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Gymnastics Club rebuilds team culture following year without competition, normal practice

| Tuesday, March 15, 2022

The Notre Dame Gymnastics Club is back in action following complications during the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the pandemic-riddled 2020-2021 school year prevented the club from competing and practicing as normal, the club is excited to return to competitions and rebuild the team culture.

The University’s off-campus travel restriction last year prevented the club from practicing in their normal gym, junior and club secretary Abby Helenbrook said. For a sport as technical as gymnastics, the inability to practice with their standard equipment presented a large problem.

“Gymnastics especially is a sport that has to be upkept,” Helenbrook said. “And if you don’t practice consistently, it’s very easy to lose muscle memory and skills and things like that. So being away from an actual gym for a year can cause you to really give you a setback in your gymnastics ability.” 

Club Gymnastics Team poses for a photo, balance beamCourtesy of Nichola Keane-Murphy
The Gymnastics Team is ready to return to Nationals following a hiatus from the meet caused by the pandemic last year.

The lack of practicing harmed more than just physical skills and abilities. Without the ability to fully practice, a core part of the team’s dynamic suffered, senior and club president Nichola Keane-Murphy said. 

“Honestly, in terms of what we lost, I feel like at the beginning of the year it was a little tricky to get the team culture back,” Keane-Murphy said. 

So far, it has not been an easy feat for the club to remedy the problems it faced last year. 

“It had been so long since we had any meets or any real practices or anything that kind of relearning all the processes was tough,” Keane-Murphy said. 

While the team places importance on fixing all of its setbacks, rebuilding and strengthening the team dynamic is first and foremost, Keane-Murphy said. 

“We’re kind of just rebuilding essentially what we used to have in the team and kind of coming back together as a team and getting the experience competing again,” she said. 

The team also has lofty goals for the conclusion of its season. While they have been competing in smaller meets throughout the year, they hope to put together an impressive showing at Nationals at the beginning of April.

“We’ll be going away to Nationals [where] we’ll be competing against clubs from all over the country,” Keane-Murphy said. “I believe it’s the largest gymnastics meet in the country because clubs from almost every school that you can think of are all going there to compete against each other.”

It is a time that the team will cherish, not just for its potential athletic success but for the experiences the team members will share, Keane-Murphy said. 

“One of my core memories from college is our trip to Nationals freshman year and getting to travel to Florida that year, to go with a team and get to spend time hanging out with them,” she said. 

The club leaders emphasize the team‘s openness to new members. Anyone interested in joining the team would be welcomed, regardless of gymnastics ability, they said.

“Their whole mission statement is just for the love of the sport. And we really want to make sure that’s emphasized. We aren’t here to make it scary and intimidating and make it feel like you have to be the best you’ve ever been at gymnastics,” Keane-Murphy said. “We just want to go in and do it because we love it.”

This year is opening up opportunities for the team members that they have not been able to see since the pandemic started. 

“This was my first season being able to compete because freshman year we got sent home after spring break,” Helenbrook said. 

As Nationals loom, the club leaders are ready to return to big-time competition and continue to rebuild the club.

“Overall, I would say it’s been very exciting to be back,” Helenbrook said. 

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