Liberty Gymnastics Prepares Hard, Waits Patiently for Spring Season

Like many coaches around the world, Liberty gymnastics club sports Head Coach Timothy Kappel was faced with many questions after the untimely end of last season due to COVID-19. 

“The biggest (thing) we were concerned with was, are we going to come back to school, will we be allowed to train, and will we actually compete?” Kappel said.  

After coming back to school, the gymnastics team began training this fall, but they returned to practice with no idea what their competitive schedule would look like. 

According to sophomore A.J. Kenniv, last season held promise for the team.

“We had two competitions in February and then we were going to have Nationals in April,” Kenniv said, “but then COVID happened, so we weren’t able to do that. That was really sad, but leading up to it, we had a showcase in January as well.” 

The landscape for this year’s training has evolved over the past few months. The team has a new facility to train on campus as well, a welcome asset in a difficult year. 

“We got a new building on campus, which is great,” Kappel said. “It’s made the team feel a lot more connected, because we used to be scattered all over the place. It’s helpful.”

The new facility comes with new safety measures, however. Precautions are taken inside the space, as only athletes and staff are allowed to enter, and physical distance guidelines are enforced.

The 2020 season has forced the gymnastics team to get creative – something they are clearly used to doing (Photo by Jessie Rogers).

“It’s not like we’re in a contact sport, you know, banging into each other,” Kappel said. “We have a little leisure. They can stay apart. We’re touching things but we walk around with pump sprayers and are doing our job just to help mitigate any issue.” 

The athletes diligently follow the guidelines, knowing their adherence allows them to continue preparing for future competitions.

“We definitely keep our distance more and wear our (masks) on the way in,” Kenniv noted, “We get our temperatures checked too. We’ve just had to be more conscious of things while we’re here.” 

The mental effects of the unforeseen future on team members has been a constant consideration during the pandemic.

“We just keep working and the challenge will be keeping the motivation without a focused goal right now,” Kappel said. “That’s the hardest part.” 

“Coming back into it, we had to take things a lot slower than we’d like to,” Kenniv said. “I’d say we’re doing really good overall, getting back into things, staying as healthy as we can.”

Despite the early ending of last season, the new regulations in place and the unknown future of their competitions, the gymnasts are dedicated to remain focused. 

“I definitely think about the future, knowing that there will be a time where we’ll compete again,” freshman Rachel Sevinsky said. “I’m just focusing on getting back to where I was, trying to gain that strength back.”

Ultimately the gymnasts’ passion for their sport goes beyond competition, pushing them to work hard through the current season.

“The sport is bigger than ourselves, it’s for a purpose,” Kenniv said. “We’re here as athletes but we’re also here as Christians. We do it for the love of the sport. We love the sport, we don’t just love competing, we love the community that it builds and the relationships that we do build with each other.”

Sarah Williams is a Sports Reporter. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahsaying.

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