Coach institutes new regime
The atmosphere in the Livingston Recreation Center during the Rutgers gymnastics team’s practices is not what it was this time last year.
Gone are the relaxed, social practices that became the norm under 25-year head coach Chrystal Chollet-Norton.
In the new era of head coach Louis Levine, business gets a lot more serious.
“It is definitely a stricter atmosphere in the gym. There is more of a gymnastics focus on what we want as a team. We have had more focus on running and getting in shape in the beginning of the year,” said junior Danielle D’Elia. “There have been a lot of changes, and things have gotten different. Whenever a new coach comes in or someone steps up, there is always a transition. It is definitely different, but there will always be that transition.”
And while all of the Scarlet Knights noticed the change in atmosphere, it is something they are willing to embrace. For some, it is exactly what they need to propel themselves farther than they did in the past.
“Chrystal was definitely a lot more relaxed. I think the change was definitely something that we needed because we wanted to push to that next level,” said sophomore Alexis Gunzelman. “I think Lou was the person to put in that head coach position. He really loves everyone on our team and is willing to work with every single girl on whatever skill they want. He is there to put in the effort that everyone else wants to put in to get to that next level.”
For a team that set the bar high last year by breaking the school record for most wins in a season and posting a program-high score at the EAGL Championships, getting to the next level is not easy task.
Gunzelman admitted it was overwhelming at first.
“I think we had really high hopes going into this, and we did put a lot of pressure on ourselves. We had a really strong freshman class and a lot of injuries, so we overworked ourselves,” she said. “We are definitely looking stronger in practice and routines. I think we have gotten past the point of putting pressure on ourselves and started to compete like a team.”
As a team, it decided to again do something that has never happened at Rutgers — make it to the NCAA Regionals.
“I wouldn’t exactly say we felt pressure to do better or to go farther, but it is definitely something that we had as a goal,” D’Elia said. “Making it to Regionals is definitely a goal for our entire team because it is something that has never been done before.”
With an entirely new attitude brought on by a new head coach, the 2012 season could be the one the team’s goal comes true.
It is not the same team that set those goals a year ago, but it is perfectly fine with that.
“It is not so much, ‘Oh, we did so well last year, [so] we have to do well this year.’ It is more, ‘We just want to top off what we did last year by doing better,’” D’Elia said. “There is definitely no pressure — it is more wanting. We want it more than we did last year.”