Q&A with Tacia LaBatte

Sept. 20, 2004

Husky gymnast Tacia LaBatte is leading a very full life. Not only is the senior from Kaneohe, Hawaii preparing for the upcoming gymnastics season, but she can be found on the sidelines of Washington football games as a member of the cheer squad.

LaBatte may be one of 19 new members on first-year coach Shermin Peredo's cheer squad, but she is a veteran on the gymnastics team. Bob Levesque's squad will feature eight freshmen and LaBatte will be one of three seniors asked to show the newcomers the ropes. LaBatte, who is also an honors communications major, recently sat down with GoHuskies.com correspondent Veronica White to talk about pulling double duty while trying to lead the life of a student-athlete.

GoHuskies.com: How do you balance both gymnastics and cheer?
Tacia LaBatte: 'I don't know yet because this is my first year doing both sports. We've set it up so that cheer practice is after gymnastics. I'll be in the gym from about 1 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.'

GH: What is a typical day like for you?
TL: 'During the school year I will go to class from 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. I will come straight here (gymnastics practice facilities) after class to do treatment and rehab for gymnastics. Gymnastics practice is from 1:45 p.m.-5 p.m., so I'll bring my dinner here and eat something really fast and start cheer at 5:30 p.m. It's going to be interesting.'

GH: What was cheering at your first Husky game like?
TL: 'I really enjoyed it. It's fun for me to do something else, I have always been on the competitive side especially here at the UW. So it's fun to go out and just support my team. It's my last year here, I am going to be an alumni soon so I might as well start getting on that side.'

GH: How did you feel being in front of such a large crowd?
TL: 'It's not anything new to me, there are 20 other girls next to me whereas in gymnastics it's just you. I think it's a lot of fun.'

GH: How does your gymnastics coach feel about you joining the cheer squad?
TL: 'He said it's okay just as long as I don't get hurt. Gymnastics is my priority, it's paying for my school, and after school it's my number one priority. If there is ever a time that cheer is hindering my gymnastics I am obviously going to choose gymnastics over cheer.'

GH: Are you excited about the upcoming gymnastics season?
TL: 'I'm really, really excited to get started with everything. It's my last year, how could it not be good as long as I am putting in the time and the effort.'

GH: How do you feel about your gymnastics team coming into the 2004 season?
TL: 'We actually have a really large team which is good for us because gymnastics is a sport that is plagued with injuries, but I am really excited because we have eight freshman coming in which is the biggest class that we have ever had. I think we finally got our team to the point where everyone loves gymnastics. We have a really young team which is always exciting to get them in here and on the ball.'

GH: Do you feel you take on a certain leadership role on the team being a senior?
TL: 'We actually have an official captain, that is Carly Dockendorf. But Molly Seaman and I are kind of affiliate captains. It's more like we try to lead by example than actually telling the girls what to do. If we can show them by example, I think that is the best way to learn.'

GH: What are your goals for this season?
TL: 'We would definitely like to make nationals this year. I went as an individual my sophomore year. It is such an amazing experience and I think with such a young team to have them even be out on the national floor will get them so excited about wanting to be there every year.'

GH: How do the pressures from gymnastics and cheer differ?
TL: 'There is pressure to perform well in cheer because you have 70,000 people watching you. Alumni is very important in cheer, we want to keep our alumni base. We also have to do a lot more promotional stuff because cheer isn't an official sport of the U. So if we want anything we pretty much have to go out and get it ourselves.

'We have a brand new coach for cheer this year and we also have two squads when we've always only had one. We have a stunt squad that is co-ed and a palm squad who does all dancing. It's been a big challenge for us to incorporate this year. As cheerleaders we have to work extra hard so our dance looks as good as the dancers. I'm on co-ed squad; we do tumbling, stunts, dances and cheers. We have big shoes to fill, but it's fun. That's the main thing about it is that its fun.'

'Gymnastics I've been doing this my whole life, this is what I am committed to, I always feel more pressure in gymnastics. It's my passion, it's where I have grown up. Gymnastics is competitive here at the UW and cheer is not.'

GH: What are your thoughts on the 2004 Olympic team?
TL: 'I really like seeing Mohini Bhardwaj. All the other girls are awesome but Mohini used to compete for UCLA, she's an older gymnast. It's really nice to see someone that you actually have competed with out there. Those girls are awesome, they have trained so hard. It's nice to see our team bringing it all together.'

GH: Do you have a role model or someone who has inspired you?
TL: 'Right now it's just my younger sisters. They are such amazing little kids and I just want to show them that I can do all these things and still be a good person. I can go to church and do gymnastics and do cheer and still have fun. There are a lot of kids that don't know yet that it is fun, it's always going to be fun.'

GH: Do you hope to stay involved in gymnastics after your career is over?
TL: 'My parents own a gym in Hawaii and my twin sisters who are 9 years old both do gymnastics. My youth pastor and my college pastor, his three daughters do gymnastics, so I am in the gymnastics community and I am sure I will always be. I would like to see if I could do something with USA Gymnastics, maybe event management since my major is communications.'

GH: What are your plans after this year?
TL: 'I got asked to coach for UCA (Universal Cheerleaders Association) next summer so I am going to go through that process. When I am done with that I want to see where I could go with cheer as far as doing it while I am doing grad school. I am planning on applying to grad school, whether I go or not will be a big determining factor. I am actually thinking about moving back to Utah for the summer (she attended Utah her freshman year of college) and maybe if I can afford it they have a really good communications program. I am looking forward to skiing and snow boarding after gymnastics is over and surfing as well. I haven't got to do those things because of practice schedules, so I am hoping in the next year, I will get to do those things.

GH: How did you spend your summer?
TL: 'I went home this summer for about three weeks. My little sisters are growing up so fast, I needed to see them. Family is very important to me. My little sisters are really what push me to work harder in everything that I do. Like I said, I am more of a lead by example kind of person. Just knowing that there are little kids watching, that's why I do gymnastics. You realize by the end of your college career that its not only for you, there are other people watching and not wanting to see you make mistakes but wanting to see you succeed. I've worked hard this summer. Cheer has helped me to stay in shape for gymnastics.'

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