April 4, 2013
It’s a short commute this weekend for the Minnesota men’s gymnastics team as they compete in the Big Ten Championships. The Gophers are hosting the annual competition, so while the other six teams have to travel via bus and planes to Minneapolis, the team coached by Mike Burns simply has to travel from their beds to the Sports Pavilion.
It’s an advantage that every coach wants to have.
“Hosting a meet like this is always the best thing to do,” said Burns. “Every seven years we get to host it. It has been a while since we have, but hosting a meet like this in your own gym, with your own equipment and your fans provide a comfort level that is tremendously important. All the pieces are in place for us to do well. Now we just have to raise our hand and hit 100 percent.
“We have not hit 100 percent all year, so this weekend would be a great time to do it. It is a tough thing to do, but these guys are committed and want to do it. Once the meet starts things fall into their realm of possibility and I feel good about this group.”
The Big Ten is the premier conference in men’s collegiate gymnastics. When the competition begins on Friday, seven of the nation’s top 10 teams will be competing. Penn State is ranked No. 1 in the nation, while Nebraska, which is ranked No. 10, is the lowest ranked team in championship. The Gophers are wedged in the middle of the Big Ten teams at No. 6 in the nation.
With the competition so tight, Burns said he feels like the Big Ten Championships is preview of the NCAA Championships and is the most prestigious event in the world.
“All seven teams are ranked very highly,” said Burns. “As exciting as the NCAA championship is, I think the Big Ten Championships is probably the premier competition in the world. It is more exciting than the Olympic Games, in my mind. I say that with all sincerity. The school spirit aspect of gymnastics really comes out strong at the Big Ten Championships. We are going to have a tight competition and we are going to have a nice crowd. It is going to be loud. Every fan and every team member will be hoarse by the end of the night. It is probably the most fun meet that I will ever get a chance to coach in.”
On paper, Penn State and Michigan are the favorites to win the championship, but one thing that this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament has shown coach Burns is that the favorites do not always win.
“The thing about our sport is that you have to go out there and earn it,” said Burns. “If you want to win it then you have to go out there and do the best routine that night. I have watched a lot of the NCAA basketball tournament games and the team that shows up usually wins. It is the same thing with us and with all aspects of sport. You have to show up and do the job.”
When Minnesota shows up on Friday to do their job, it will be doing the same routines it has done for most of the year. The only changes that Burns and his staff will make this week will be of the mental kind.
“You cannot make a lot of changes at the end here,” said Burns. “It is all about coaching and instilling confidence so they feel like they are in the best possible shape they are in for the competition.”
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