Jan. 14, 2013
AUBURN - Back-to-back disappointing performances is not how Auburn gymnastics head coach Jeff Graba envisioned his team's 2013 season beginning, but the third year head coach and his young roster are showing signs of emerging from early season struggles.
"I am recognizing that this is a young team and we are still lacking leadership," Graba said. "When you have a lot of young people come in, with half our team being new, the leadership dynamic changes. We got really good at practicing, but competition is like starting all over again. We are definitely dealing with some growing pains."
Seventeen of the 24 routines performed by Graba's 24th-ranked team on Friday night were executed by underclassmen, meaning freshmen, redshirt freshmen and sophomores. That includes a pair of all-arounders in sophomore Bri Guy and freshman Caitlin Atkinson.
Graba recognizes that his newcomers and young lineup members need time to grow and acclimate, but he's also seeing room for improvement from his veterans as his team continues to gel.
"I think that some of our veterans are also struggling with the higher expectations," Graba said. "We've had two talented classes come in and that raises the bar for everybody. People are trying too hard. They just have to settle down and do their jobs. You can't score a 49 on your own. Just go out there and do your job and it will add to the team.
"We're going back and trying to do pressure sets, things that will give them an opportunity to build confidence in one another and their abilities. It's a faith thing. They have to know that if they mess up, the world isn't over."
The Tigers were able to post season high scores on uneven bars (48.775) and balance beam (48.900) on Friday against Kentucky.
No. 24 Auburn visits eighth-ranked Georgia on Friday night at 6:30 p.m. CT.