Raising the bar: Girls gymnastics recruits new members

Kayla Baltazar, Staff Reporter

This winter girls gymnastics is back in full swing after a previous COVID-19 pandemic season with a smaller team. 

   Coach Jesse Piland recalled how last year at the gym there were days where there would only be around nine girls practicing at a time.

   “Last year, it was– at times– very quiet in the gym even though you’re practicing,” Piland said.

   Piland contributed last year’s low numbers to difficulties with recruiting during a pandemic as well as older members not returning for various reasons. 

   Despite the small team, Piland said he still thinks last year was beneficial to the team.

   “We had small numbers, and with those numbers… everyone improved very well,” Piland said. “We had a lot of fun in the gym, and we made a lot of progress as [much as] our small team could.”

   This year, the girls gymnastics team has grown to around 20 girls with a lot of them being new members. 

   “There are new people, but they’re kind of fitting right in ‘cause the rest of us are really open with each other,” Tori Collins, senior, said. “It’s a really welcoming environment. We all know each other so well, so with new people, it’s just like, ‘Oh, welcome to our little family.’”

   Piland added that many of the newer members have never done gymnastics before. Despite this, Piland said the transition has been easy because each new member has been paired with a gymnast who has done the sport before, which has also helped the team bond and get to know each other. 

   “We don’t have the varsity practicing in one gym and the JV practicing in the other gym; it’s all one gym, so even the youngest girl gets to know the oldest girl, and everyone’s kind of on the same team,” Piland said. “We travel together; we compete together, so I think that does a lot to get the girls more plugged into another pipeline– like different spheres of influence.”

   Head Coach Bridget Erickson said she hopes that this season the gymnasts can improve their scores at competitions. She also said she hopes to push the girls outside of their comfort zone to gain new skills. However, sometimes this can prove to be difficult as trying something new comes with the fear of actually doing the skill.

   “Gymnastics is a very mental sport, and gymnasts can get in their own head about different skills. This is something we deal with daily as gymnastics coaches,” Erickson said.

   Despite any potential setbacks, the gymnasts continue to look forward. Collins, for example, said she believes this season has the potential to be a great one. 

   “I feel like regionals is one we can all do well in,” Collins said. “If we all focus and [get] good at what we already do and [improve], we can do really well.”