By Carley Crain
Running onto the mats in unison, all with high buns tied back with sparkly ribbons, and matching shirts that say, “Make it Count. Protect the Pride,” a motto that has been ingrained into each gymnast that wears and represents THE jersey for the Springfield College women’s gymnastics team.
But why “Make it Count. Protect the Pride?”
Every season, the Springfield women’s gymnastics team chooses a saying that represents their perspective goals for the year. After a team night at East Campus, the motto was formed: “Make it count. Protect the Pride,” two sayings that intertwine with a common theme – the competitive culture of Springfield gymnastics, as well as developing better character – on and off the mat.
“Protect the Pride” relates to the long history of success that the Springfield women’s gymnastics team has, and continuing to build and improve on their past archiments.
Not only is the Pride one of the most recognized gymnastics programs in the country, they are also known as one of the most successful programs academically. Last season, the Pride had an average team GPA of 3.69 – the best in D-III and seventh overall across all divisions in the NCAA.
Outside of the classroom, the Pride have continuously been in the national rankings every season, with multiple National Championship qualifiers and All-Americans every year. Upholding their status as a nation-leading program is an essential part of this year’s motto: “Protect the Pride.”
Inspired by the saying, “Protect the Team” from Pete Caroll, head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, the women’s gymnastics team came up with “Protect the Pride,” not only meaning sustaining their status as a nationally ranked program, but also holding one another accountable on and off the mat, as well as always looking out for each other.
“For Protect the Pride, they both go hand in hand and it is one of our team rules that we were inspired by Pete Carroll’s ‘Protect the Team’ and again just having that mindset that you are part of a team,” head coach Jenn Najuch said. “It is all about believing that you are part of something bigger and that all your actions should protect the team.”
“Make it Count” means having every flip, turn, or mount be representative of the team. Whether it’s at practice or at a meet, every move made is in the direction of improving individually and collectively as a team.
Mentally preparing for a meet or practice is just as important as getting ready physically, which also relates to “Make it Count.” Adapting a growth mindset, or a way of thinking that embraces challenges and failure, is a strategy that the Pride have been working on all season.
With as much depth as the Pride have, normal practices are very competitive. Every day is a fight for a chance to compete and for a spot in the lineup, because nothing is guaranteed.
Trusting and enjoying the process, while understanding that every little step adds up to achieving the bigger goal, which for the Pride is qualifying as a team for the National Gymnastics Collegiate Association Championships (NGCA) for the first time since 2017.
“Make it count is really just that mindset of having every turn matter, everything you do matter, rather it is inside the gym or outside the gym, just making everyday matter and making everything you do affect someone in a positive way,” Najuch said.
Applying each saying into everyday life, not just at the gym, has added to the positive and competitive environment of Springfield gymnastics.
“We as a team are very engaged and energetic not just at meets but also in practices,” first-year Tori Sipes said. “You will quite often hear amidst the constant cheering the phrases ‘Make it count’ or ‘Protect the Pride.’ The motto puts us and keeps us in a competitive mindset.”
A typical tradition of D-III gymnastics is having a banner hung up at every meet, displaying a motto that portrays each team’s goals. Written in big red letters, “Make it Count. Protect the Pride.” is laid out right in the center, serving as a constant reminder that wearing THE jersey is a privilege and that it is a representation of something so much bigger than one’s self.
Coming off their first victory of the season last Sunday at Blake Arena, the Pride will travel to Rhode Island College this Sunday for another conference matchup with Championship season right around the corner.
Featured photo courtesy Jack Margaros