By Kevin Saxe
Confidence is key in any sport. Week by week, day by day, practice by practice, flip by flip, twist by twist, the confidence is starting to exude from the Springfield College men’s gymnastics team as they have raised their team score over fifteen points from the West Point Open to a head to head match against Army on January 27.
In just fifteen days, the team score jumped from 372.250 to 388.050. While veterans like senior captain Jannik Haas and junior Stephen Lewis are among the few held over routines, a majority of the routines this year are being done by mostly unproven underclassmen.
Head coach Matt Davis knew there would be an adjustment especially with so much unproven talent including multiple freshmen in the lineup headed into the West Point Open on January 12.
“Going into the West Point Open, I had the mindset of using this meet as a way of gaining experience. You try and practice to train what a meet would feel like, but until you get out there it’s really not the same. Coming in your first year, it’s completely different from what they’ve competed in, in the USA Gymnastics world, college gymnastics is completely different.”
Any good team has captains that instill confidence in the other members of the team. On a team as young as the Pride, these captains are even more important. Haas, who is in his second year as a captain, as well as juniors Nick Cramer and Jeremy Vera were named captains by Davis. Although a self-described, “lead by example” type of guy Haas talked about the mindset that he tries to bring and instill in his fellow gymnasts at practice.
“A big part of it is putting yourself into a meet mindset every day in the gym so in the gym, you practice like you’re going to compete, and when you go to a meet it feels like just another day of practice.”
The leadership and instillation of confidence in this young team and in particular the freshmen by the captains has not gone unnoticed by Davis.
“They’re a big reason why the freshmen have started gaining confidence and learning what our program is about, having that always compete philosophy and understanding it, but also starting to live it,” said Davis.
He continued, “What Jannik [Haas}, Jeremy [Vera}, and Nick [Cramer], bring day in and day out is that consistent, fight for the little things we’re trying to fix. They’re the ones that have really pushed our team philosophy and really lead this team to where they think they can go and that confidence is being felt.”
The Pride have already started to reap the benefits of some early season confidence building. Whether it be as a team or as individuals as well. Sophomore all-arounder Trevor Lamberton has seen his scores increase at each meet this year. The Pride have also received big contributions from freshmen Christian Wilkey Jr., freshmen Alex Fitzgerald, and sophomore Sean Turtle just to name a few of the gymnasts who’ve stepped into big roles right away or are stepping into bigger roles.
When relying on a young team there can be some inconsistencies and some growing pains. However, despite the youth on this team the talent is undeniable. The Pride will be hosting ECAC’s and Davis has set the goal of finishing as a team third or better and earning a spot as a team on the podium. Davis sees the talent and despite relying on gymnasts, some not even through their first year in college, he believes his lofty goals are well within reason for this talented group.
“They’re gaining experience day in and day out, every day in the gym, every meet and they’re becoming more confidence in their routines and more confident in themselves. I hope to continue to build that this year and really go into the ECAC Championship’s with all the confidence in the world.”
As the Pride prepare for their next meet this Sunday when they head to Chicago to take on the University of Illinois-Chicago and perennial powerhouse Penn State, Davis has a message that he and the coaching staff have reiterated over the course of the season.
“Don’t worry about scores just worry about what we can do each event, each routine, and if we do all the little things right we’ll be fine in the end. We’ll be facing some other competition but if we focus on ourselves and what we do as a team we’re going to be fine.”
Photo courtesy of Springfield College Athletics