By Sean Savage
“We are determined,” Springfield College men’s gymnastics head coach Matt Davis said. “There is always that stigma that Division III schools cannot hang with the so-called big dogs, but we proved last year that we can. This year, we have the talent to even take it a step further.”
The second semester on Alden Street is off and running – both in and out of the classroom. The story is no different for the 2022-23 men’s gymnastics team, picking up right where it left off.
Over the last six years, Davis has been at the helm and cultivated a lot that has contributed to the team’s success.
His coaching-style can often be demanding, but as he described, he is “not a yeller and screamer.” Instead, he is more up-front about what needs to be better rather than getting angry.
“I am as concerned about building up the right kind of person as I am building up an athlete,” Davis said. “I teach them things that they can apply to be a better person once they leave Springfield College.”
Additionally, the team has an “open door policy.” Anything that the athletes have or need beyond gymnastics, Davis will be there for them.
“We have a very close, family-orientated team,” Davis said. “We are always looking to grow as athletes and individuals.”
At the start of each season, each member of the Pride jots down both team and individual goals and reads them to each other.
“They have them posted where they can see them every day,” Davis said.
If an athlete can meet their respective individual goals, it will push the team toward reaching its collective group goals.
As for the season itself, it opened on Jan. 13 at the West Point Open. The Pride traveled two and a half hours to match up against other Division I programs.
“We started off with a big competition, and the guys reacted really well,” Davis said.
The success in their meet was in large part due to not letting any mental blocks get in the way. However, arguably more importantly, the Pride only let other teams catch a small glimpse of what is to come.
“Early on, we were very smart with routine construction. We might not throw everything that we can do yet; we are building as we go,” Davis said.
The simplicity of their first meet also meant first-year students could step up, and older guys could help mentor them.
Following this, the Pride had another competition heading down to the Navy Open last weekend – which was six hours away in Maryland. It was the team’s first extensive travel of many. For newcomers, that is a challenging acclimation.
Although the meet did not go in the Pride’s favor, Davis liked what he saw out of his group.
“There were a lot of good and positive things to take away,” he said. “Some guys reacted really well, and others just needed a few small, easy things that we will work on in practice.”
Traveling is a significant aspect of the sport, and Davis wants his team to stay ahead of the academic curve.
“We are going to be looking for the guys to be very organized academically. Most of our travels are overnight stays, so it is a great experience for the guys, but not without staying organized,” he said.
Looking ahead, the Pride are hosting their home-opener on Jan. 29, expecting a more favorable result on their home court.
“A big mental factor is staying determined and being focused on what we need to do,” Davis said.
Springfield will be sure to refer back to the goals it has written down as a source of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation as the season progresses.
Photo: Springfield College Athletics