This year, the Gustavus Gymnastics team is on a mission. Their first goal is to win a meet. Second off, they want a team score of 185.0. Lastly, the team wants to continue progressing as a program to become successful again, after encountering a rough patch a few years back. For now, it seems like they are on the right path.
“Last year we reached team scores that Gustavus Gymnastics had not reached in seven or eight years, and we would like to continue on that path towards making a name for ourselves once again,” junior captain Alex Kopp said.
Last year Kopp placed thirteenth in the national all-around rankings last year, and this year she hopes to become an all-around All-American by cracking the top ten nationally. She also hopes to qualify for nationals.
Although Kopp is a team-player first, she cannot deny that gymnastics has many characteristics of an individual sport.
“Although college gymnastics is more team-focused, I would argue that the sport in general is mostly individual focused. You are responsible for hitting all of your routines and if you don’t, you can’t blame any other team member. You put in the work to get the results you want and no one else can make you look good other than yourself. Individual awards are given out at every meet, so we are all trying to place individually as well as in the team places,” Kopp said.
The individual aspects of the sport don’t hurt team chemistry however.
“Our team is very close considering the amount of time we spend in the gym with each other. Spending that much time with people allows you to get to know them on every level. Teams can only be successful if each person knows their teammates well and knows how to help them succeed individually. Outside of the gym, we spend time together at team dinners, gatherings at Coach Aryn’s house, volunteering at the nursing home, or playing Just Dance on our team’s Wii,” Kopp said.
Gymnastics is a larger time commitment then other athletes realize. The team has three-hour practices five days a week, and a one-hour practice on Saturdays. This schedule runs from mid-September to early March, but the season is never really over.
“It is almost impossible to take more than a week off of gymnastics and come back without missing a step. Your body has to be in such good shape to stay at a competitive level that any time off more than a weekend will set you back. I can personally attest to this since I took my entire freshman year off of gymnastics and I am still trying to regain some of the skills I had my senior year of high school. I (and most gymnasts) practice 12 months out of the year,” Kopp said.
It also is not for the faint of heart. Although undoubtedly a sport requiring much physical skill, the mental portion may be the hardest part. Why?
“The fear and mental challenges involved in gymnastics. This makes it so unique from other sports because you would never go into a basketball practice scared to make a shot. Taking a shot from the three-point line does not put your life in danger, and there is little risk of injury at that moment.
Every moment in gymnastics presents a risk, arguably life threatening. The skills we do are dangerous and you could be seriously injured at any time.
That being said, you have to be brave to do this sport and a little crazy. You have to be mentally strong enough to flip backwards on a four-inch beam while never doubting yourself. This aspect is particular to the sport of gymnastics and no other sport,” Kopp said.
The season officially kicks off Jan. 9 when the Gusties play host to UW-Oshkosh. Show up to root on the girls, and see what it really takes to be a gymnast.