Iowa Exudes Fun in Elevate the Stage Session One Win

For the Hawkeyes, the fun comes first. The scores follow.

“More than anything, I feel like I’m so happy for them that they did this their way,” Iowa head coach Larissa Libby said after her team took first in the Friday Elevate the Stage session with a season-best 196.425. “We wanted to come here and just feel great about the stuff we were doing.”

Bridget Killian high fives Clair Kaji after Kaji’s beam routine. Photo/Emily Howell-Forbes

It certainly looked like the team felt great about it. Libby’s squad was perpetually dancing and singing, and even stopped to take photos with some young girls in the stands while waiting to rotate. Libby herself was animated, dancing to each floor routine during warmups and bouncing around the arena with a big smile.

You wouldn’t know from her demeanor on the floor that it has been a frustrating season for the Hawkeyes so far. They’ve repeatedly been stuck in the 194s, whether they hit a meet or are counting falls. Libby acknowledges that the team knows their routines might score differently elsewhere in the country, and that it is frustrating. She says this year has been particularly trying.

So how does she keep the team loose enough to spend such a high-pressure meet dancing and grinning?

“More than anything we try to let them know I’d rather see this fun—and mistakes—than not having fun. Because at the end of the day, we don’t control any of this,” she said gesturing around the arena, at the judging tables and other teams. “All we control is our attitude, our effort and what people think about us, outside of scores.”

Libby says practices are fun too. The team is “let loose” to be itself, and the gymnasts focus on not getting uptight. That has been especially challenging with Iowa’s large freshman class since it is such a departure from J.O. attitudes. Part of it, according to Libby, is helping them realize that mistakes are part of the process.

Iowa cheers for a routine during its beam rotation. Libby is cheering in the background. Photo/Emily Howell-Forbes

“We try to let them know that you’re going to make a mistake. It’s OK. You have to fail to get better,” she said.

Libby is certainly proud of her team for taking first and hitting 196 for the first time this season. But more than anything she’s glad they had fun along the way.

“Who wants to be miserable? It’s too hard of a sport you know? It really is.”

Article by Emily Minehart

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