On the Road: Cal Women’s Gymnastics Team Retreat

Video: On the Road with Cal Women's Gymnastics

SEA RANCH, Calif. – Prior to starting preseason training, each member of the Cal women’s gymnastics team met with her coaches. It was in this meeting that one of the gymnasts expressed her desire for the year: to preserve the team culture that has been created.

In the past few years, that culture has manifested itself in a number of ways – from creating a successful foundation for clean, beautiful gymnastics in the gym and excelling in the classroom, to a nearly team-wide obsession for oatmeal and the viral “Let Me Do a Backflip” video.

Last weekend, at the team’s annual retreat in Sea Ranch, Calif., the Bears continued to build their unique culture with activities such as creating a team rap and working through an obstacle course while blindfolded.

“We do a lot of activities absolutely unrelated to gymnastics,” said associate head coach Elisabeth Crandall-Howell. “We get to know each other and our strengths in areas that have nothing to do with being inside the gym. It really magnifies their abilities day in and day out of the gym.”

The Bears also discussed their team motto: Find a Way. As each motto has in previous years, this mantra will guide them in all aspects of their life throughout the year.

“No matter how hard it gets, or all the struggles that we’ve been through or may go through as a team, we’re always going to find a way to be able to reach our dreams,” explained freshman Toni-Ann Williams.

Also among the laundry list of retreat activities: watching the Cal Football game vs. Arizona, cooking team meals, hiking along the shoreline and viewing TED Talks on Diana Nyad and “Embracing the Beauty of the Near Win.”

“The retreat was a lot of fun. I got to know a lot of the gymnasts and coaches on a personal level and it helped me understand our team a little more,” Williams said.

Even the retreat’s secluded and remote location on the Sonoma Coast serves a purpose in further fortifying the team culture.

“Our retreat in particular is really important because it’s in a location where we have to completely disconnect from everything. There’s no cell reception and we lose that constant need to check technology,” Crandall-Howell said. “It’s actually great for our retreat because it forces all of us, including the coaches, to get to know each other on a more intimate level.”

While the season is still several months out, with the team retreat in the books and practice in full swing, Cal is already rallying around one another to “Find a Way” to continue to build and preserve their culture.

“As coaches, we knew that when we started in this job that was going to be our No. 1 priority: creating something that our student-athletes could be proud of and feel like they belonged to,” Crandall-Howell said. “We wanted to help establish a legacy, which was a word that wasn’t associated with Cal women’s gymnastics very often."

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