July 2023 AOTM: Sierra Brooks

athlete of the month Jul 01, 2023

Welcome back to TWN’s Athlete of the Month! Each month we are highlighting athletes in our network to share what they have accomplished outside of sports, their contribution to the athletic community, and more. Make sure to check out our weekly newsletter to learn more about the athlete, what motivates them, and how to contribute to their cause.

Our July Athlete of the Month is Sierra Brooks! 



Sierra is a gymnast for the University of Michigan. She recently received her undergraduate degree and is an incoming graduate student at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, where she’ll be studying Business Analytics. Sierra is the President of the school’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and is entering her 3rd year of being captain of the Michigan Women’s Gymnastics team. 

Sierra helped Michigan win the 2021 NCAA Gymnastics Championship, where she was a dominant performer and leader for the team. She is a 17x All-American and was named the 2022 & 2023 Big 10 Gymnast of the Year. Her biggest individual achievement however, was being awarded the AAI Award, also known as the equivalent of the Heisman Trophy for women’s gymnastics. 

In addition to her studies and her prowess on the mat, Sierra is passionate about digital marketing, graphic design and photography. She is an aspiring photographer with her own portfolio site. She is incredibly driven and has been working hard to prepare herself for what comes next. She has a motto, “Always ready to learn more.”

On her website, Sierra shares her own personal mission statement. This mission statement includes embracing any and every opportunity to learn and educate herself to be the best she can be, taking pride in her work ethic, demonstrating her leadership through her actions, and sharing her experience and knowledge to help others.

Sierra also highlights some of the skills she has acquired throughout her life, like Business Analytics, Strategy and Brand Development, Web Design and E-commerce, and digital marketing. She has experience in blogging and sharing her experiences on a professional platform, as well as in graphic design and photography - two skills that originally developed as a hobby. 

Sierra also makes time to regularly share her story to support fellow athletes, whether appearing on a podcast, writing a blog, or serving on events to speak about her journey as a collegiate athlete, as well as topics like navigating NIL and the college selection process. 

In a recent interview with the Athletes to Athletes podcast, Sierra emphasized the organization and time management required to be successful as a college athlete. She also recognizes the importance of supporting those following in her footsteps, ensuring they don’t make the same mistakes she did. 

“One thing is you have to be incredibly organized. [...] You get into a routine pretty quickly. In the beginning it is a lot to balance multiple things. Eating meals, working out, along with academic focus are just a part of all the moving pieces someone has to work through when they enter college with balancing athletics and academics.”

Thank you Sierra for always being willing to share your experiences and insights with others. It’s so important to have mentors and teammates willing to show younger athletes the ropes. 



This month marks the two year anniversary of Name, Image and Likeness becoming a legal opportunity for college athletes to pursue. Sierra joined us last year on a webinar we hosted around the impact of NIL in its first year, where she shared her perspective on NIL and how it’s affected her college athlete experience thus far.  

Sierra talked a lot about how NIL has made an impact on the Michigan campus. She shared how interesting it is to talk to other athletes at different colleges and how NIL has been impacting their experience in different ways. She also emphasized the importance of understanding the rules of what can be done from a legal and compliance perspective around NIL opportunities in your state and on your campus.   

“A lot of conversations I have from a SAAC perspective are with people trying to clarify, [...] because there isn’t a blanket NIL foundation over all the schools, and some people just don’t understand that.”

Sierra also explained how even though NIL is more prevalent nowadays than ever, it is key to know the priorities that matter to YOU. She recognizes NIL being a factor in college sports, but also highlights that for many athletes, academics and training are still the top priorities. 

“NIL started right before my junior year. I had 2 years where NIL was completely out of the picture. I had school, gymnastics, and other career-oriented activities as my first priority. For me NIL is something that is in the background, I never want it to impact my other priorities.”

It was great to have Sierra share her perspective on NIL - we know many fellow college athletes benefitted from her insights on how NIL can affect their own college athlete experience.



What has being a student-athlete taught you about who you are? 

As a whole, being a student-athlete has made me a more self-aware and confident individual as I have learned my own strengths, weaknesses, and leadership style. I've learned that I thrive in communities, teams, and groups that are close-knit and transparent, so I might struggle in ones that are a bit different. I've learned that I absolutely love order and that I'm naturally competitive. 

