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Iowa women’s gymnastics camp comes to an end

BY CONRAD SWANSON | JUNE 17, 2011 7:20 AM

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Parents watched and waited patiently as their daughters worked in the gymnastics room of the Field House on Thursday morning, the final day of Iowa’s women’s gymnastics camp.

The room resonated with sound as girls landed on mats with dull thuds, trampoline springs creaked, coaches shouted direction, and high-speed fans blasted to keep the room cool. Wires ran from the floor to the uneven and parallel bars to keep them stable during exercises and protruded into the walking area.

Seventy-eight girls attended the camp, coming from a variety of places, although Iowa women’s gymnastics head coach Larissa Libby said many are local. Those without a residence in town stayed in Hillcrest.

Many parents said they originally heard about the camp through word of mouth or the Internet, and many are returning campers from past sessions. The campers range in age from 9 to incoming college freshmen, and which means there were many different levels of ability.

“You don’t have to be an Olympian,” Libby said. “This [camp] is great for determination and discipline. There’s something for everyone.”

Jerry Emmert came to the Field House to watch his 12-year-old granddaughter, Emily, in action. Emily went to the camp last year and stayed with her grandparents in Iowa City.

Emmert said having his granddaughter stay with them instead of in the dormitory was a good way to keep costs down, and it allowed them to recap each night when she came back from the gym. Emmert said he believes that overall, the camp is a good experience.

“We came down both years, and the camp seems well-organized,” he said.

Emmert also said his granddaughter’s experience with the camp was “very good” and that she “thoroughly enjoyed” her time at the camp.

Emily’s mother was a gymnast in high school, and Emmert said he thinks his daughter may have continued her gymnastics career if a camp such as Iowa’s had been available years ago.

Libby, who has been the head of the camp for around 11 years, said it provides a different experience from coaching at the college level.

“It’s nice to remind yourself of your grass roots,” she said. “It’s a good reminder of skills you were taught.”

The camp isn’t all serious competition. Libby noted that the girls played games of dodge ball and romped on a slip-and-slide to keep things interesting.

Linas Gaveika, an Iowa assistant coach, also plays a large part in the camp. A former Iowa gymnast himself, Gaveika said developing the campers’ abilities as gymnasts is an important way to keep girls involved in the sport, but agreed a healthy mix of work and play is essential to keep them interested.

“A good combination of gymnastics and fun is important,” he said.

Libby said she has both immediate and long-term goals in mind for the cultivation of the young gymnasts’ abilities and how she runs her camp.

“First and foremost, it’s got to be fun,” she said. “We do educate as well. We want them to learn about the culture of their sport … We want it to be a great experience. We want them to come back into Iowa gymnastics and to be a part of the community.”


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