SALT LAKE CITY — How do you get your Utah gymnastics fix?

Is it in person, at Friday night meets inside a packed Huntsman Center? Utah’s average attendance in 2020 was 15,273 — a new program record — so that is certainly possible. 

Or do you embrace the Red Rocks via television? This year that would’ve meant a lot of time spent watching the Pac-12 Network — eight of Utah’s 10 completed meets were available on the Pac-12 Network or Pac-12 Plus — and a little ESPN, like when Utah defeated UCLA in late February.

“We believe with the hiring of Misty that our program will continue to be one of the leaders in marketing gymnastics to the masses.” — Utah coach Tom Farden

Maybe you have a personal relationship with one or more of Utah’s gymnasts, so texts, phone calls, or FaceTime are your go-to means to consume gymnastics content. Perhaps during the craziness that is the COVID-19 pandemic you’ve even been sucked into the Zoom vortex.

For the vast majority of fans, though, there is one major means by which they connect with Utah gymnastics — over social media.

Here are some of the numbers: 56,200-plus people follow the Red Rocks on Instagram; 56,070 follow Utah gymnastics on Facebook, while 56,697 like the team’s Facebook page; the Red Rocks have an additional 20,200-plus followers on Twitter and TikTok, albeit quite new to Utah’s social media catalogue, adds another 327 followers.

All told, more than 132,000 people follow Utah gymnastics on various social media platforms and that estimate is most likely underselling things.

There is for the most part a single person ultimately responsible for crafting all the content consumed over Utah gymnastics’ social media platforms, who influences how tens of thousands perceive the Red Rocks — Misty-Jade Carlson.

Who is Carlson?

A native of Portland, Oregon, and recent graduate of the University of Iowa, where she was a gymnast herself and earned degrees in mass communication and graphic design, Carlson is Utah’s creative content manager, the first of her kind in collegiate gymnastics. She was hired last offseason as a sport-specific, non-coaching staff member, the final touch on Tom Farden’s remade staff.

Misty-Jade Carlson, Utah gymnastics’ creative content manager. | Steve C. Wilson, University of Utah

“We believe with the hiring of Misty that our program will continue to be one of the leaders in marketing gymnastics to the masses,” Farden said nearly a year ago. “Her ability to produce eye-catching assets coupled with her self-starter motivation is a perfect fit for our program.”

Carlson was born and raised in Portland, before the coaches at Iowa, specifically head coach Larissa Libby, lured her to the heart of the Midwest. There, she fell in love with Iowa City, its people and atmosphere. And now, a similar thing is happening in Salt Lake City.

“I’ve actually grown to like Utah a lot,” she said. “It reminds me more of Oregon, because everyone is outdoorsy, down-to-earth, and there is kind of a hippie-ish vibe. Not as much as Portland, which is kind of a free-for-all, but Utah has been great. The people are all great.”

Carlson is currently social distancing in the shadow of the Wasatch Front, much like the majority of Utah fans, and while staying at home she has continued to create content for those starved for any and all things Utah gymnastics.

What she crafts depends on the platforms themselves. She is quick to admit that she is partial to Instagram — “It is definitely my favorite,” she said — but each platform offers something different, a unique way to showcase the Red Rocks.

“All of the social media platforms are different and people don’t necessarily realize that,” Carlson said. “Instagram is more photo-based. Twitter, I think you can be funnier on Twitter.

“Facebook is for our older fans. It is more content-driven. I work with our marketing department more there, just putting out information. And we started TikTok this year, which is cute videos of girls doing workouts, things like that.”

Instagram enables Carlson to utilize the skills she learned the most in school, with its focus on graphics and photos. Most recently, that’s meant the creation of a “Best Moments of 2020” bracket, where fans can vote for the moments of the past season they loved the most.

TikTok, meanwhile, and videos in general, especially meet recaps, have been the greatest challenge, though Carlson has come to love making them.

“I had done one video for one project in school and that was it,” she said. “I had to learn the ropes. It has been really fun to learn how to do it. I feel like I can tell more of a story in video. Sometimes it can be tricky to create new graphics that are different, but also on brand for Utah. It is easier to showcase how great these girls are at what they do and all of their achievements in video.”

Her meet day responsibilities depends on whether the Red Rocks are at home or away.

At home, she videoed at her own leisure, updated scores on Instagram and created post meet content. On the road, she assumed the role of photographer, videographer and creative content manager, becoming a sort of Tasmanian Devil.

“I had to do five different things at once, so those meets went by way faster,” she said. “It can get kind of chaotic.”

Related
‘One of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make’: Utah gymnast Hunter Dula retires
What does the future hold for Utah gymnastics?
How Utah gymnastics is navigating the effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic

During the week, in-season, Carlson was almost always busy. There were Monday press releases, which often focused on national and conference rankings. On Tuesday, Pac-12 honors were at the forefront. Midweek, there was a focus on the Dumke expansion project, as well as recruiting. Towards the weekend, there was meet hype and then the competitions themselves. Then there were the meet recap videos, which Carlson usually finished in transit.

“That was always fun to finish a video as we were driving to the airport, or on the plane,” she said with a laugh, which can be quite infectious.

Key to all the content she pumped out this season was her interaction with the Red Rocks themselves. That was vital, as it was the gymnasts Carlson was tasked with promoting.

“I definitely got to know them,” she said. “I got to know their personalities. It has been fun. They are a good group of girls.”

And because of Carlson, 132,000-plus fans know it too.