Friday February 10, 2012Ashanée Dickerson: From Shy Freshman to Dependable Leader
By Sarah Gibson, UF Communications
At 8 years old, Ashanée Dickerson knew exactly what she wanted to be: a Florida Gator gymnast. While growing up in Jacksonville, she often made trips down to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center to watch the Gator gymnasts in action. She remembers the unique way four- time All-American Orley Szmuch’s name was announced. (ORR-lee Smooch).
“I wanted my name to be announced like that,” Dickerson said, whose own first name takes some practice saying.
Now, 13 years later, five-time All-American Dickerson gets to hear her name announced as thousands of fans cheer on.
As a junior, she has stepped into the role of a leader on her team of 16 young women.
“I’m an upperclassman now, and the freshmen and sophomores look up to me by how hard I work in the gym,” Dickerson said. “I just want them to keep that going for the program.”
While training at Gymnastics Unlimited in Jacksonville, she said she looked up to Alisha Jefferys, a fellow gymnast, whose work ethic inspired her.
“She was a hard worker,” Dickerson said. “If she had a bad day, you never knew it because she always had a smile on her face. Growing up I wanted to be just like her.”
Now a leader herself, she has taken the example set by Jefferys and applied it to her own leadership.
“I try to do my best to lead by example and show everyone that hard work does pay off in the end,” she said. “Just keeping a smile on my face whenever I am having a bad day.”
That example Dickerson shows has led to her being named the National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches Association (NSCAA) Southeast Region Gymnast of the Year the last two seasons. Her career total of event titles currently stands No. 7 all-time for the Gators at 51, which includes the 2011 Southeastern Conference floor exercise crown.
When Dickerson first arrived in Gainesville, she said she was really nervous about the transition into college gymnastics.
“When I first came here I looked up to Maranda [Smith] a lot because she was a hard worker and was a good leader,” she said. “She led the team to win the 2010 SEC Championships. Right now our focus is taking things one meet at a time. Hopefully it will work out well for this team at the end of the season.”
With five freshmen on the team, Dickerson has made sure the gymnast know they can come to her with any questions they have.
“I want people to be able to come up to me because my freshman year I was really scared and nervous to talk to anyone and ask questions,” she said. “I want to be the person they can come and talk to.”
Helping the younger Gators acclimate themselves to college gymnastics includes informing them on what to expect with the traveling schedule and how to handle hostile away crowds.
“I tell them not to get caught up in the crowd,” Dickerson said. “They’re going to try to distract you, so it’s important to stay in your team bubble and focus on what’s going on with the team and not anyone else.”
The vibe is different in the gym this year, she said. It is unlike her past two years where she felt the team seemed tightly wound at times. Because of their emphasis on having fun in the gym, the team has grown a lot closer.
“It’s a different tone in the gym. It’s very light,” Dickerson said. “You know you have to do your work and they mean business, but you can also have fun while doing it.”
The fun continues in tonight’s Gators Link to Pink meet against LSU. Dickerson shared her excitement for tonight’s emotional meet and her love of pink.
“I love wearing orange and blue, but I also love wearing pink,” she said. “I like running through the tunnel with the survivors, slapping their hands and knowing that we are competing for a great cause.”