Between The Bars

Feb. 20, 2006

I'm excited to report that Sunday's home meet was an extension of the great team experience we had two days earlier in Georgia, only this time our entire team was able to be a part of the Bruin Synergy.

Friday night we only had eight athletes, and everyone competed on their respective events as planned. Sunday proved to be a different challenge. In warm-ups, Janelle hyper-extended her knee on a bar dismount. She tried to vault in the 3-minute touch, but her knee hurt pretty badly on the run and landing. So we went to the game plan that I LOVE to implement in developing more team unity - 'Put the injured athlete up last in the line-up, and if the first five hit then the injured athlete doesn't compete.' Our team loved this; you could see it in their eyes in the huddle before the event. (Important note: 'Injured athlete' refers to someone who has tweaked something. Obviously we wouldn't put an athlete up 'injured' if there was the possibility she could do serious damage to herself.)

We implemented the same situation on bars, putting Janelle up last, and the first five hit. YEAH! Off to beam, where we were in a similar situation, only this time with Jordan, who had jammed her ankle and felt a pull on her achilles on her vault landing. So the questions were, 'Can Jordan compete? Can Janelle compete? Alyssa, either way, you're either competing or exhibitioning, so make sure you're ready.' It played out perfectly. Janelle got fired up to come in and compete to allow Jordan the opportunity to go last and not have to come in. In fact, as I was thinking it, Janelle said it, 'Put Jordan last; we'll all hit for her.'

~ I LOVE the small victories in athletics when you see teammates give it up and put themselves on the line for another teammate. ~

On floor, Jordan's tumbling looked great but she said her achilles kept tightening up, so it was best to pull her. At this point, we didn't have a back-up (Alyssa and Michelle both had ankle issues). So Kristina and Kate knew they had to pull off great routines ... and they did.

An entirely different scenario that we were dealing with was Kate's mysterious tricep issue. She doesn't remember initially hurting it, only that she felt it a little bit last weekend, then it got really sore at the beginning of last week. The whole meet we didn't know if Kate's tricep would become too painful for her to continue. In true Kate Richardson fashion, she competed better having to work through adversity. She didn't train at all last week, not even a cartwheel, and had the best meet of her season yesterday. (For those wondering about her beam routine, last year when she hurt her thumb, we changed her beam series to two front aerials. Because of the tricep strain last week, we decided to go back to that. The backhandspring layout is her back-up in case she doesn't connect the two aerials.)

So - from event to event we were following our gymnastics flow chart 'If this, then that.' As we explained to them after the meet, the connection they felt for each other throughout this entire meet is exactly the same team feeling they should have in every competition, regardless if everyone is healthy and things are going smoothly or not.

All in all, these last two weekends of having back-to-back meets accomplished exactly what we'd hoped to; to toughen up our team competitively and to build stronger team unity. (We didn't think we'd have to do this with so few athletes, but they handled the challenge like Champions.) Not only did they learn that they are tough, seasoned athletes, but they all experienced the fulfillment that happens when teams come together and compete as one.

Here's to getting healthy, staying healthy, and continuing this amazing journey!

~ miss val



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