In the classroom and in our sport, we have to be on top of it all. Due to this, it's incredibly valuable for us to learn as much about ourselves as possible. This will help us communicate these realities to those that we interact with and put ourselves in the best situations going forward. These are qualities that are evident in every space of my life, but I've become extremely familiar with them while being a student-athlete. I'm fortunate that I've been able to learn and articulate all of these aspects that make me who I am now, rather than later. 

Have you been involved with any NIL opportunities? Do you have any advice for athletes about navigating NIL? 

Yes, I have been involved in various NIL opportunities. If I could give any advice to student-athletes new to navigating NIL, I would say two things. 

The first is to determine how much of your time and ultimately how much of yourself that you want to commit to NIL opportunities. You don't grow followers overnight, so it takes a lot of effort to create content that gets you the audience that you want. And on the other end, once you have those followers, creating consistent branded content will take additional effort and work. 

Long story short, NIL can be a lot to add to the already busy plate of a student-athlete, but if you intentionally pick deals that you're genuinely interested in, you'll actually be excited to do them. 

Secondly, simply pay attention and don't count yourself out. Read contracts, ask questions, and reach out to companies that you want to work with, even if you aren't confident they will be interested in you. The worst they can say is no, but the worst thing that can happen to you will be the result of you not fully understanding a contract. Always get a second opinion. 

Have you started thinking about life after sports? If so, how do you know you're ready to shift into that mindset?

I've actually put a lot of thought into life after sports since my freshman year of college. It sounds extremely early, but since that year was cut short because of the pandemic, I saw tons of athletes struggle with being done with their sport. I knew that it was unlikely I'd be in a situation that rare during my senior year of college, but it still made me want to focus on more than just gymnastics. 

We do our sport(s) for such a significant duration of our lives, that it's hard to separate from who we are. To shift your thinking to life after sports, you have to fully acknowledge that the day will come. The one where you will actually be done. Sometimes we're so far out that we ignore it or just say we'll worry about it when we get there, but I think it helps to be a little proactive. 

If you really sit down one day and realize there will come a time when you won't have to get up for a lift or practice anymore, you'll actually become more grateful for what you're doing as a result. You'll work a little harder, cheer louder, and just appreciate being a student-athlete that much more. At the same time, you'll take career conversations or networking a bit more seriously, since you know you'll be turning the page at some point. 

You'll also be better prepared for the one-off, more difficult scenarios where your sport does end earlier than you thought it would. Your team missing the postseason, getting injured, or even a pandemic could stop all of this before you had come to terms with it.  

Why did you decide to go to graduate school? What are you most excited about with this upcoming journey? 

I decided to go to graduate school to continue doing NCAA gymnastics and to continue learning. Having the ability to compete for a fifth year is very unique, as I was a freshman in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic began. I still love the sport and am excited for another year of flipping, cheering, and just enjoying everything that comes with being on a close-knit team at the University of Michigan. 

In addition, my graduate program is the Masters of Business Analytics program at the Ross School of Business and its curriculum is one I am genuinely excited about. I love learning and have spent a lot of alone time learning intro coding, analysis, etc. as an undergraduate, so I am excited to develop these soft and technical skills in a formal classroom setting. The program is only 10 months long too, so I get to continue my education but still work on the transition from college and athletics to a career fairly soon. 

I am most excited about having the opportunity to meet new people and get as much out of my schooling as possible. I am also just curious to see how grad school will differ from undergrad.

What is the most important thing you've done for yourself to start planning for life outside of sports?

I've tried to be really diligent in trying to be career-ready experience-wise. Throughout college, I've made sure to get internships, network, and prepare myself as much as I can for the workplace. This is something that has paid off and made me avoid feeling like I'm playing a game of catch-up with my peers just because I was an athlete in college. 

Another thing is simply having conversations where you talk about life after college. I've talked with people about what I might want to do or where I might want to go, and this makes everything less daunting. Nobody has a clear path when they leave their university, so don't feel like you have to have it all figured out.  

What advice do you have for athletes around moving on from sports to their next chapter?

Find what you're passionate about outside of your sport. Find people you're close to outside of your sport. And find around 5 things you're really excited to do, learn, or experience once you turn the page from college athletics. Doing these things will help you in a couple of ways - you'll not only have hobbies and genuine interests to spend your time working on, but you'll also have a circle of people that can expose you to new things and perspectives. 

Thank you Sierra for the example you continue to set for your fellow athletes, and for the mentorship and support you provide those athletes coming up behind you. We are excited to continue to follow your journey and we're proud to highlight you as our July 2023 Athlete of the Month.