an eighth-grader, but the dedication that goes into the sport is a family affair.
WINTER GARDEN For 15-year-old Winter Garden resident Bailey Ferrer, flipping, tumbling and soaring has been second nature for as long as she can remember.
That’s because Bailey is an elite gymnast who has been competing in the sport since age 4.
Lyn Ferrer, Bailey’s mom, has been a gymnastics coach for much of her life and is also a former gymnast herself. So, from the time Bailey was 15 months old, she was in the gym doing mommy-and-me classes.
“When I was 6 I had to make a decision between gymnastics and softball. I figured out that I was pretty good at it (gymnastics) so that kept me going, and I fell more in love with it as I went on,” Bailey said.
“Pretty good” is a bit of an understatement.
Bailey qualified for elite gymnastics at age 11, and was offered a full-ride gymnastics scholarship to Louisiana State University when she was in eighth grade. Ferrer says that, to her knowledge, Bailey was the first eighth-grader to commit to a college ever in the history of collegiate gymnastics.
The offer came in 2014 after the P&G Championships, where just about every college in the nation had scouts present watching the gymnasts. Bailey’s top three programs had always been LSU, Oklahoma and Utah. She was getting offers from many colleges, but LSU ended up watching her and told her former coach they wanted her to come check out the campus.
“I didn’t know the seriousness of it then, but we went up and they offered me a scholarship,” Bailey said. “I’ve known the assistant coach since I was 8, and he and the head coach offered me and I said ‘yes’ right there. The campus is absolutely amazing, they have a great team in gymnastics and they have what I think I’m going to study — sports psychology or sports commentating. I want to stay in the sports field forever.”
But being elite and working so hard at the sport she loves came with a price.
In January 2016, Bailey fractured three pars in her back from overuse. After the injury, she made the decision to switch gyms from Orlando Metro Gymnastics to Brandy Johnson’s Global Gymnastics Academy.
Now that she is fully recovered, focusing on keeping her body healthy and injury-free has become one of her top priorities so she could go into LSU in 2019 ready to compete as an all-around gymnast.
PUTTING IN THE WORK
For Bailey and her family, life has always been quite different from the lives most teenagers lead. Getting to elite-level competition requires a substantial amount of time, practice, dedication and effort.
The Ferrers moved to Florida five years ago to allow Bailey to focus on her gymnastics training. She has also been homeschooled since first grade, which gives her the flexibility to both focus on training and keep up with her academics.
Bailey takes courses through Florida Virtual School and spends her mornings doing schoolwork. Then she heads to train at Brandy Johnson’s in Clermont each day, Monday through Friday, for anywhere from five to five-and-one-half hours daily.
“It takes a lot. I’ve given up a lot, I think, with the normal lifestyle — going to public school, homecomings and more,” Bailey said. “I’m always on a healthy lifestyle with eating, so if my friends and I go a party and there’s cake I go to the fruit.”
And, depending on the day, Bailey could be off to any given physical-therapy appointment to help keep her body healthy — cryotherapy, laser therapy and chiropractic therapy among them. Her parents also take her to Largo every other week to see a physical therapist.
In between all the appointments is remembering to use ice and get rest.
“Everything is very regimented and we have to keep up with all of that, such as what she eats, and we just do it with her. It’s kind of a family affair. That’s our life, that’s all we do,” Ferrer said.
Despite all of the physical therapy, practice and schoolwork, the Ferrers make an effort to help keep life as balanced as possible for Bailey, ensuring that she also has time for fun with friends and youth group.
“There’s a balance there that has to be made and she doesn’t get to do everything that your normal high-schooler gets to do,” Ferrer said. “There’s still a bedtime at 15 years old, because if you don’t have enough sleep you’re kind of in trouble the next day at practice. Our goal as parents is to keep her physically intact — it’s extremely expensive to do that — but right now we’re giving her our 100% dedication.”
And all that hard work is paying off. In two years, Bailey will be in her first season as a collegiate gymnast for LSU.
“We’re really blessed. They (LSU) are an unbelievable organization over there,” Ferrer said. “I feel good about where she’s going and who she’ll be under. I’m proud, she’s excited and I love LSU.”
Contact Danielle Hendrix at [email protected].