Kelly Phelan: The All-Around Student Athlete
Kelly Phelan: The All-Around Student Athlete
A 10-year-old Kelly Phelan
was rollerblading with two of her
sisters in her
Orlando neighborhood when she
noticed a woman painting a new building.
The three young siblings were intrigued by the new attraction and asked the lady what the building was going to be.
The woman told them it was a gym for gymnastics.
The Phelan sisters didn't know much about gymnastics but knew they wanted to get involved.
That interest transcended into competitive careers that kept the trio active through high school.
After high school graduation, Kelly
stuck with gymnastics while Meghan and Melissa went on to cheerleading.
loves gymnastics because it always challenges her
"Gymnastics is so challenging and everyday you deal with something new," she
"I was always an active kid, so I always wanted to try everything with gymnastics.
I was never content with what I could do; there was always something I could improve or something else I could learn.
The never ending challenge is what drew me to it."
Now in her
senior year at LSU
is ranked nationally in many categories, including the all-around (No. 5), floor (No. 11) and vault (No. 9) and is hoping to make her
last year as a gymnast a memorable one.
grew up in a family of seven, five sisters and her
Two of her
sisters, Jenny and Erin, were older and had already graduated high school and moved on with their careers.
Kelly, Meghan, Melissa and Shauna spent a lot of time together.
Kelly hopes to have the same big family atmosphere when she
"It was interesting having five girls in the house because we were very close but sometimes there was tension," Phelan
"I loved growing up in a big family and it made me want to have a big family one day."
Phelan's bond with her
family did not prevent her
from looking out of state for college.
Along with the University of Florida, Phelan was recruited by Penn State, LSU and UCLA.
The Orlando native said she
wanted to go somewhere that she
would have not have had the opportunity to go to had it not been for a scholarship.
wanted to go in the most competitive conference, which she
believed was the SEC
fit the billing.
"A lot of people asked me why I didn't go to Florida, but I just thought for the next four years of my life I wanted to go somewhere new and have some great experiences.
is a great program and the coaches were very nice," said Phelan
What sealed the deal for Phelan
was when she
recruiting trip to Baton Rouge.
realized being a Tiger
would satisfy her
desire to do well in school and to be a part of a family atmosphere.
"When I went on my recruiting trip, I went to a football game and I was just in awe," she
"The fans and the environment were amazing.
I really clicked with the girls on the team.
Also, when I visited LSU
they had just built the Cox Communications Academic Center which I was also excited about."
Life as a Tiger
arrived at LSU
in the Fall of 2003, she
wasn't the only highly touted underclassman on the Tigers' roster.
Sophomore April Burkholder had been named the SEC Freshman of the Year the previous season and would eventually go on to be the most decorated gymnast in school history.
said talented teammates like Burkholder challenged her
and made her
a better competitor.
Phelan's hard work was showcased her
sophomore year when LSU
The Orlando native captured the first all-around title of her
career en route to helping the Tigers to a victory over the Gym'Backs.
Phelan said she never thought she would get an all-around title with Burkholder as her teammate.
"With April on the team, I never thought I would get an all-around title," Phelan
"I was just glad I had a high enough score to help my team win.
It was exciting to win because not only are you competing against the opponents but also your teammates."
graduated last year, leaving a void in the leadership role on the team.
said growing up in a big family helped her
ease into a leadership role this season.
has expanded her
leadership role by also reaching out to other student-athletes.
She is the president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC).
SAAC meets twice a month to discuss different events coming up in college athletics.
Along with SAAC, Phelan
has volunteered with numerous community service programs including the Big Buddy Program and National Adoption Day.
"Community service is something you have to be passionate about and it is really rewarding to me," Phelan
"People are very gracious around the community and there are numerous opportunities to volunteer."
The NCAA has been running a campaign the past two years to remind the public that most student-athletes go into something other than their sport upon graduation.
understands the chances of getting to the Olympics are small, which is why she
has the same competitive drive in the classroom that she
has in the gym.
"For most college athletes, after you graduate you go onto something other than your sport," she
Along with athletic accolades, Phelan
has received numerous academic awards.
The Orlando native has been named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll the past two years and most notably received Academic All-American honors last year.
The two-time SEC Honor Roll member plans to go into pharmaceutical sales when she
tenure at LSU
almost over, Phelan
said the thing she
will miss most is her
said even though they won't be competing together anymore, her
fellow Tigers will continue to be a big part of her
"It is not definite, but I don't think I am going to be staying in Louisiana after I graduate," Phelan