Newest sport additions are preparing for competition


Simpsonian file photo

Varsity sport additions preparing for their first season.

by Morgan Parrish, Staff Reporter

Simpson College’s newest varsity sport additions have made progress in their recruitment and facility efforts since the last update in  Dec. 2021.

Simpson announced the addition of men’s and women’s gymnastics, women’s wrestling, and men’s volleyball in the fall of 2021 and is prepared to begin competing in 2023.

Director of Athletics Marty Bell said he is excited about the new opportunities these additions will bring for our students and the community and is currently securing conference affiliation with the plan to gain membership for these additions in the 2023-2024 academic year.

“These new sports additions have been met with enthusiasm and excitement from our prospective student-athletes and our campus community.” Bell said. “They bring new opportunities for our students, and we sincerely hope the ONESimpson family will come out and support our new teams.”

Bell mentioned that these additions have increased their ability to market Simpson’s great academic experience through athletic participation.

“We have been able to attract students from a wide range of regions who would not have considered Simpson College an option but now are planning to attend Simpson due in part to their ability to continue their athletic experience at the collegiate level,” Bell said.

When looking at women’s wrestling, Simpson’s biggest concern was ensuring it had enough facility space for both the women’s and men’s wrestling teams to practice and compete, but that concern has been resolved with a long-term plan to convert Hopper Gymnasium into the new Luther Hill Wrestling Facility.

Construction for the Luther Hill Wrestling Facility has yet to begin, but Bell is sure they will have adequate room for both programs to train and compete as they build on the women’s roster.

An addition that is well underway to begin competing in Jan. 2023 is men’s and women’s gymnastics.

Women’s coach Emily Barrett-Payne and men’s coach Colin Payne will be renting space from Chow’s Gymnastics in West Des Moines.

“They have a fantastic facility that has been used as a U.S. national team training center in the past,” Barrett-Payne said. “We are excited to be working with them.”

Although practices will be held off-campus, both men and women will host home meets on campus in Cowles Fieldhouse. Both teams plan to host at least 2-5 home competitions in their first season.

As far as recruitment goes, the women have 12 commits with the goal of getting 15 total.

“Recruiting is going very well,” Barrett-Payne said. “I  am starting to look towards the future and recruit the class of 2023.”

Payne said the men’s team currently has eight commits with the goal of 12-15 before the fall 2022 semester and is very confident he will reach that goal.

Payne and Barrett-Payne have nearly all the proper equipment needed to begin practicing this fall but are looking for a few more items needed for competition.

“We are in the process of sourcing competition equipment. This will depend to some degree on other renovations taking place within athletics facilities,” Barrett-Payne said. “We will have everything we need to host home contests, though.”

Gymnastics has brought significant traction to Simpson, and the college is becoming recognized worldwide.

“Because we have verbal commitments from recruits across the country from the class of 2022, Simpson is starting to become a national name,” Barrett-Payne said. “We hope to continue this upward momentum and put Simpson on the map for years to come.”

Payne said his commits range from California to New England, and he has noticed that men’s gymnastics is attracting a lot more students out of state.

“I have noticed that men’s gymnastics is attracting a lot more out-of-state students than is normal for Simpson,” Payne said. 

Coaches said gymnastics is incredibly fun to watch. They are thrilled for their teams to begin competing, especially at Simpson, and hope that everyone comes out to their home meets.

“One of our goals is to get our teams involved with various sporting events and extracurricular activities, whether that’s through participation or support.” Barrett-Payne said. “We are hopeful that this support will be reciprocated by the student body at our home meets.”

Both Payne and Barrett-Payne said they’re excited to get to work this fall. 

As for men’s volleyball, head coach Kakailoa Palea said they will begin practicing in December, and competitions should start in January of 2023, but the recruitment process is not going as well as he hoped.

“Recruiting has been a struggle as we are a new program and just getting guys to come visit is tough as their club and high school seasons are in session currently,” Palea said.

Iowa does not have high school volleyball for boys, but many surrounding states do. Palea aims to recruit 12 or more athletes and is close on a few but currently has none committed.

“I think if anything, it’s just the infancy of the program. It is a new sport at Simpson and Iowa has a lot of other men’s collegiate volleyball programs,” Palea said. “Many NAIA schools in Iowa have teams and successful ones, such as Grand View.”

Although Palea is behind in his recruiting, he knows what needs to be done to get more prospective men to play at Simpson.

“We just have some things to iron out our recruiting process and educate athletes about our opportunities here at Simpson to get a great education and play men’s volleyball,” Palea said.

Palea mentioned that he has noticed little traction from the new program, but he can feel the momentum building as more inquiries about men’s volleyball have been coming in.

“I am extremely excited and grateful for this opportunity,” Palea said. “We look forward to bringing in great athletes and forming a men’s volleyball team that we plan to grow into a family and a highly competitive program.” 

Equipment and facility space is no concern for the men’s volleyball team as they will use the adequate space in Cowles Fieldhouse. The only equipment left to purchase is balls and uniforms.