A unified team and an underdog spirit fires up Oregon acrobatics and tumbling
It’s hard for Haley Garelick to explain what happened to the Oregon acrobatics and tumbling team last year. Too much happened too quickly, and it took a talented team and “jumbled” them, the junior said.
It started with the standard adjustments of competing for a new coach. Then, on Feb. 17, before the second meet of the season, the team lost one of its own in Lauren Jones, whose beaming smile is still talked about amongst the team almost a year after her death.
“We were so talented last year…I think everyone was stressed out with what happened,” Garelick said. “We weren’t cool, calm and collected like a team should be.”
Oregon, the four-time reigning National Collegiate Acrobatics and Tumbling Association National Champions, fell in three out of their last four meets before losing in the national championship final to Baylor and former head coach, Felecia Mulkey.
Now, two weeks before the start of her second season as coach of the Ducks, Chelsea Shaw sees a team with an organic drive to succeed. She says they’re underdogs, and with so many veterans accustomed to winning, she sees a team hungry to win another national championship.
“Last year was a learning opportunity for everyone and I think it puts them in a better position,” Shaw said. “They now know what it’s like to lose and they know what it feels like to win. They want to get back to that feeling of winning.”
Shaw’s confidence in her team stems from something she saw at the beginning of practices, back in September. She saw a team with a different mindset than the one in her first year coaching. She saw a team that wanted to work hard and strived to be a more unified unit.
“I don’t know if it was something we did or something that they did on their own,” Shaw said.
Being unified, Shaw says, starts at the top, with her and the other coaches, and trickles down throughout the program. But accomplishing their unification goal is also contingent on the athletes taking the onus on themselves.
A week before the start of organized practices, freshman Hannah Blair started receiving texts. Her new teammates wanted her to start practicing with them. Before she even officially started her freshman year, Blair felt “very welcomed,” she said.
It’s evidence like this that excites Shaw about the possibilities of this year’s team. She sees the workings of the trickle-down effect she hoped to employ.
Now, all that’s left is to see how it works out on the mat. Shaw joked that she hasn’t slept all this month in anticipation for the Feb. 7 meet on the road at Concordia University–Wisconsin. She thinks her team is stronger after overcoming the crazy, whirlwind season it had, last year.
“I think last year fired them up even more to come back in this year with a different start and a different mindset,” Shaw said.
“You’ll really see it at the meets, I think, just how they’ve come together and rallied.”
Follow Joseph Hoyt on Twitter @JoeJHoyt.
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