By Anna Kayser
Both the men’s and women’s gymnastics teams added strong groups of freshmen this year that will have to overcome a unique adversity to open up the season.
The setup for the season is unique. The women start immediately after the New Year with a road trip to Arizona, while the men open up their season a week later at the Windy City Invitational in Chicago.
With finals week also being a week of voluntary practice in which the coaches train, freshmen are often at a disadvantage with the pacing of practice and figuring out what they have to accomplish individually.
“In terms of [the pacing of school and practice] messing with how consistent they’ve been in practice, I think that’s just the hardest part,” women’s head coach Larissa Libby said.
After finals week is over, the women’s team will have two days of training with the coaches and then are off for eight days over Christmas.
“I do think that it affects [the freshmen] in a different way; it’s definitely more negatively than a positive thing,” Libby said. “The positive thing that they’re getting to rest, but the negative thing that they’ve never had the opportunity to do that before, so they don’t know what they’re going to be able to do on the flip side of that rest.”
For the men’s team, it’s all about controlling the mindset. When the freshmen come in, they learn a lot in a short amount of time, and then that has to translate into the competition.
The men’s freshman class is a good mix of what head coach JD Reive calls “superstars” and those who aren’t quite ready yet but will bring a lot of depth to the team as the season and years go on.
The team this season has a stronger mentality compared with last season. The group meshes together well enough that it will bring a competitive advantage over other teams.
“If we’re going to have the success that we’re trying to have this year, it’s going to be that they go on the floor together, and compete together, and have continuity across the lineup,” Reive said. “Time will tell here shortly.”
Along with that mentality comes a discipline throughout the team that everyone’s job — no matter how small — is important to the overall success of the team. Realizing each athlete’s role goes into the cohesiveness of the group will be important throughout the season.
“Their theme as a group is if we train consistently, we compete consistently,” Reive said. “If that holds true, then they’re going to have all kinds of success this year.”
Especially for the freshmen, a tight-knit group of teammates is important to help the nerves going into the first competition of the season.
Freshman Bennet Huang could potentially be a national champion in more than one event, Reive said. However, for this season, Huang is looking forward to getting out on the floor and competing as a group with his teammates.
“Being in high school, we had a team, but it’s a lot different representing the whole school,” Huang said. “This team is really like family.”