BERKELEY -- With the gymnastics season a little more than a month away, the Cal women’s gymnastics team has been training at full throttle. The team recently simulated the high-pressure situations it will encounter during meets with a routine exhibition open to the public and an intrasquad.
The 2014 squad, including Cal’s seven newcomers, got its first taste of performing in front of a crowd at the team’s skills exhibition on Nov. 11 at the Golden Bear Rec Center. The gymnasts showcased routines from all four events, giving the coaching staff a chance to see who thrived under the pressure and who is still adjusting to the spotlight.
The team got another chance to practice in unfamiliar situation with an intrasquad at Haas Pavilion on Nov. 16. The intrasquad featured the Bears in full dress performing their routines in lineup order.
"The intrasquad in Haas went just as I thought. Nerves set in under the bright lights of the arena and the girls became small and tentative,” said head coach Justin Howell. “That is exactly why we needed this opportunity to practice where we compete. Performing under pressure within your comfort zone and your home training facility is easy. We need to go out and perform and be these big characters so that the fans can come out and enjoy it, and we get close to scoring as high as we can.”
Despite the nerves, the gymnasts were grateful for the chance to practice and get comfortable in their home arena.
“The arena at Haas is so beautiful with all the blue and gold. It was just great to get out there for the first time,” said freshman Jessica Howe.
Next up, the team will shift its focus to building on what it learned from its high-pressure simulations, including hitting routines, sticking landings and performing with confidence.
”We want competition to be easy, so we make the daily training difficult and uncomfortable,” Howell said. “I think that we are in a great place right now, but we can't get complacent. It is our job to make them as uncomfortable as possible in our daily workouts. This is how we build confidence. The next time they walk into Haas, it won't be such a foreign place. We want it to feel like home."
Cal’s season begins Sunday, Jan. 5 in Sacramento for the five-team NorCal Meet, which also features Stanford, UC Davis, Sacramento State and San Jose State. The Golden Bears return home for their opener against perennial Pac-12 powerhouse Utah on Friday, Jan. 17 at 7 p.m. in Haas Pavilion.
Tickets for all regular-season home meets are $10 for adults and $5 for youth (12th grade and under) and seniors (age 65 and above), and can be purchased at the ticket office on Spieker Plaza on the day of the meet.