(Republished with permission from The Bradford)
By Lizzie Berger, Wellesley High School ’22
The high school gymnastics team, made up of eleven gymnasts and two coaches, pushed themselves physically and mentally to bring home an impressive 6-1 record for the 2021-22 season. To end the season, they competed in the Bay State Conference Championships and were thrilled to receive their best overall score of the season and a third-place finish.
The team is coached by head coach Laura Lawless and assistant coach Emily Ellis. Lawless has been coaching for six years, since her colleague in her previous position passed on the team.
Gymnastics is unique to other sports in that each gymnast perfects a routine for one or more events: floor, beam, vault or bars. They perform the same routine, with variations as they improve, each encounter, and practice is mostly about working on those routines or learning new tricks to incorporate.
“We start training with a warm up, usually running, stretching or a bit of cardio to protect the girls from injury. Then we will go to the beam and we will perform routines or new skills that they must add for bonus points during encounters. Then we go to the ground and do the same. We review all the routines of gymnasts who are in the roster, and anyone not in the roster is encouraged to work on acquiring the skills they need for their routines,” Lawless said.
Although every gymnast prepares a routine for one or all of the events, only six perform it in competition, and only the top four scorers have their points added to the team’s overall score. In a gymnastics meet, each competing team receives a total score out of 160, consisting of sixteen scores each out of ten: four from each event.
“No one ever gets a ten, especially in high school gymnastics. The highest score I’ve seen is from Framingham – one student got a 9.7 on floor and vault. It was crazy. An average score is like a seven, so if you get more than an eight, that’s normally pretty good,” said team captain Josie Anderson ’23. “Our highest score overall is 130, that which is pretty good for a gymnastics team.”
The team is led by four captains: Eva Wall ’22, Ainsley Keyes ’22, Michaela Hinderliter ’23 and Anderson. Although all four captains have been doing gymnastics since they were in single digits, they are keen to stress that prior training is not imperative to make the team.
“I really don’t think outside experience is necessary to be an active and important member of our team. The coaches are really willing to work with everyone and help develop skills because I learned a lot of skills just by being in the gym. It’s a very welcoming atmosphere for anyone trying anything, and the coaches will be happy to teach,” Wall said.
The team typically trains on Mondays, Wednesdays and Sundays, with fixtures typically on Tuesdays and Fridays. Although the gymnasts themselves have a say in which of the four events they compete in, that decision ultimately rests with the coaches, who prefer to leave the majority of the responsibility to the captains.
“Sometimes myself and my assistant Emily will pick the formation and ask our captains, ‘What do you think?’ Then, other times, I’ll hand the roster sheet to the captain and ask him to decide who he wants to put in the roster. Most of the time, our strongest gymnasts anchor each event, simply because it is when their scores will add up, resulting in a really impressive overall score,” Lawless said.
In addition to having the final say in the roster, captains have many responsibilities, including leading warm-ups, planning team dinners, managing the team’s Instagram account, providing rides for young teammates, and leading pep talks and songs. Other than that, they have a responsibility to maintain a positive team environment.
“As captain, I support the other girls, especially the underclass, and make sure they feel welcome and there is no gap between the upperclass and the underclass. classes. I want us to feel and act like one team,” Hinderliter said. “There is never any drama in the team, everyone really loves each other and we are all friends. If someone does something wrong at an event, we don’t criticize them, we just make sure that let him know that everything is fine, that people make mistakes and that you can grow from them.
Lawless commends the captains for the work they’ve done to keep the team together and appreciates that she can rely on them for all team-related needs.
“Captains are definitely the glue that keeps us together. They impart to the girls everything I need them to impart, which might not be received as well if it came from me. They cultivate team spirit through fun events like wearing a “spirit” to school on the day of a get-together, whether in neon or by dressing up for each other. Captains are also very good at recruiting younger girls, like younger siblings or friends from college,” Lawless said.
Although not visible to an outsider, the team has faced some challenges from a physically exhausting sport and the endless effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The start of the season was a bit difficult as one of our captains had a concussion, another captain contracted COVID and one of our other captains had medical issues. It was a challenge. , but our team was really able to overcome those hurdles and not let them affect how we competed,” said Hinderliter.
At the end of the season, the captains reflect on their positive experiences working together and appreciate how gymnastics has brought them together.
“Eva, Ainsley, Michaela and I are very close. They are so great. I’m so grateful to be able to captain with them because they all have their own strengths and I think that makes a really good team,” said Anderson.