By Anna Kayser
The Iowa women’s gymnastics team has a unique team dynamic that has created a different environment compared with that of last season.
The team welcomed five freshmen this year to replace five seniors who graduated, and while it was an even numbers exchange, the difference in experience and personality creates an entirely new team.
“We lost a really great class, and I’ve said it a thousand times: It’s not necessarily just the gymnastics, just the overall picture of what they were,” head coach Larissa Libby said.
As well as adding the freshmen, the returning gymnasts have stepped up in events to fill the void that the seniors left.
“I think with our lineups, we have more people in every event, not just necessarily who graduated or who came in,” Junior Misty-Jade Carlson said. “I think we’re fine with numbers, we’re doing great, and I think we can do even better this year than we did last year.”
The seniors last year had a lot of strength in bar routines, and that creates a hole in one of the team’s strongest events.
Rearranging the lineup in light of injuries has been a focus for the coaching staff leading up to the start of the regular season.
“Just adjusting lineups I think has been difficult for us, to find that magic group that’s working together and getting everything done the right way,” Libby said.
With the loss of seniors, some believe that the Hawkeyes heading for a down season. However, Libby said, that depends on what the team believes.
“You decide whether you’re on the down side or not,” Libby said. “I’ll like to see what they’re made of.”
Last season’s senior class was a dominating group that led the team in both the gym and team meetings.
This season, the upperclassmen also lead the team but in a more inclusive way that makes the gymnasts seem even.
However, the upcoming season isn’t just about gymnastics.
Traveling away from home can take a toll on both players and coaches, so the goal is to have a team dynamic and personality that can make it enjoyable.
“You better like who you’re with when you will leave for as long as we leave and as often as we do,” Libby said.
The bonds in a team through the long road trips create a next-level team dynamic, as well as friendships outside the gym.
The overall personality of the group has shown through the early part of the season.
“They’re ridiculously fun, they really are,” Libby said. “Honestly, if you’re having a bad day, that’s where you need to be.”
The fans get to see glimpses of what each gymnast is like through the music that plays during meets, which gives the athletes an opportunity to individualize their routines.
“We get to pick our own music as long as Coach Libby approves it, and it’s based on your personality,” senior Lanie Snyder said. “Mine’s rock and roll, because I might not be the best dancer in the world, but I can get the crowd going and do some rock and roll moves, so it’s fun.