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Stick It: The success of boys gymnastics

Ranked+first+in+state+prior+to+sectionals%2C+the+LHS+boys+gymnastics+team+has+had+great+success+this+season%2C+they+competed+in+the+state+competition+on+May+10th-11th.+%28scores+pending%29
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Stick It: The success of boys gymnastics

Ranked first in state prior to sectionals, the LHS boys gymnastics team has had great success this season, they competed in the state competition on May 10th-11th. (scores pending)

Ranked first in state prior to sectionals, the LHS boys gymnastics team has had great success this season, they competed in the state competition on May 10th-11th. (scores pending)

Anya Belomoina

Ranked first in state prior to sectionals, the LHS boys gymnastics team has had great success this season, they competed in the state competition on May 10th-11th. (scores pending)

Anya Belomoina

Anya Belomoina

Ranked first in state prior to sectionals, the LHS boys gymnastics team has had great success this season, they competed in the state competition on May 10th-11th. (scores pending)

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  • Before entering the gymnastics gym, echoes of cheering fans, teammates and coaches are heard roaming down the hall. Chalk coats the entirety of the mats, as well as the gymnasts’ hands, arms and pants, making the air thicker. The springboards and cheers compete for which is louder while jittery gymnasts prepare for their next routine. Daunting judges in suits watch each and every move. There’s a pause between routines as the judges decide on scoring, for what seemingly feels like hours, as each gymnast waits for their score and next turn. After each routine, you will see the Libertyville boys gymnastics team encouragingly applaud each other with a variety of chalk-dusted hand shakes. This is gymnastics.

 

Practice Makes Perfect

“The point of gymnastics is to make it look easy when it is incredibly difficult … I think a lot of people don’t realize that they train so much,” said Boys Gymnastics Assistant Coach and LHS math teacher Mr. John Taylor. He was a gymnast at Prospect High School, walked onto the team at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and has been coaching for 14 years.

They train six days a week, both before and after school. Due to the new late-start schedule, mandatory program-wide conditioning is held before school on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays run by the only in-school coach, Mr. Taylor.

“I do think I feel closer to this group than I have in a while,” said Coach Taylor. He said he enjoys the fact he gets to bond with gymnasts in the entire program, instead of just the JV competitors during the regular season since he’s in charge of morning workouts.

During those workouts, the boys focus on strength conditioning for 45 minutes, like running stairs, rope climbs, pullups and abdominal conditioning. Compared to past seasons when conditioning took place at the end of afternoon practices, the team now devotes their two-hour afternoon practice to stretching, skills and routines. According to Coach Taylor, the team’s focus shifts to perfecting routines and building endurance around the time after spring break since they’re no longer learning new skills.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve had the amount of talent we have this year,” said Coach Taylor.

That talent has produced strong results. The team was ranked first in state prior to the sectional competition earlier this month, which LHS hosted and won; this earned them the opportunity to compete at the state meet on May 9-10. They placed first in the state; the first time that LHS has won state for boys gymnastics in it’s history.

Coach Taylor also emphasized the athletes’ abilities to have the patience and coachability to focus on making small changes before they lead to a large change in their skills.

“I think they understand what it means to listen and to actually take in what their coaches are saying,” expressed Coach Taylor.

He also thinks the gymnasts’ work during the offseason has contributed to their success, since within a short three-month season, it can be difficult to get everyone in shape.

“It’s kind of training year-round at the varsity level. Especially if you want to be competitive, you have to train over the summer to keep your game up high,” said senior Max Faber, who has been a gymnast since he was 8 years old.

A common theme among the gymnasts was the understanding that work needs to get done during practice.

“It’s a pretty relaxed atmosphere when it comes down to it. The coaches are willing to joke around, you can take breaks when you need them, but when it comes to getting things done, they get done,” said Faber.

Sophomore Robert Cartwright echoed this, saying the combination of a competitive and relaxed atmosphere results in an ideal situation to push each other.

Coach Taylor said he tries to instill in the gymnasts to take practice seriously and to take advantage of the time they have to prepare since it will transfer over during competitions.

 

The boys train six times a week both before and after school. “It’s been a long time since we’ve had the amount of talent we have this year” stated assistant coach and LHS math teacher John Taylor.

Anya Belomoina
The boys train six times a week both before and after school. “It’s been a long time since we’ve had the amount of talent we have this year” stated assistant coach and LHS math teacher John Taylor.

No ‘I’ in Team

“A huge part of gymnastics is everybody pushing each other to be better, so everybody’s there and watching you and supporting you,” said Faber.

Many of the gymnasts interviewed for this story highlighted the close-knit family feel of this team, which contributes to their encouraging atmosphere because they all truly want their teammates to succeed.

