A collegiate gymnast has one minute and 30 seconds to wow the floor exercise judges. Skills alone won’t be enough, no matter how advanced the leaps or tumbling passes. Artistry is taken into consideration for the final score.
Floor needs to be a complete performance.
“If the judges aren’t looking at me, I kind of feel like something is wrong,” Alabama junior Wynter Childers said. “I’m like, ‘Why aren’t you smiling at me? I’m trying to entertain you.’”
That’s the point of floor, which the Crimson Tide just scored a season-high 49.375 on Friday against Missouri.
Vault, balance beam and uneven bars are uncomplicated in comparison with a straightforward plan and no expectations outside of perfect execution. Beam has hints of personalized moves sprinkled into the routine but can’t compare to the charisma required on floor. It’s the only event a gymnast can pick her own music and truly let her personality shine.
For some, that’s the hardest part.
“I definitely think that comfort is the important thing when it comes to me and dance,” UA junior Maddie Desch said. “I think when I’m confident in the performance and comfortable with it, I tend to do better and show it off more.
“Gymnastics is a sport where presentation is key.”
Each member of the Crimson Tide normally gets a new routine every two years. That can depend on the gymnast.
Desch actually went back to her freshman year routine after deciding she did not like the one she was supposed to do this season. That decision was based on comfort level. She knew and enjoyed her old routine — the music, the skills, the dance — more.
Still, that doesn’t mean she isn’t willing to make changes when and where needed. Last week, Desch and Alabama coach Dana Duckworth tweaked Desch’s routine a bit. The changes provided Desch an opportunity to interact with the crowd and judges — there’s a big clapping portion in her dance now.
“Builds the energy,” Duckworth said.
Every moment of a routine is choreographed, but things don’t always go according to plan. Some gymnasts stick to what they know. Others, like Childers, improvise.
“Maddie’s not one of those people, which isn’t a bad thing,” Childers said. “… We have a lot of people on our team that are like that. But I think that there’s not so much of a stretch of people that can, that can just kind of, ‘Oh, crap. I’m a little bit too far ahead. Let me just do something quick.’ Whereas, some people would just stand there.”
Endurance is another important aspect of floor. It’s not technically a scoring category, but it can hurt someone’s execution, which affects the score. A gymnast is constantly on the move during her routine, and the first tumbling pass is just as important as the last — tired or not.
Training and repetition help here. Gym work should translate into competition.
“Every day, that performance in here is as good as it is out there,” Duckworth said. “I tell them all the time: Don’t just all of a sudden become Britney Spears or Beyonce because if you don’t practice it in here and you do it out there, whoa, you’re going to be tired on that last pass and who knows what’s going to happen.”
Reach Terrin Waack at email@example.com or at 205-722-0229.