Sometimes, a little confidence is all a good team needs to become a great team.
That’s what Penn gymnastics was able to pull off in its razor-thin win over Yale on Saturday. Confidence in their own abilities was all it took for the Quakers to gut out a 191.900 to 191.475 victory.
“At Yale, we were a little more confident and you could see it in people's faces,” senior co-captain Kyra Levi said. “We put in more numbers this week, we kinda drilled in the pressure sets and I think it was starting to pay off.”
Levi, a team leader both in scoring and as a captain, earned points for the Quakers (1-3, 1-1 Ivy) in three of the four events. As a prolific scorer, her success is vital to team success, adding pressure to an already stressful competition.
Although some stress and nerves come with the territory of being a team leader, Levi finds strength in focusing on being a model of composure and confidence for her fellow teammates. By putting on a brave face, real confidence follows, and before long, the team is swept up in the competition and believes that it can do anything. And that mentality showed on Saturday.
“You can never make yourself feel totally calm, but you can kind of shape how you think about that nervousness or panic that you’re feeling,” Levi said. “I know my teammates trust me, so I guess I should trust myself.”
The Quakers also don’t worry about the score. Whether they’re trying to come back from behind, trying to protect a lead, or are in a tight race like against the Elis (2-2, 0-1), the outlook is the same.
“I think the mindset is still the same; all we can do is our absolute best,” Levi said. “So everyone went in with a pretty calm, and pretty strong and confident mentality.”
This confidence imbued the team with the poise and mental toughness to work through mistakes and challenges, keeping a laser focus on what was ahead rather than lamenting issues that were behind them. This enabled them to come back after mistakes with a renewed focus and continue to put up points right up until the end.
Every point mattered, and so an intense focus was vital. Even one additional slip-up could have ended up costing the Quakers the meet, as the score was decided by less than half of a point.
And after trailing by 0.850 points through two events, Penn came back in a manner similar to last year's meet against Yale. This time around, the Quakers stormed back with strong scores of 48.325 on floor and 48.575 on beam to knock down the Bulldogs for the second straight year.
“We had some bumps along the way, but everyone did a really great job of not looking back,” Levi said. “We had power over the next routine, to make it better and just kind of amend for any mistakes we had made previously and the line up’s really built on that, we really trust everyone in the line up.”
In that same vein, Penn is keeping its eyes on the rest of the season, striving to keep building confidence and getting physically and mentally stronger for future competitions. There is no resting on laurels for this team.
“There’s so much still to be worked on, which is really exciting for this season,” Levi said.
The season continues for the Quakers next Friday, when the team hosts Southeast Missouri, in what will surely be yet another test of Penn’s confidence, focus, and preparation.