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GymHawks thinking swagger

BY ROBBIE LEHMAN | JANUARY 22, 2010 7:30 AM

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“Having confidence is a choice.”

It’s a quotation Iowa head women’s gymnastics coach Larissa Libby heard a few days ago. And when the Hawkeyes travel to Penn State for a four-team meet on at 7 p.m. Saturday, Libby wants her team to walk into the gym exhibiting just that — confidence.

The biggest struggle for the coach so far this season has been getting her young and relatively inexperienced gymnasts to believe how good they can be. She said the GymHawks aren’t confident in their abilities yet.

“Mentally, they’re just in — for lack of better words — baby mode,” Libby said. “They need to get a little bit tougher to perform at the level we expect them to. Right now, my expectations are higher than theirs, and that’s never a good situation.”

Libby would also like her group to show “swagger” against not only the No. 22-ranked Nittany Lions, but Yale and Cornell as well. Right now, the sixth year coach said the Hawkeyes have the “swa” part of the word down pat.

They’re still working on the “gger” portion, though.

“I really believe that if you walk into an arena, and you’ve already chosen that you are an inferior opponent. You’ve already lost,” Libby said. “We’ve been trying to work with that and that whole swagger thing — walking into an arena and knowing that you’re prepared.”

Certainly being young makes a difference in a team’s collective attitude — especially when 12 of the 18 Iowa gymnasts are underclassmen.

The Hawkeyes have finished in second place in their two meets this season and have averaged 192.712 team all-around points, a higher overall average than they had at the same point last season.

Sophomore all-arounder Jessa Hansen said her teammates do feel pressure to perform better, and that’s a good thing.

“There’s always pressure there,” she said. “I think every athlete on the team feels pressure because you’re expected to help out the team in any way possible. When people expect you to be great, you feel that pressure. But I really think the pressure makes you better. Without it, I don’t think any of us would be as good.”

Libby said she is still adjusting her lineup because of several key injuries. It will be the first competition at Penn State for the majority of the team to traveling.

And with a gymnastics team being judged by individual performances, senior Jenny Donar said the Hawkeyes weren’t as together as they would like to be in their first two meets.

But this weekend’s meet can set the tone for the type of season Iowa wants to have.

“I can definitely tell when we’re all focused and mentally prepared, ready to go,” Donar said. “You can tell by the look on our faces before we even start the routine how it’s going to go. When we’re confident with each other, it fits a lot better. I feel like we’ve been working on that, and hopefully, we can bring it together this weekend and for the rest of the season.”


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