Jan. 2, 2013
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Whether you walk into a practice in the North Gym of the UI Field House, or a competitive meet on the floor of Carver-Hawkeye Arena, the team environment embodied by the University of Iowa women's gymnastics team is palpable.
For the average viewer, this may be expected. It is rare though, considering the sport.
Many prep and high school sports have a team focus, even ones that are individually-focused like golf and swimming. In prep gymnastics, the focus is solely on the individual.
"Their whole lives, it has been about them," said Libby. "They generally adjust to being fantastic competitors because the environment supports that, but it is hard. That is the one leeway we give because it is very difficult to understand that when you make a mistake, it is affecting 25 of us on any given level.
"Whether you got up late, or did something wrong, we are all affected. It is a concept that is very difficult to grasp."
The old adage is 'there are no I's in TEAM.' For the UI women's gymnastics team, a number of individual standouts come together to create a special team bond.
This has been evident throughout the years, and for Libby it was evident again at the team's annual Black and Gold Intrasquad in December.
"For the freshmen, it was the first time in front of an audience, competing team against team, full go, hard floor, in a different arena," said Libby. "I like how they handled themselves."
"Our sport is not really a team sport," said UI head coach Larissa Libby. "In college, it is made into a team sport which is what makes it so great and why the girls love it and thrive in this environment."
"Our sport is not really a team sport. In college, it is made into a team sport which is what makes it so great and why the girls love it and thrive in this environment."
-- UI head coach Larissa Libby
Most importantly, the camaraderie and team unity this squad exemplifies is obvious, even when split up in an intrasquad event.
"I like how they handled each other," said Libby. "They were split, but they were still paying attention to what was happening across. There are kids that function really well together that were not on the same teams. Those camaraderie's and relationships still held through. You like to see that because it is real, it is genuine.
"They know the sticking points of each person on the team. They know when it is coming, and when it has passed and how to get through that."
The team bond will carry the young Iowa squad in 2013.
"We are a very young team," said Libby. "We are relying on our freshmen. We don't make excuses for anyone on our team for not doing their job. Whether you are a freshman or a senior, to me, it makes no difference. Your job is your job and that is it. We are all held to the same standard.
"We have some really great freshmen and sophomores. We have a great core of our team."
Iowa opens the season in Iowa City on Jan. 11 against Ball State at 7 p.m. (CT).
Fans interested in attending home meets at Carver-Hawkeye Arena should visit hawkeyesports.com or contact the UI Athletics Ticket Office at 1-800 IA-HAWKS for season tickets.