When Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” played during the Maryland gymnastics team’s practice Tuesday, coach Brett Nelligan wanted his gymnasts to pay attention.
“Listen to these lyrics,” he yelled. “You can sing it if you want!”
Maybe Nelligan was imploring the Terps to not worry because “every little thing (was) gonna be all right” in advance of whatever Valentine’s Day plans they may have had. But he was likely referring to the calm approach he wants to take Friday at George Washington against the Colonials, Iowa, Pittsburgh and William & Mary.
“Gymnasts are all perfectionists, so sometimes they overthink and analyze too much,” Nelligan said. “I was just telling them to relax. They really just want to do a good job, but sometimes they put a ton of pressure on themselves.”
“Pressure can be good because it makes you work hard,” he added. “But too much pressure can make you second-guess yourself.”
[Read more: Maryland gymnastics expects more success after Kirsten Peterman’s all-around debut]
Since the program’s quad meet at Rutgers last Saturday, Nelligan noticed some nervous energy at practice. Junior Evelyn Nee, who couldn’t complete her bar routine last weekend due to sickness, was still recovering early this week.
Nelligan said her teammates “tensed up” as they watched her on bars at practice Tuesday, but the Terps viewed Saturday’s experience as a positive.
“Since the Rutgers meet, I think everyone’s kind of taken a deep breath,” senior Emily Brauckmuller said. “We were all sick, we weren’t doing our greatest and we still came out on top. It killed the anxiousness right there.”
Nelligan was pleased to see Nee’s health improve throughout the week. He felt her progression was a boon to a team seeking to shake the nerves.
“In tough situations, we rely on the work we’ve done,” Nelligan told his team. “We’ve had great training. They can handle anything.”
With Senior Day — Sunday’s quad meet at Rutgers — looming, Nelligan stressed the importance of focusing first on Friday’s meet.
For Brauckmuller, Sunday’s meet at Xfinity Center is insignificant — until Saturday, at least. She cautioned against looking beyond Friday, too.
“When you think of it like that, it seems a lot scarier than it really is,” Brauckmuller said. “When you break it down, meet by meet, it makes it feel doable.”
Leah Slobodin emphasized the significance of having fun despite the obstacles the Terps face. The senior said the best way to have fun is to buy in to the “tribe” philosophy the team has stressed this season.
“We want to have a camaraderie and sisterhood between us,” Slobodin said. “Everything is for the tribe. Our actions affect other people and we need to keep that in mind.”
Even Nelligan couldn’t help himself from joining the tribe Tuesday as he lifted weights with the team after practice. Slobodin appreciated her coach’s willingness to work out with the team.
“It shows us that he’s willing to do what we do, and it’s fun because we get to see a side of him that’s different from him being our superior in the gym,” Slobodin said. “It’s a sign of how he respects us. When you have that mutual respect, you want to do the best for each other.”
Brauckmuller has also enjoyed being around Nelligan and his upbeat attitude, something she believes is contagious for the team.
“That’s Brett’s motto,” Brauckmuller said. “Life’s good. There’s nothing to worry about.”