It’s no secret that Springfield College is a school that is centered on athletics. With 24 varsity sports, as well as club teams and intramural programs, sports are a part of the average Springfield College students’ life.
One of the largest athletic attractions the Pride put on each year is the annual Gymnastics Exhibition Show, better known as the Home Show.
At 106 years old, the Home Show is one of the longest standing traditions on campus, and one of the most unique gymnastics exhibitions nationwide. The origins of the Home Show date back to when the gymnastics team would have an exhibition and a regular season. During exhibition season, the team would pack a bus and travel from location to location putting on shows.
“They used to travel all over, but the last show was at [Springfield College],” men’s gymnastics coach Stephen Posner explained. “It became the Gymnastics Exhibition Show, and it’s the only show we do of this sorts.”
Given the event has roots dating back over 100 years, there’s a certain level of pride for the coaches, volunteers and gymnasts to put on an entertaining performance.
“A lot of the alums come back to watch,” said Posner. “We work hard as gymnasts, and this gives us a great time to showcase our talent in our early season. It’s a unique opportunity that student-athletes at other schools don’t have. We take pride in trying to showcase both our teams, and also because we respect the college’s athletic program.”
For women’s coach Jenn Najuch, this is her first season at the helm of the Pride’s women’s gymnastics program, and thus her first helping run the Home Show.
“I certainly have big shoes to fill after Cheryl Raymond,” Najuch said. “But I’m just trying to take it day by day, and take all of the assistance I can get from Coach Posner and the rest of the graduate assistants. This year, there’s definitely a learning curve. But I’m trying to learn as much as I can so that next year can be even better.”
The planning and set-up of the Home Show is a yearlong process, beginning at the culmination of the previous show. Najuch explained that the theme, and the majority of the choreography has to be done by the time the athletes arrive at Springfield for the first practice.
“We began the day the last show was over,” Posner said. “What usually happens is somebody makes a joke or something – and it could be on a long bus ride when you’ve got nothing to do – and then six people throw out ideas. Then you say ‘ok well what do you think would work’, and then we begin to talk about it casually. The show is really put together in the summer.”
Posner added that he looks from input from all places – coaches, graduate assistants, and the gymnasts themselves – just to keep the show fresh and the ideas flowing.
This year’s theme is a gymnastics time machine. Each number highlights a different time period of history, with music and choreographed gymnastics to go along with it. Everything from the gladiator times, to the moon landing to a break dancing number which all incorporate different areas of gymnastics.
What separates the Home Show from the average gymnastics meet is the amount of work the gymnasts put in. They aren’t just practicing their routine; they’re doing that plus helping paint a set, putting together costumes, creating and finalizing a theme and selling tickets.
“The gymnasts help paint the props, they help make their costumes, they help set up the gym. They really are very active in the whole system.” Najuch said.
“This is an academic class for them,” Posner explained. “In Division III, each sport team has a season and weeks. You’re not allowed to be supervised by your coaches if you’re past the season. Because this is a class, we get the students involved in choreography, in costuming. They get 0.5 academic credit for the first year. Then they get really involved in the choreography and the marketing of the show.”
The student-athletes are also integral in helping pick out music and themes. They know what is more current and in-style than the coaches do, but they also have to account for the audience; what entertains a 10-year old child may not entertain a college student, or a 60-year old grandparent in the crowd.
Najuch explained that “tying up all of the loose ends’” has been her biggest challenge in her first year as head coach.
“Just getting all of the costumes done, making sure all of the entries and exits for the numbers are set and just making sure the gymnasts are ready can be a struggle. It’s basically like three different numbers, and you have to make them all into one. I guess just not being able to control everything at once has been a challenge, but you have to take it one step at a time.”
Posner added that the Pride are the only team in the country that does anything like this, and as teachers and coaches, there’s no real training of this. Most of the work which is put into the Home Show has little to do with gymnastics, but more with costume-making, set design and marketing.
The year-long process putting the show together will finally come to fruition this weekend. The show will be taking place October 23-24 in Blake Arena.