How would you describe your students’ progress over the past few years since we started the Team program?
Coach Cristian and I have been with the team for a total of four seasons now. That first year we really did not know each other or each other’s coaching techniques, but we were a great match and we easily picked up where the other wasn’t as strong. We really had to gain the trust and respect of the team gymnasts as we were their new coaches. It took some time and persistence, but eventually we were able to develop a more well-rounded program. Our goal was to make as many strong all-around gymnasts as possible. We wanted everyone to be on the same playing field and really develop a strong functional team with multiple levels. This year was our first year of having three large size teams at the State Championships.
What is your advice for students who hope to join Team in the next few years?
My advice for gymnasts that want to join Team is GO FOR IT! I tell the gymnasts all the time that you don’t have to be the VERY BEST gymnast on my team, but you must try your VERY BEST. We compete in the USAIGC program, which really promotes competitive gymnastics for all. It’s also something Coach Cristian and I believe in: that competitive gymnastics can be for anyone, as long as the gymnast is willing to work hard, be a good teammate, and trust their coaches.
What was the most exciting part about States for you as a coach?
As a coach, State Championships is always a day filled with a lot of emotion. We want the gymnasts to have a great competition and do their very best, but of course things don’t always go as planned. This year at States we had a tough lesson in perseverance. For Copper 1, we started on the uneven bars where we had multiple errors. This was our first event and the coaches had to keep the gymnasts’ spirits up and remind them we had to push through our mistakes and focus on our next event. As the competition progressed, the gymnasts really fought hard and in every event, they gained more momentum and ended on vault where we had our highest Vaulting Team Score ever! This helped to push the team into second place! For our Copper 2 group, we had a lot of frustration and a lot of emotion throughout the entire competition. We finally made it to beam, our last event, and I told the girls, “YOU CAN DO THIS, forget about everything else that happened today, let’s have fun and finish strong for each other, regardless of scoring.” All gymnasts stuck their routines and pushed the team from last place into third place! This was one of the best moments in my coaching career. For our Bronze group, we were able to bring twelve gymnasts to compete and in the past we have only had around five. This group really fought hard all season to develop the more advanced skills needed to be competitive in this level. Even though we did not place as a team, we had multiple gymnasts placing top five on every event and in the all-around. For me this group has really helped to develop the Discovery Team. They are leaders in the gym even if they don’t know it. I wish they could see how the younger gymnasts look up to them. During practice, they are flipping through the air on the trampoline, balance beam and uneven bars. They are a truly inspiring group of gymnasts.
This year you decided on the theme “We Believe” to prepare for States. Why did you choose this phrase and how do you think it helped your gymnasts?
Each year we select a theme for States and this year our theme was BELIEVE! I believe that our toughest opponents in the gym are ourselves. I really emphasize to the gymnasts that a POSITIVE MIND = POSITIVE OUTCOMES. This year I chose “We Believe” because I felt a lot of gymnasts were not believing in their abilities. I wanted to really get them to believe. We lined up every night at the end of practice leading up to States and one by one yelled, “I BELIEVE” and together yelled, “WE BELIEVE.” We hung the word BELIEVE around the gym, wore BELIEVE bracelets and even held BELIEVE rocks before we competed. I really feel that our mindset sets the tone in our lives. If we choose to be positive and believe in ourselves, anything is possible.
Where do you hope to see your Team gymnasts progress to in the next few years?
In the next few years, I hope to see the team continue down the positive path we are on. Next year, we are adding a fourth level called Diamond, and it will be the first time Discovery has this skill level. I want the team to be a positive place for gymnasts to come and really feel like a part of something special, a family where they can connect and support one another and not only become great gymnasts, but great people.