ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- University of Michigan women's gymnastics head coach Bev Plocki rewarded her team for its hard work with a team bonding day.
This fall Team 41 put in a lot of effort in many forms, including practice, academics and numerous community service outings. They were also getting to know each other with six of the 12 roster members being newcomers. Any time you have such a large group of newcomers it takes time to build team chemistry.
That is why Monday was so beneficial for this year's squad. Just five days from the start of the season, Plocki decided to give her team a day off from practice and instead go to Painting With a Twist as a team outing. Afterwards, they went to dinner and had a fun white elephant gift exchange filled with inside jokes and fun gift ideas.
"It was a way to celebrate all the hard work the team put in this fall," said Plocki. "It was great to see everyone's different personalities show."
Not everyone is a Vincent van Gogh or Pablo Picasso, but even though the entire team was painting the same thing they all did it differently. Some followed the steps exactly as the instructor laid out, and some added their own personal touches.
"It was fun to do something different, especially in that atmosphere because a lot of us aren't artistic," said Nicole Artz. "It was fun to see everyone enjoy themselves and then to show our differences by how the paintings turned out. It helps us learn more about people on our team."
For example, Artz added an island under the tree in her painting, and her classmate Talia Chiarelli added snowmen. Even the ones who didn't add their own twist to the painting still came away with a unique piece of art.
"Even if you did follow the pattern, your painting was still different," said Artz. "It just showed that you can all reach the same goal but do it in your own way."
That mindset is what this team is all about. Coining the slogan "Money in the Bank" at the start of the season, the Wolverines wanted their everyday metaphoric deposits to add up at the end of the season. With such a young team, Coach Plocki feels that making the deposits will help them grow throughout the year.
"We are entering this year with a growth mindset," said Plocki. "We don't expect to have our best meet of the year this Saturday. Our goal is to come out and establish consistency and then continue to get better."
The season starts this weekend with a tough test at No. 6 Utah on Saturday (Jan. 7) at 5 p.m. MST in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Communications Contact: Ben Blevins