UNC alum Courtney Bumpers on raising the bar in gymnastics to taking the bar after law school
Courtney Bumpers has always had an abundance of energy. The 2006 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill graduate and decorated gymnast has been tumbling since birth and hasn't stopped making moves. After UNC, Bumpers received her juris doctor from the University of Pennsylvania, was admitted to the bar and now serves as litigation counsel for Community Health Systems in the greater Nashville area. She says the discipline she learned on the balance beam and mat helped her maintain laser-sharp focus when pursuing her professional career. "Being a college athlete teaches you discipline, and I've carried that with me since leaving the sport."
Bumpers spoke with espnW about her journey from being a student-athlete to an attorney and the lessons she has learned along the way.
Editor's note: This interview has been edited for length.
Finding a community in Chapel Hill
Gymnasts start young. As a child in Long Island, I was already balancing my academics and sports schedule. So, I had a leg up there. Gymnasts are very disciplined in that respect. But, when I visited UNC, I knew I had found the right place for me. For one, it had a robust sports program, but it was also balanced academically. I knew I would be challenged at UNC and receive a great education.
Also, when I met head coach Derek Galvin, I knew it was the right fit. He and my teammates made me feel welcomed right away, and it was a fun and positive environment. At UNC, I was not only able to create a sense of community with my fellow gymnasts but with all the athletes on campus. We are all one big family.
From the balance beam to the boardroom
I did well in my sport and academically. And at the time I was very interested in environmental law, which shifted a bit, but I knew that law was a priority. But, of course, at the same time, I had practice and was focused on gymnastics, too. And I always wanted to be better. I even placed fourth at nationals in my freshman year, but I still wanted to keep pushing myself.
By my sophomore year, I had tied for the national title on floor exercise with [Ashley Miles of] the University of Alabama, scoring a 9.9375 -- almost a perfect 10. As a team, we missed going to nationals [in 2004], and I had to go it alone. But, I always felt supported by my teammates and university.
Throughout my time on campus, I stayed focused on my academics, as well. I had to have strong grades to get into law school. But, again, because of gymnastics and the discipline it taught me, I was able to have these dual goals and stay the course. Yes, there were times where I felt overwhelmed, but overall, with the support of the coaching staff and friends at UNC, I was able to handle it. The women on my team all had great ambition, so seeing them thrive was important.
Adjusting to life after UNC and being a lifelong Tar Heel
I attended UPenn for law school, and that was a wonderful experience. But UNC will always be home for me. I truly believe the academics, sports discipline and teamwork I learned there prepared me for the workplace. I was always striving to be better and stronger while at UNC. And that's stayed with me.