By BRANDEE BRITT
IOWA CITY, Iowa — In a sport that demands perfection, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the idea that a perfect score is the only thing that matters. This season, University of Iowa head women’s gymnastics coach Larissa Libby is striving to teach her student-athletes that they are more than the results they produce in the gym.
Libby and her staff introduced their “I Am” Campaign earlier this fall. Each gymnast now wears a bracelet reminding them of exactly what it stands for.
“Gymnastics tend to have a negative tone to it,” said Libby. “It’s the idea that you start from perfection and then deduct that creates that tone. We want our student-athletes to understand that ‘gymnast’ is just a title; it’s not their entire being. We want to teach our kids that what they bring to the table is enough.”
Before they were reading, writing, and talking in complete sentences, many UI gymnasts started competing in the gym. While Libby and her staff want their student-athletes to succeed athletically, they also want to prepare them for what comes after their life as a student-athlete.
“We want to teach them that it’s the skill sets that they have outside of gymnastics that make them the total person,” said Libby. “They are smart. They are beautiful. They are talented. They are athletic; but they are not just gymnasts.
“If our student-athletes walk out of here and their self-esteem is not balanced so they can go get a job and face the world, then we have failed them. I wish I could have been helped more when I was their age. I struggled after I was done competing. I want to show my team that what they bring to the table is their greatest strength.”
Now that her team has bought into the campaign, Libby and the GymHawks are taking it one step further — the Iowa City community. The Hawkeyes hope to spread the “I Am” Campaign message by encouraging and empowering young men and women to be happy with who they are.
“We have an obligation and responsibility to the community to spread the word that what you bring to every aspect of life is important,” said Libby. “Your character matters so much more than everything else. We take that responsibility seriously.”
The GymHawks kick off the 2016-17 season with the Black and Gold Intrasquad on Saturday, Dec. 3. Season tickets for the 2016-17 gymnastics season are now available. They can be purchased online at hawkeyesports.com, by calling 1-800-IA-HAWKS, or in person at the Iowa Athletics Ticket Office at the north entrance of Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Season tickets are $42 and seating is general admission. Youth ages 18 and under receive free admission to all regular season home meets. All fans who purchase season tickets by Jan. 17 will receive a free Iowa women’s gymnastics sweatshirt, which will be available for pick up at the first three home meets. For the complete 2016-17 schedule, visit the Iowa women’s gymnastics page on haweyesports.com.