Flippin’ Kohl

Meet Kohl—star Lemur gymnast!

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Cover Image
By Ibtida Khurshed

Name: Kohl Shepherd 

Grade: Senior 

Height: 5’ 7”

Hair Color: Brown 

Eye Color: Green

Date of Birth: August 19, 2006

  1. When and how did you start doing gymnastics? 

So I didn’t do gymnastics prior to high school. I have a background in aerial circus, so I did aerial silks and flying trapeze, etc., but then I had to quit when COVID started and I was kind of out of shape. I approached Mr. Autry my sophomore year, and I actually knew he was the coach of the badminton team. And I asked him if and how I could try out for the badminton team. And he told me that he didn’t think that I was good enough at badminton to join the badminton team but that I should try out for boys’ gymnastics, because I looked like I had a gymnast built. So yeah, that’s how it came on my radar. And then I heard the morning announcements, and I decided to just check it out. At first I thought I wouldn’t be good enough to join the team, but I realized early on that it’s almost no cut. It’s a really relaxed thing. So yeah, I hadn’t done gymnastics at all prior to high school. I learned everything I know at Stuyvesant. 


2. What events do you specialize in/is your favorite? What skills/strengths are involved?

I do all around, which means I compete in everything. But my favorite two events are probably parallel bars and high bar because of my background in aerial circus. A lot of aerial circus involves swinging, and [...] grip strength is [also] really important. High bar is very similar to a flying trapeze; it’s a similar shaped bar. The difference is that one is moving and the other one is static. It’s a lot of arm strength and a lot of swinging strength. But then in parallel bars a little bit of balance is involved. 

3. What is your most memorable moment with the Lemurs? 

The most memorable moment for me was City Championships last year; we won city championships. I was sick and I had been sick leading up to that for a few months. I have some chronic nausea that I’m still recovering from, and so City Championships for me was actually very hard. I needed to compete because if I didn’t the team would lose, but I was also battling nausea a lot and so I had with me tums and ginger and mints. I had left the opening ceremony because I felt like I was gonna throw up, so it was very difficult. But then in the end, we ended up scraping by and we won by less than three points. So it was a very nice moment because obviously I wasn’t [at my] 100 percent and I needed my teammates to step up and carry the rest of the team. It was a great display of teamwork and a really nice moment to be able to get the victory after what was a very difficult championship [for] me.

4. Do you have any plans to continue doing gymnastics in the future or in college? 

In college if you want to actually compete, you have to be very, very good. And so I’m not that good and I’m never probably going to be that good. But I do plan on continuing to just maintain my skills.

5. What are the best and worst parts of gymnastics? 

The best part about gymnastics at Stuyvesant, I’d say, is definitely the community. Our team is small and gymnastics itself is quite a niche sport. It creates this environment where we’re there primarily for fun. It’s quite different from the high-intensity world of traditional men’s gymnastics you see on TV. Our approach is more relaxed, but we’re still dedicated. It’s wonderful to enjoy such a dynamic sport without it consuming your life. Half of the friends that I’ve made at Stuyvesant have been through the gymnastics team. They’re just graduated seniors that I’m still very much in contact with. And we all know each other very well, because we spend two hours with each other after school every day. It’s an amazing community. One downside is that gymnastics can be risky. We’ve had some injuries on the team, which is unfortunate. Also, setting up and packing away equipment can be tedious. 

6. What does a typical gymnastics practice look like?

Well, practice is every day after school from 3:35 [p.m.] to around 6:00 p.m. We start by setting up the gym, which we share with the girls’ team. Sometimes they set up the apparatus, and sometimes we do. We almost always have the spring floor out, so we set that up, along with a set of boards. We stick them all together and lay mats over them. If we’re setting up an event, like the high bar, we anchor it into the ground and set it up, then take it down again at the end. After setting up, we warm up, and I usually lead the stretches. Then, we do basic tumbling, forward rolls, handstands, cartwheels, to get acclimated. I spend a bit more time on the floor practicing round-off handsprings and tucks. If we haven’t set up an event, we can always raise the parallel bars, and there’s always a pommel in the corner. Then, it’s open gym. If the coach has a specific drill, we set that up, especially handspring and cartwheel drills for newer members. I help spot during these drills. Everyone works at their own level; some are new and learning basics like handstands and cartwheels, while others, like me in my third year, work on more advanced skills like giants on the high bar and flyaways. At around 5:45 [p.m.], we start conditioning, which I also lead. We do 10 down—V-ups, tuck-ups, scissors, arch-ups, push-ups, decreasing the count from 10 to one. Then we do additional conditioning like pull-ups, dips, and handstand push-ups. Afterward, we join the girls’ team to put everything away, including the spring floor and any apparatuses. Finally, we get dressed and, as a team, walk to the train station together and go home.

Funniest Teammate: Chester Lam

Pre-meet Superstition: Pre-meet Tomato!

Favorite Professional Gymnast: Carlos Yulo

Competing on Full or Light Stomach: Light

Favorite Sports Drink: Water

Favorite Post-Meet Snack: Chunky Monkey

Gymnastic Pet Peeve: When your underwear gets really sweaty. 

Favorite Hobby: Watching sports, holding my snake.

If You Could Play Another Sport: Pole Vaulting 

Motto to Live By: Go Bills!

Fun Fact: I can put both of my legs behind my back and do push-ups.