Staff Photo: Jason Braverman
Emily Yoder just graduated from Peachtree Ridge High School with 11 letters (diving, cheerleading and lacrosse). Yoder has a 3.8 GPA and is going to dive at Clemson.
Amy Yoder needed to find an outlet for her 6-year-old daughter.
The girl was actually bouncing off the walls.
“I was a Mexican jumping bean when I was little,” Emily Yoder said. “My mother was so tired of having me run around the house. She was like, ‘We need to find something where you waste four hours a day.’”
She found gymnastics. And that one outlet evolved into many.
The energy level hasn’t changed, though.
With Peachtree Ridge’s graduation behind her and all but daily diving practice with the club team at Georgia over, things have slowed down.
Emily Yoder is bouncing off the walls again. Not literally this time.
“I’m like, I need something to do,” she said with a laugh. “Luckily, now I’m old enough to go to the gym by myself.”
Yoder graduated Sunday with 11 varsity letters with the Lions, a 3.8 grade-point average, nine scholar-athlete awards and an academic letter.
She had to quit gymnastics once she got to high school, but it provided a spring board to diving (four-time state qualifier), competitive cheerleading (three-time state champion) and lacrosse (second team all-county).
Gymnastics wasn’t the first sport Yoder tried.
But it was the one she had an aptitude for and interest in.
“I was doing cartwheels when I was playing basketball and softball while they were on the other end of the court or field,” she said. “I love it. I love anything I do flipping or twisting or spinning.”
Which made diving and competitive cheerleading natural transitions.
Yoder picked up diving from a fellow gymnast and got into cheerleading once she arrived at Peachtree Ridge.
“When I got to here, Gwinnett County doesn’t have a gymnastics team,” Yoder said. “So it was more that I knew I wasn’t going to do college gymnastics — I had a bad injury in my back — but when I got here I said I can definitely cheer.
“My older sister was actually on the Blue Pride team her sophomore year. So by her junior year, my freshman year, I went and tried out for it.”
Not long after adding competitive cheerleading, where routines involve dynamic acrobatics, Yoder quit gymnastics.
“It was hard at the time,” she said. “I still watch UGA, the GymDogs, compete and sometimes want to go back.
“But once I got started competing with cheerleading, I realized how much it was an adrenaline rush and I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.”
As much as she relished the chance to perform with the Blue Pride, Yoder knew diving was what she wanted to do in college.
She had many scholarship offers, some in every sport, but decided on Clemson.
“I had South Carolina for cheerleading,” Yoder said.
“TCU and Tulane for diving, along with Clemson. Then Tennessee Wesleyan College in Athens, Tenn., for lacrosse.”
She decided based on the school first, the sport second.
“I knew cheerleading, I was over that hill,” Yoder said. “I mean, I love Blue Pride, but I can just tell the years of hard floor have gotten to my body. Then lacrosse, too, all the running was starting to wear down on my body.
“When it comes to practice, I love diving the most. I feel like it’s a great stress-reliever. It’s a low-stress sport. It’s more technical.”
Just a year ago, she was dead-set against going to Clemson.
But only because her older sister was there.
“I mean, I love her to death, but 18 years together is enough,” Yoder joked.
After visiting and talking to the diving coach, she changed her mind.
“I picked Clemson more for how they connect the academic part to the athlete,” Yoder said. “They have a great advisement and assistance program for athletes. Out of all the colleges I looked at, it was the best I’d seen.
“The other thing was, I needed Southern football.”
For all the time Yoder devoted to classes and athletics — up at 6 a.m. and home to study at 9 p.m. — she still managed a well-rounded life in high school.
She might not go to the mall or the movies all the time. But she’s not really the kind of person that would sit still for that long anyway.
Yoder made it to most of the Lions’ football games and, after grabbing a frozen yogurt, often played ultimate Frisbee in the park with her friends.
“I think I’ve been able to balance my social life pretty well,” Yoder said.
She wanted the same at college.
“Our coach, Leslie Hasselbach, has really structured the program that we are able to experience the whole college atmosphere, even though we have two practices a day,” Yoder said.
“She wants it to be not just school and diving.
“She really focuses on the whole college experience.”
Her four years at Peachtree Ridge were good preparation for the life of a collegiate student-athlete.
“Time management, trust me, is a big part in my life,” she said.
It will continue to be, especially if Yoder ends up pursuing a law degree.
That doesn’t worry her.
The workouts at Clemson might.
“I have heard some horror stories about days after,” Yoder said. “I can tell the jump from the high school level to the college level will be a big gap. But I’m ready for it. I like a challenge.”