Why the NCAA’s decision to allow voluntary summer training will be vital to the Utah Red Rocks’ success next spring

Sports

Utah’s Alexia Burch performs a Yurchenko 1.5 on vault during the Arizona State and University of Utah gymnastics meet at the Huntsman Center. Burch added the difficult vault to her repertoire during voluntary summer training, months before actual competition. | Steve Griffin, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The news dropped early Friday afternoon.

The NCAA Division I Council had voted and agreed that all student-athletes could return to their respective campuses across the country starting June 1 for voluntary athletic activities.

Voluntary athletics activities allowed in all Division I sports starting June 1: https://t.co/mFHQOder3w pic.twitter.com/aWpOKFJgdO

— Inside the NCAA (@InsidetheNCAA) May 22, 2020

The announcement was an addendum to an earlier decision that allowed football and men’s and women’s basketball teams to return to campus, but not athletes from sports like gymnastics, among many others.

The vote largely flew under the radar, what with football and men’s basketball reigning supreme across the national landscape, but it couldn’t have been more important for the Utah gymnastics program. You see, voluntary training during the offseason is where champions are made.

What is voluntary summer training? It is exactly what it sounds like.

Under normal circumstances, aka when there isn’t a global pandemic, gymnasts are allowed to return to their school’s gym to train following a two-week moratorium period immediately after the conclusion of the season. Coaches are present, but solely for safety reasons. They cannot dictate practices nor practice schedules. Gymnasts decide for themselves when to go into the gym. They decide what to work on and what not to. It is completely voluntary, but decidedly career altering.

Take now-Utah gymnastics alumna Kim Tessen, who had a breakout season in 2020, earning Pac-12 Specialist of the Year, scoring a perfect 10 on vault and claiming a team-best 10 event victories. Simply put, she was the best the Red Rocks had to offer, and a line can be drawn directly from offseason training to her success under the bright lights.

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During the first three years of her tenure at Utah, Tessen was limited during each offseason. Voluntary training was a virtual impossibility as she rehabbed from injuries, such as an Achilles rupture. Heading into her senior year, though, she was healthy at long last in the summer, and she credited the opportunity to train during that time for her breakout campaign.

“That made a big difference for me, especially mentally, with my confidence,” Tessen told the Deseret News in the opening weeks of the 2020 season. “In the past, I had to scramble at the last minute to get my routines together and going out it was all about how I had to hit my routine. This year I got my routines together earlier and instead of it being about having to hit my routine, it became about how good I could hit.”

Tessen’s not alone in seeing summer training pay off. Fans might remember Utah’s victory over Arizona State on January 24. The highlight of that competition was the debut of …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Sports News

      

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