Two days after the Maryland gymnastics team’s .375 loss to then-No. 9 Kentucky, the quote board in the team’s practice gym featured a new message: “Teamwork divides the task and multiplies the success.”
Each week, a different class is responsible for providing quotes.
In previous seasons, coach Brett Nelligan relied on one or two gymnasts to provide quotes throughout the year. Now, he’s made a point to involve the whole team in the process.
In addition to the weekly quotes, Nelligan designates the remaining classes to share something they’re thankful for on ‘Thankful Thursdays,’ an interesting fact about themselves for ‘Fun-Fact Fridays’ or a motivational message for Sunday.
It’s something Nelligan said he feels has allowed the Terps to bond as they enter another two-meet weekend, starting with The Pink Invitational and concluding with the West Virginia Tri Meet. The club comprises 10 underclassmen, six of whom are freshmen. Because the team has a young core, Nelligan expects the group will not only be competitive with the best teams in the country, but could defeat them in coming years.
“For such a young team to come in here and push another top team to the brink, I’m really proud of them,” Nelligan said. “I’m excited to see what comes next. With all these freshmen, I told them ‘You start pushing these top-10 teams, sooner or later, sophomore or junior year, you’re going to start beating them.'”
Nelligan commended the group for their progression, noting he had never seen a team improve at such a quick rate.
“It’s a good start to our whole career,” freshman Alecia Farina said. “If we’re right there with [the elite teams in the country] this year, we’re definitely going to catch up to them, if not beat them, in the future.”
Maryland has yet to defeat a ranked foe this season, but has come within .150 points of No. 9 Michigan and .775 points of No. 16 George Washington. Last week, the Terps moved up 12 spots in the national rankings — from 41st to 29th.
Freshman Morgan Bixler, who has been cleared to compete on only vault this season because of ankle issues, said she feels Nelligan’s expectations boost the team’s confidence.
“Some people think it gives us pressure, but it actually doesn’t,” Bixler said. “It makes us feel good because if our coach believes we’re this good, then we should too.”
This offseason will be crucial to the Terps’ progress, Bixler said. Her top priority once this season ends is to rehabilitate her ankle after she has surgery in April.
Bixler and Farina said the incoming recruiting class will also give the Terps a boost. Having worked with some of the recruits at instructional camps last summer, the Terps have grown closer to their future teammates.
Bixler texts the recruits for good luck when they have club meets.
“The incoming class is phenomenal,” Bixler said. “We could really use them now, so we’ll be excited to have them next year.”
Farina emphasized developing relationships with the recruits before they arrive on the campus. As the Terps did with her last summer, she plans to reach out to the incoming gymnasts to give them an idea of what to expect when they arrive in College Park.
“A large portion of how successful you’re going to be as a team comes from how quickly the freshmen adjust,” Nelligan said. “Maryland will defeat a top-10 team when our talent, confidence and toughness come together.”