Iowa State gymnasts adapt to team mentality

Isaac Hunt

Growing up, most gymnasts compete as individuals against other individuals, taking home awards based solely on how they performed.

The 180-degree turn in college transforms the women into teammates. Previously having to count on only themselves, the gymnasts now can turn to others for support.

“I guess at first it’s a little hard to mentally make the transition because it is such a difference,” said senior Michelle Browning. “When I was in club [gymnastics], I was the only level 10 there at one point, so I didn’t even compete as a team.”

All of a sudden, the athlete is thrown into a team atmosphere. Most athletes compete in many sports in high school, but for gymnasts, their training is year-round and a lot of these athletes do not compete in team sports before they get to college.

“In a way, it puts more pressure on you because you’re not just doing it for yourself,” Browning said. “You’re doing it for the girls you train so hard with.  At the same time, it makes it that much more exciting.”

When the gymnasts come to Iowa State as recruits, coach Jay Ronayne said they are introduced to some current athletes and the recruiting process focuses on the team aspect of competition. 

“[In] college gymnastics, the culture is all about the team,” Ronayne said. “Just stepping in, you have to adapt or you’ll die. That’s what flips the switch.”

For some gymnasts it may be easy, but sometimes the transition takes time and getting used to.

“For me it took a while to get out of the individual mindset,” said junior Elizabeth Stranahan. “I think it takes seeing your team struggle and having your own personal battles to see where you fit in as a whole.”

The two co-captains, Browning and Stranahan, have adopted teamwork en route to this season.

“Individually my focus is on our team’s performance,” Browning said. “Through the season, we’ve had to re-evaluate our goals a little, but we still want to get to nationals.”

Iowa State heads to Minnesota later this week as a team full of individuals. The help the Cyclones give their teammates may not be as great as what they receive though.

“They say team glory is much greater than individual glory,” Browning said. “I’ve found that to be true.”