Campus CurrentsMind Games
by Nan Fitzgerald '02
quick trivia quiz: "Stick it!" is a positive exhortation in which UNH sport?
Answer: gymnastics, "stick it" referring to landing your dismount without moving your feet.
Head coach Gail Goodspeed has been helping UNH gymnasts "stick it" and win meets for the past 25 years, often with an emphasis on mental as well as physical preparation. She is assisted by husband Ed Datti, associate head coach for 21 years, and Beth Aparo, assistant coach for four years. Continuing to break its own records, the team has won four league championships and the Northeast regional championship, and has sent gymnasts to the nationals nine times. After capturing the East Atlantic Gymnastics League championship last year with a new school record of 196.75 (out of 200), the Wildcats look forward to hosting the first round of the NCAA championships on April 9, 2005.
Goodspeed, whose Ph.D. dissertation was on sports psychology for female athletes, emphasizes positive thinking and confidence-building exercises, as well as relaxation training.
Co-captain Jen Dickson '04 says she gets very nervous before competitions. "I've become increasingly better at controlling my nerves. We practice visualization, sometimes visiting meet sites and mentally putting ourselves there." Dickson says above all, the team focuses on working together. "We leave any differences outside the gym."
The team's season begins every year with a "Meet the Team" exhibition. The event is a reality check for the team, as well as a chance for the team to welcome back their loyal following, including young gymnasts from all over the region.
Some of these girls may end up as part of the team themselves someday. Present members hail from places as close as Malden, Mass., and as far off as Texas and beyond. One team member, Mariana Peľa-Trestini '06, is from Valencia, Venezuela.
Although Goodspeed stresses psychological pre- paration, she says the team realizes physical training comes first. "They know they've got to maintain the physical stamina and training in order for any sports psychology to work," she says.
"The girls train all year long," she says. "Most of them will take maybe a month off in the summer. They ask for practice their first day back on campus."
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