When Penn’s gymnasts hit the floor, expect the music to be bumping.
While three of the four women’s gymnastics events contested at the collegiate level — vault, beam and bars — are performed in absolute silence, the floor routines offer athletes the opportunity to choose their own accompanying music. Consequently, the event gives a unique chance for competitors to bring some fun into their performances, and Penn’s gymnasts plan to take full advantage this season.
“Floor is of one of the most exciting things to watch for us,” said senior Amber Hu, who primarily competes in the bars and the beam. “They want the crowd to get into it, because knowing that people are into it makes it that much better.”
The floor can be thrilling for those competing as well, as the good vibes from the upbeat event unite the team and provide exciting conclusions to each meet.
“One of the best parts of competing is that the team lines up on the end of the floor when you finish your floor routine, and then you come run down the line and high-five everybody at the same time,” junior floor specialist Rachel Graham said.
The NCAA’s lone serious rule regarding gymnasts’ music is that all song lyrics must be silenced during the routines. As a result, competitors have a lot of freedom in choosing their respective tracks, evidenced by the musical diversity displayed in the Quakers’ selections.
“It really depends on the person,” said Graham, who plans to primarily use music from classical group The Piano Guys during the 2015-16 season. “We have a lot of different genres on the team right now, and that’s going to be pretty cool because we have some hip-hop, we have other strings–”
“And then we have some very elegant, dance-y routines [while] some are more fun and energetic,” senior vault specialist Emily Paterson added. “We have a couple of people who have popular songs, big pop songs like Lindsey Stirling, so we have a pretty good variety.”
While the gymnasts have freedom to choose their own music, the process isn’t as simple as athletes opening their iTunes accounts and choosing a song they like. Communication between coaches and athletes is crucial, as all involved with the program want the gymnasts to find a perfect balance between an elite performance and an enjoyable time.
“It comes down to the fact that the coaches really want the girl on the floor to love her music,” Paterson said. “If she loves the music, she’s really going to get into it and show off, and it’s going to be a lot better for everyone. So it’s usually a mutual agreement.”
“It’s usually music that fits your dance style, rather than the kind of music you just listen to every day,” Hu added.
And once music is chosen, Graham says, it’s usually set in stone:
“We stick to our music generally for like two years, just so that we have our dance totally down and can be totally consistent.”
Although coaches have the power to veto song choices if they don’t feel them to be beneficial to athletes, this is rarely necessary, as the gymnasts and coaches strive to be on the same page.
The few exceptions to this, however, may come in the form of the freshman class, as Penn’s seven newcomers will enter the collegiate level for the first time and adjust to the culture changes from the youth level.
“Sometimes freshmen will come in with a different style, since club is a little more limited with its music types,” said first-year assistant coach and two-time Penn captain Kirsten Strausbaugh. “In college, you have a little more of the mainstream music without words, and you can get the crowd to be more involved.”
“We definitely suggest to their best ability,” added head coach John Ceralde, winner of four Ivy Classic championships in his nine-year tenure with the Red and Blue. “We try to match them to their personalities.”
The coaches’ suggestions can end up being crucial to the team’s performances, as every minute detail of preparation matters in a sport where wins and losses are routinely decided by fractions of points.
“[Music choice] is extremely important,” Strausbaugh said. “Every time a gymnast goes out there, it does have an impact on the judging, whether or not they’re enjoying themselves and presenting their routine well.
“Bottom line, they definitely want to enjoy their music and have a good time.”
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