7 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Gymkana

1) Gymkana is the oldest student club on campus

Dr. David A. Field founded the University of Maryland Gymkana Troupe in 1946. The Troupe's goals were to provide healthful recreational activities to students, promoting the sport of gymnastics, providing entertainment for their audiences and acting as “Ambassadors of Goodwill” for all those that they encountered. Since the first performance in Ritchie Coliseum on January 10, 1947, for the halftime of the Maryland-George Washington basketball game, Gymkana has used gymnastics to promote its message and inspire others.

2) Gymkana Has Performed On Some of the Biggest Stages

Gymkana is no stranger to big audiences. The Troupe routinely provides entertainment at sporting events, award ceremonies, and conventions and has performed in many venues including Madison Square Garden and the Houston Astrodome. Gymkana has also appeared in television commercials and was featured as a semi-finalist on the show America's Got Talent in 2011.

3) Gymkana Toured Extensively to Perform for Military Servicemembers

Starting in 1951, the Troupe began making multiple trips to United States military bases around the country and internationally each year. The tour began with the Troupe flying west to Mountain Home and Boise, Idaho as well as Great Falls, Montana to perform for service men and women stationed there. The next year, Gymkana embarked on a 5 day tour of bases in the Mid-Atlantic area during the Thanksgiving holiday, followed by Winter break performances at military bases in Burmuda. By Spring Break, the Troupe was once again shipping out, this time touring bases around Iceland. In 1954, yet another tour lasted for a week and reached 7 different army installations and over 9000 service men and women. In honor of Gymkana’s continued dedication to entertaining servicemen, the USO presented the Troupe with an award of recognition in March of that year. In 1955, the Troupe made its final stop in the Azores, providing entertainment for troops stationed at Lajes Field on the island of Terceira.

4) You May Recognize This Gymkana Alum’s Artwork

Recognize the artistic style of the comic above? The comic “Igdoof” ran in the University of Maryland Newspaper, the Diamondback, in 1992 and 1993 and became popular enough on campus to generate its own market for t-shirts and other merchandise. The creator of the comic strip was Jeff Kinney, now the author of the well-known books series, Diary of A Wimpy Kid. In addition to being author of the most famous comic strip on campus, Kinney was also a member of the Gymkana Troupe during his time at College Park. In the above installment of “Igdoof,” Kinney used this duel-status to publicize Gymkana’s annual Home Show with a few shameless plugs.

5) The Troupe Has a Long History of Promoting Healthy Living

Throughout the 70 year history of Gymkana, the Troupe has acted as "Ambassadors of Good Will", by nature of the influence of the coaching staff and integrity of its members; however, in 1985 the Troupe began to serve as an official outreach program of the School of Public Health, formerly known as the College of Health and Human Performance. Through the partnership of Dean John Burt and Director Dr. Joseph Murray, the Troupe received the support of the college. It was at this time that the troupers first instituted the Gymkana pledge to live drug, alcohol, and tobacco free, which is signed annually by every member of the Troupe. Through the solidarity of this pledge, each member the Troupe serves as a positive example of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

6) The University of Maryland once had a successful competitive men’s gymnastics team

From 1946-1951, members of the Gymkana Troupe also competed on a men’s gymnastics team at the University of Maryland. Although the team was never granted varsity status, it performed well in intercollegiate competition winning numerous meets.

7) Many Gymkana Members Join With No Prior Gymnastics Training

"No Experience Necessary" has been a foundational part of Gymkana's philosophy since the beginning. All active members are University of Maryland students. All active members pledge to be 100% drug, alcohol, and tobacco-free. Beyond that, the Troupe provides a home for students of all athletic ability levels to learn gymnastics and acrobatics.