Routine Formation 101: Personality shares important role in ISU gymnasts’ floor exercises


Kelby Wingert/Iowa State Daily

Freshman Hilary Green sets herself before her floor routine against Centenary on Feb. 8 at Hilton Coliseum. Iowa State won 198.250-195.775.

Kevin Horner

Amid the various acrobatic flips and tumbles of any given gymnastics floor routine, there resides an emphasized element that may escape unnoticed to the untrained eye — personality.

Whether it is the bubbly liveliness of freshman Kelsey Paz or the natural elegance of freshman Hilary Green, the ISU gymnasts and coaching staff attempt to manifest particular personalities through a variety of choreographed routines.

Given the relatively equivalent athletic abilities of the majority of the ISU gymnasts, the coaches seek to implement other specific characteristics in these routines to generate creativity and originality.

“I try to look to see what kind of dancers they are,” said ISU assistant coach Kristen Maloney. “Then I try to match the song with the personality and the dance.”

Maloney, a member of the 2000 United States Olympic Team, along with fellow assistant coach Katie Minasola, hold the responsibility of constructing the various routines. Once a musical piece is selected, these two ex-collegiate gymnasts work to fuse personality, dance and acrobatics into an entertaining yet appropriate routine.

One component of this process that may be overlooked is song selection. Although some may disregard this step as unimportant and even arbitrary, the gymnasts and coaches undergo much more than a topical search en route to discovering a piece perfectly suited for each gymnast.

“A lot of people think we get music from the radio, but there is so much different music out there,” Green said. “You just kind of see how it fits you.”

After a song is selected, the meticulous process of incorporating required elements with a particular personality begins. Although a floor routine may be viewed as simply a series of flips, hops and twists, there is a specific formula regarding the necessities of the floor exercise.

For example, via, it is clearly stated that each routine must consist of “one acrobatic with two saltos or two directly connected saltos” and a “dance passage with…a leap requiring a 180 degree cross or side split position.”

A “salto,” in simpler terms, is essentially a flip or a roll. It is a rotation about “an imaginary axle drawn horizontally across the waist,” according to

Along with these, and additional, specific technicalities, the coaches must integrate “trademark” elements for not only each gymnast, but also for the team as a whole.

“We always put a ‘Cyclone’ [into a routine],” Maloney said. “It’s when [the gymnasts] bring their arms up over their head and do a little circle. It’s something we like to keep in all of their routines.”

However, outside the realm of the NCAA rubric and school trademarks, there exists opportunity to accentuate certain aspects of a gymnast’s overall personality. Through the dance portions and minute subtleties, flashes of a characteristic can be detected by the keen onlooker.

“I guess I have a little bit of sass on the floor,” said senior Caitlin Brown. “[It is displayed through] my eyes when I stare down the judges or when I ‘play up’ a routine.”

Brown, who recently reverted back to one of her previous floor routines, can also personally attest to the fact that even if a certain routine may work for a majority of a season, the floor exercise is about finding the most appropriate fit and the structure in which you can find confidence.

Brown executed the adjustment at Iowa State’s matchup in Iowa City, exchanging her senior year floor routine for one manufactured when she was just a sophomore. Since the alteration, Brown has either matched or exceeded her season-high score of 9.850 in each performance on the floor.

“I love that routine,” Brown said. “[Maloney] choreographed it so well, and it was so entertaining and engaging. I think that’s what allowed me to score so well with it.”

Similar to Brown, for all gymnasts, the seemingly most essential aspect of a floor routine is its coherence with one’s personality and confidence. In the eyes of the judges, a sassy stare-down may be just as valuable as an additional flip and tumble.