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GymHawks see diverse roster as an advantage

BY RYAN PROBASCO | DECEMBER 14, 2012 6:30 AM

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Although gymnastics showcases some of the world’s most physically gifted athletes, it is as much a mental sport as it is a physical one. Visualization, technique, and approach are the essentials to any successful routine.

JD Reive, the head coach of the Iowa men’s gymnastics team, is as big of a believer in the concept as anyone. He’s even geared his recruiting and coaching philosophies in a way that adheres to the idea.

“We’re an intellectual sport,” he said Reive. “And what that means is, we have to be open to learning from every perspective.”

The Hawkeyes’ roster features 20 members. The diversity — and thus the perspectives —in that group, though, is quite staggering.

In total, the team’s members represent nine different states and four different countries. Anton Gryshayev, a senior from Littleton, Colo., firmly believes the team’s contrasting backgrounds serve as an advantage rather than a challenge the gymnasts must overcome.

“It’s huge to have people from different parts of the world,” he said. “Having so many different and diverse people in one group helps us fix problems faster and allows everyone to help. You can listen to more people with critiquing experience and that definitely helps.”

Michael Heredia, the team’s first-year assistant coach, echoed Gyshayev’s statements and also expressed the belief that the diversity can benefit the team outside the gym as well.

“You come in your freshman year and you don’t have anyone telling you what to do or what your guidelines are outside the gym,” Heredia said. “People have to figure out how to balance school and athletics without having parental supervision on them always. So just having that diversity brings us together because we learn from each other.”

Some of the diversity seen on the team comes naturally, as Reive noted. Gymnastics has certain “hubs” around the country in which top-tier talent is abundant. Demographically, those hubs — such as California and Texas — tend to be spread out. In part this can lead to a diversified roster.

However, Reive has made it a point to recruit all over the country, and the world for that matter, regardless of where the talent may be.

“Getting them to open their eyes to the bigger world around them is crucial,” he said. “That diversity exposes them to different ways of thinking, whether it’s a social thing, a training thing or just the college experience itself — it opens their eyes to things they may have not have been exposed to before.”

The Hawks are not scheduled to begin their season until Jan. 19, when they will compete in the Windy City Invitational, hosted by Illinois-Chicago. Until then, Reive and the Hawkeyes will count on their diversity to propel their progress in practice.

“There’s a huge amount of peer teaching and development that goes on within this group,” Reive said. “The more ideas and thought processes that we can bring in, the better the team is going to be.”


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