Alabama gymnastics’ team motto for the 2019 season is short and simple: Earn it.
“Basically it just means everything that we do — competing in Coleman (Coliseum), having a spot in the lineup and just getting to go out there and represent Alabama — you have to earn it,” UA senior Abby Armbrecht said. “Nothing is handed to you. You have to earn everything.”
Last year’s ending was proof of that.
On the final night of the national championships, the Crimson Tide sat in the stands. It was the first time since 2007 the team did not advance to Super Six. So as Alabama watched UCLA win it all, the gymnasts took notes and wrote goals for next season — this season.
“I know I think about that every time I go into practice and how we want to avoid being in that situation again,” Armbrecht said. “That really helps motivate me.”
Armbrecht is one of the Crimson Tide’s three seniors. There are also three juniors, five sophomores and six freshmen. No one is out for the season with an injury.
Both Armbrecht and UA coach Dana Duckworth think this is a rather quiet team compared to previous ones.
“Sometimes I’ll be in the gym and be like, ‘Hey, are we going to scream for each other?’” said Duckworth, who’s entering her fifth season at the helm. “Not because they aren’t happy for one another. They’re intense, they’re very focused on what they’re trying to accomplish, and they’re working hard.”
That’s why they feel better prepared heading into competition than maybe they have in the past.
Preseason training changed a bit, too. The start of practice is dedicated solely to working on the basics, such as pointed toes, straight legs, stuck landings, tight fight and arm positions. That way, when the gymnasts move on to their routines, those things come naturally.
“It goes back to just not being complacent,” Armbrecht said. “If you have your routine and you’re in the lineup, you don’t think, ‘OK, I can just stop working hard on that.’ You always want to find those little spots where you can improve and get a higher score.”
The lineup isn’t ever set in stone. This year, a makeshift one is actually put together by Velcro.
Duckworth and her assistant coaches — Bill Lorenz and Ryan Roberts, who is new to the staff — have implemented a leaderboard. It has each event listed with the names of everyone who completes it underneath. It’s not the real lineup, which Duckworth is still putting together but is confident about thanks to the team’s depth, but it serves a similar purpose.
“The girls can see, oh man, I’m top six or I’m not top six, and then they can ask us how do I get up on the leaderboard,” Duckworth said. “It’s very measurable and specific goals we can give somebody.”
It all comes full circle with the motto.
“I truly believe we’ll be one of the best teams in the country,” Duckworth said. “Are we and should we be ranked No. 1 right now? No. But are we going to strive for that? Absolutely.”
The National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches/Women preseason poll has the Crimson Tide ranked sixth. It finished last season eighth in the nation.
Alabama kicks things off with a quad meet featuring Southeast Missouri, Northern Illinois and Temple on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Coleman Coliseum. It’ll be the first of five home meets, with the second being next weekend. There are six away meets.
“I’m really excited about what kind of noise Alabama gymnastics can make this season,” Duckworth said. “I believe in it.”
Reach Terrin Waack at email@example.com or at 205-722-0229.