New varsity sports developing quickly for their first seasons


Simpsonian file photo

Varsity sport additions preparing for their first season.

by Morgan Parrish, Staff Reporter

Simpson College’s newest varsity sport additions are all on track to be competing in the 2022-2023 season.

 Simpson added men’s and women’s gymnastics, women’s wrestling and men’s volleyball this fall and will be prepared to begin next school year. The college now offers 23 sports.

 Director of Athletics Marty Bell said Simpson chose to add these sports to attract students who align with the academic profile and mission. Many other colleges in the state do not offer these new additions, which distinguishes Simpson from other institutions.

 “Simpson is always looking for ways to maximize opportunities for student engagement.

This can certainly be accomplished through athletic participation. Adding new sports is a way to accomplish that, as well as creating new space in the marketplace for recruiting,” Bell said.

 The college has purchased used equipment for the gymnastics programs through relationships established by the coaches.

 “There is still more equipment to purchase, and that will be accomplished primarily through fundraising efforts and available grants through national organizations of the respective sports,” Bell said.

 Facilities and space for these new sports have been among the most important questions for these new additions, but Bell believes that will not be an issue.

 “There will be ample space and time for these sports to practice and compete without interfering with the current sports’ practice and competition experience,” Bell said. 

All new sports have successfully hired a head coach except for women’s wrestling, but Bell says they have plenty of time.

“We are within a comfortable timeline to successfully hire a new coach and bring in a competitive first-year roster for women’s wrestling,” Bell said.

Simpson plans to expand the current wrestling space to make room for both men’s and women’s wrestling to have space for practices and competitions. Simpson is now one of the two NCAA Division III Iowa schools to compete in women’s wrestling. There are only eight programs total in the state. 

When it comes to men’s volleyball, Simpson is now the second NCAA Division III school in Iowa to offer this program and only the ninth school in Iowa to offer men’s volleyball across NCAA Division III and NAIA conferences. They will begin practicing in the winter of 2023 and compete against other Division III schools in and out of state in the spring.

 Head coach of the Simpson Women’s Volleyball Team, Kakailoa Palea, will also be taking on the head coach position of the men’s volleyball program. Palea said he believes coaching both programs will not cause any implications because they compete at different times of the year, but recruitment could be more challenging. 

 “Women’s is in the fall, and men’s is in the spring. I would say the tough part is recruiting as both boys and girls club ball operates in the spring for high school. I have an amazing staff and looking to bring in more staff to help with that as well,” Palea said.

 Palea said recruiting right now is a challenge but believes they are on track for next year and already have several prospects they are trying to get to commit. Palea wants to recruit as many athletes as possible.

 “Essentially, my goal for year one is 12 players, then to try and double that by year two,” said Palea.

 The team will use Cowles Fieldhouse for gym time and work with other sports in season to ensure time is divided well. The program plans to share some equipment with women’s volleyball but must purchase uniforms and new balls.

 As for gymnastics, Simpson will be the only NCAA college in the state to offer men’s gymnastics at a varsity level and the third in the state for women’s gymnastics.

 Head coach of Simpson Men’s Gymnastics Colin Payne says recruiting is going well, and they are on track for next year. Payne plans to have 10-15 athletes rostered for next year.

 “There is a lot of excitement surrounding the new program in the men’s gymnastics world. It’s been over 50 years since a new men’s gymnastics program was started, so there are a lot of athletes that want to be part of something historic,” Payne said.

 Although men’s gymnastics is only offered by 15 schools in the country, Payne says they will for sure be competing in January of 2023.

 “We will compete with all the Division III programs, but also with the Division I programs. Simpson will be brought into the ECAC conference for the 2022-2023 season. We will be eligible to compete in the conference championships and the NCAA championships,” Payne said.

 Payne’s wife, Emily Barrett Payne, is the head coach of Simpson Women’s Gymnastics and is also successful on the recruitment side of things so far.

 “I have been making numerous phone calls and have some upcoming campus visits. It is so exciting to be able to recruit for a new program and provide a unique opportunity for student-athletes,” Emily said.

 Emily said they are well on their way to having everything ready for the beginning of practice in the fall of 2022 but are still working out a few things for facility space, equipment, training plans and competition scheduling.

 Payne and Emily were able to bring lots of used equipment with them to Simpson and are working on getting the rest of the equipment needed. Although facilities for both men’s and women’s gymnastics are in the works, they are confident they can stay local, and even host meets.

 “We have located a potential facility in the town of Indianola. We also have the option to rent facility space from a local club gym,” Emily said.

 Gymnastic meets occur on weekends between January and March.

 “As our first competition season gets closer, we will work closely with the other winter/spring sports and the athletic department to determine what the best days and times will be for our home competitions,” Emily said.

 Emily plans to recruit 10-15 student-athletes for the 2022-2023 season.

 “Our practices will start in the fall of 2022, and our first competition will be in Jan. 2023. We do plan on having an intra-squad/show meet at some point before our first season begins,” Emily said.

 Women’s gymnastics will compete against five other Division III schools in surrounding states as well as Division I and Division II programs.

 Emily is thrilled to be taking on this coaching position at Simpson. She hopes to build something exciting and special and provide opportunities for athletes who look to continue their gymnastic careers.

 “Growing the sport of gymnastics is a goal on both the men’s and women’s sides, and I am thrilled to play a role in achieving that goal. Simpson College has a great culture, community and growth mindset. I look forward to helping Simpson College grow as a whole and gain some national attention,” Emily said.