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Team first’ mindset part of balancing act for Ohio State men’s gymnastics

Courtesy of OSU athletic department

Facing difficulty in balancing classes, work and social life is commonplace for college students. Add in conditioning and training, and you get a combo that leaves little time for sleep.
Just when there is a moment to get a few hours of rest, it is time to wake up and do it all over again, said John Laing, a senior pommel horse specialist for the Ohio State men’s gymnastics team and a civil engineering major.
The life of a male gymnast is a balancing act between the achievement of perfection and time management while working toward competing on a collegiate level and being a college student.
“It’s tough balancing the workout schedule and all the stuff outside the gym,” said Michael Newburger, a redshirt junior pommel horse specialist and a mathematics and physics major. “I spend a lot of time in my classes and you always want to have a social life, too, but you always think about putting the team first.”
Rustam Sharipov, the OSU men’s gymnastics coach, said he thinks learning is the most important part of being a student-athlete.
“Gymnastics is one of the sports where you never waste your time,” Sharipov said. “As long as the kid got his education and he doesn’t have any regrets, I’m fine with that and that means I did my job. And that’s what it is all about.”
While some naive onlookers may not realize it at first, men’s and women’s gymnastics have different sets of rules and regulations, even though both sports are fundamentally based on perfection and physical and mental strength. “People think we use a lot of music like the girls and it’s really choreographed,” Newburger said. “Although it is an artistic sport, we try to keep that perfection and that performance attitude, but it is a very physical, very serious athletic sport.”
After tying for second in the 2013 Windy City Invitational Jan. 19 in Chicago and earning second place in the Metroplex Challenge Friday in Dallas, some members of the No. 5-ranked men’s team said they still are striving for more. “Things don’t just happen by themselves, you have to make things happen and not sit back and wait for things to happen,” Laing said.
While sports like football and basketball enjoy relative levels of popularity nationally, Laing said gymnastics’ relevance in major college athletics isn’t quite as clear. “There are 17 Division I colleges that participate, and it is slowly getting less and less popular with everyone in general,” he said.
“The average person can’t come in here and do a flip, which to us is very basic, but it’s not something where someone off the street can just come in here and mess around and do.” 

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