Regional gymnasts seeking increased focus

Carroll senior Jill Hoffmann knows the Chargers are going to need to continue improving to have a chance at this year's state title. (By Blake Sebring of

Throughout the regular season, there are no more friendly competitors than at a gymnastics meet. Everyone is encouraging each other to do well, and when someone posts a good score, everyone congratulates them and is happy for them.

But the postseason is a little different. Sometimes it’s not a good thing to know too much about how an opponent is doing.

“We need to stay to ourselves and focus on what we have to do instead of watching other people and focusing on their scores,” Carroll senior Jill Hoffmann said after last week’s sectional. “It’s really hard to do because scores are just thrown up everywhere and you can’t help but see them. I know my teammates will see the scores, and they’ll say, `Do you want to know how this person did?’ I just have to say no, I can’t look at it.”

It’s not that Hoffman is being a jerk, but as the scores get tighter during the state tournament, the added tension can make a difference in individual performances. It’s hard enough to post a high score, and adding extra pressure by trying to beat someone else’s score makes it even harder.

“I still do pay attention to the other teams and I cheer them on because they are my friends,” Hoffmann said. “I practice with them all summer, but when it comes to scores, I keep track of my own, and I don’t want to focus on anyone else’s. When I focus on other people’s scores, I don’t do well because I know I need to do well. I better when there’s not that distraction.”

That means there will be a lot of competitors looking away from the scoreboard and their opponents during Saturday’s Huntington North Regional which starts at noon Saturday. No. 4 Carroll, No. 8 Homestead and No. 11 Bishop Dwenger will be challenged by No. 13 Elkhart Central, No. 14 DeKalb and No. 15 Wawasee out of the Wawasee Sectional. Only the top three teams and top six individuals will advance to the March 10 state finals at Ball State.

That’s a lot of competition, enough that it could be a little intimidating if gymnasts tried to keep track of everything.

“We are much most positive if we don’t look at other people’s scores because we don’t worry,” said Carroll junior Ashelynn Steinke. “It leaves a bigger impact on us to not look at their scores and just stay focused within us and our team.”

That’s exactly what their coach wants to hear.

“They aren’t allowed to,” Chargers coach Rosemary Scheele said when asked about looking at other scores. “They still do, it’s human nature. My husband does it and he’s a coach. If I hear it, I’m like, `Let’s not do that.’ I try not to look at other scores, I don’t care about any teams but my own.

“I always want to stay really focused within our own team, but it’s really hard to do. I know you want to support your friends, but on these big days, you have to not worry about them. You have to worry about your own team and encourage your own teammates to get up there and do their best.”

Bishop Dwenger coach Rose Nix said it’s something coaches have to start ingraining in gymnasts during their freshmen years, and by the time they are seniors it might take hold.

“It doesn’t matter what those other scores are, you just do what you do,” she said. “If you can get that built into them, they will do better. It’s not like football where you have to counteract what they do. We just have to go out and do what we do. Don’t pay attention to the competition because it doesn’t do you any good. It doesn’t matter what they do.”

The ironic thing is that as soon as teams reach the state meet, everything changes and everyone is super-supportive again.

“In state you want to finish well, but then it’s a little bit different because then we have our kids from Fort Wayne,” Scheele said. “Then you are supporting each other and you encourage them at that point.”