A key contributor to the team’s success is senior Matthew Richardson, who this year competed with LHS for the first time in his gymnastics career. Richardson previously competed in club gymnastics outside of school and joined the LHS team after coming back from an injury. As a model for the other gymnasts in the program, Richardson’s skills show the underclassmen what they could do in the future, according to Mr. Taylor.

Coach Taylor referenced a specific example that happened earlier this season with Cartwright, who was just messing around during practice on pommel horse, when he mastered a skill in 15 minutes that would normally take other gymnasts months to achieve, according to Coach Taylor. He described Cartwright’s energy as “contagious,” which inspired the whole team to work hard at practice.

“I love teaching the guys new tricks and when they get it, [I love to see] the excitement in their face; you can just tell they love the sport because they keep working at it, working at it, working at it and then they just get it,” described Coach Taylor.

The gymnasts all generally described their coaches as being able to guide them and support them, while simultaneously pushing them to be the best they can be. Cartwright added that the coaches value the opinions of the gymnasts and pay attention to how the gymnasts feel. This can help create the hard-working environment that surrounds the team.

According to freshman Grady Georgia, “I try my hardest to improve and to try to encourage other teammates. I hope they’re working their hardest and trying their best.”

 

Love for the Sport

“Not being afraid is one of the biggest things that you learn in gymnastics because if you’re scared of falling, if you’re scared of getting hurt, if you’re scared of failing, you’re never going to progress in gymnastics,” explained Faber.

Above all else, most of the gymnasts described the empowering feeling they get after mastering a certain skill. The time and work put into the gymnasts’ routines creates a love for the rewarding feeling after perfecting skills. Coach Taylor emphasized that many gymnasts feel that way because their routines get points deducted for every mistake they make.

“I think people should know how much fun it is. The first time you get a new skill, how exciting that is … and to have everyone cheering you on,” said Georgia.

According to the gymnasts, gymnastics not only creates a gratifying personal feeling but also a sense of community as the teammates all encourage each other to reach their goals.

“Club gymnastics is a lot more competitive and it’s a lot more focused on the individual, whereas when you go to high school gymnastics, there’s a huge team focus and a lot of it is just comradery that you don’t experience in club,” said Faber.

Faber also explained how the trust and low-pressure atmosphere within the team make it easier to do well at competitions. “I know that other people have my back if I fall. I know that it’s not the end of the world if I don’t do well,” commented Faber. He later added that not letting his teammates down is one of his main motivators.

A couple gymnasts commented on the nerves they feel during competitions since “you only get one shot,” said Georgia.

Many of the gymnasts emphasized the idea that it’s never too late to join gymnastics, even if you have little or no prior experience. Georgia added that he thinks more students should try gymnastics, especially since the team “is a bit small and people don’t realize how much fun the sport is.”

 

Successes

 

  • The varsity team won the IHSA State Championship on May 10th-11th with a team score of 159.7500, they earned the following scores.
    • All Around: 1st – Matthew Richardson 55.1500
    • Floor Exercise: 1st – Matthew Richardson 9.6500
    • Pommel Horse: 2nd – Matthew Richardson 9.4000, 5th – Max Faber 8.4500
    • Still Rings: 1st – Max Faber 9.3000, 3rd – Matthew Richardson 9.2500, 4th – Tyler Kukla 8.8500
    • Vault: 2nd – Max Faber 9.2000, tied for 4th – Matthew Richardson and Robert Cartwright 9.1000
    • Parallel Bars: 5th – Tyler Kukla 8.8000
    • High Bar: 1st – Matthew Richardson 9.2500, 5th – Max Faber 8.7000
  • They were ranked #1 in the state prior to Sectionals.
  • The varsity team was 7-0 in conference meets (8-0 including all meets) and they took first place at conference
  • On May 1, they competed in Sectionals, earning the following scores.
    • Team placed 1st with a score of 159.75
    • All-Around: 1st – Matthew Richardson 55.15
    • Floor: 1st – Matthew Richardson 9.65
    • Pommel Horse: 2nd – Matthew Richardson 9.40, 5th – Max Faber 8.45
    • Still Rings: 1st – Max Faber 9.30, 3rd – Matthew Richardson 9.25, 4th – Tyler Kukla 8.85
    • Vault: 3rd – Max Faber 9.20, 4th Matthew Richardson 9.10, 4th Robert Cartwright 9.10
    • Parallel Bars: 5th – Tyler Kukula 8.80
    • High Bar: 1st – Matthew Richardson 9.25, 5th – 8.70
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Stick It: The success of boys gymnastics