Huskies hit to help teammates

By Matt Hopkinson

Gymnastics is not basketball: there is no one to pass the ball and responsibility off to. Gymnastics is one individual performance after another.

NIU gymnastics is comprised of 21 individuals, with 11 starters, who are all technically responsible for one thing only: hitting their routines.

NIU freshman Amanda Stepp said one obligation looms the largest of all, and ranks that as the most important factor of being a teammate.

“My job is to hit my routine, every time out, so we can count my scores,” Stepp said. “There’s also encouraging other people so they can hit their routine and do their best.”

Huskies coach Sam Morreale said teammates still play a role in the dynamic of an individual sport, and acknowledges the benefits it can bring to have a strong sense of connection.

“It’s not only for you, you’re doing it for the other ones out there,” Morreale said. “You are sharing the experience, whether good or bad. It’s a snowball effect, so you want everyone pushing from the same side. If everyone is supportive, they feel they’re a part of each other’s routine.”

To further increase the sense of camaraderie, the Huskies have employed activities to get the entire team together outside of practice and meet times, such as tailgates and dinners, led by the captains.

“It’s a lot of fun. I feel we have a close team this year,” said NIU captain Kim Gotlund. “It brings us together and builds our relationships.”

Morreale said he can draw from his experience as a former gymnast in how teammates can affect performance.

“Our sports kind of a hybrid,” Morreale said. “You’re individually going to build and make yourself better, but you always have that team bond and unity to get over a rough spot.”

No matter the focus a fan places on the aspect of team versus individual sports, the emphasis lies on the athlete themselves, and Gotlund said it has a positive affect on performance.

“I don’t think we could do as well,” Gotlund said. “I feel like if you enjoy being a part of a team you want to do better. If someone is down you want to help them, or if someone misses, you want to pick up the slack to help make the team better.”