Freshman Boys Gymnastics Team an overall success


Andrea Davenport

Freshman Jimmy Riedel practicing his routine on the rings during team practice..

The DGS Freshman Boys Gymnastics team made a come back this year, placing second at the freshmen conference on Monday, April 23 at Hinsdale South High School. With only a six point loss, the team won four out of five meets during the season and hit their high on that special night.

Only five days later, the gymnasts were able to finish their season off right. Freshman Nick Schmidt-Bailey was pulled up to compete on the varsity team while the other four were pulled up to compete on the junior varsity team on Saturday, April 28 for the WSC Gold Division Boys Gymnastics Conference.

Zach Cipra, one of three DGS coaches, has been coaching at DGS for two years. Now in his third year, he is a former gymnast and record holder at DGS and is currently competing on the Northern Illinois University club gymnastics team. He commutes from school in order to get back to coach by 3:45 pm on a couple days a week.

Cipra reflects on the comparison between this year’s team and the past two years. “Sometimes you get guys that come in that don’t have as much athletic ability than others, but the group that came in has a lot more athletic experience … which I think contributed to a lot of their success because the numbers are not as high as they were in past years,” Cipra said.

There are six freshmen on the team and only five have competed, one of which — Schmidt-Bailey, who was also on the DGS varsity cheer team — competes on the varsity team more than the freshman team. With only four people truly contributing to the team’s score, they were very reliant on the health and athletic ability of their athletes.

“Our freshman team is a pretty mixed but strong group; everybody has different strengths that really complement each other. Nick Schmidt-Bailey usually competes on varsity for floor and vault. Jeff Maples and Jimmy Riedel tend to hold our all around, while Douglas Schumacher and Sean Joyce are strong specialists on a few events; though, Sean has started to pick up more,” DGS coach Brock Herion said.

Herion is also a former DGS gymnast record holder who graduated last year. He competes as an individual on Northern Illinois University’s club team and is trying to start his own club team in town. Herion discusses the coaching schedule for the team.

“I am there three days a week, Zach takes the other three, and Bill [the head coach] comes at about 4:30. How we have the schedule is that Zach usually coaches the events he is stronger at, like rings, and I take the events I’m stronger on, like pommel horse and parallel bars. All of us will show the guys’ skills and techniques for higher level skills, so they can see body position and angles and compare that to how they are doing the skill,” Herion said.

Head Coach Bill Norris works at another school during the day, so he must come late in order to coach. Although the schedule is not the norm, Norris believes that it has not impacted their practice in anyway.

“Brock and Zach are both doing an outstanding job, and I am grateful that they are both a part of the coaching staff. I think it is hard for them to have one person start practice, but the coaching schedule worked out for this year,” Norris said.

Schmidt-Bailey views the mix of coaches as a positive toward the boys’ learning abilities. “I feel it’s kind of a good thing because some days I get to know other coaches more than the other ones, but I also get to get a good share of their knowledge. Like one day Brock will teach me something and then we have Zach and Bill and they all kind of teach different things,” Schmidt-Bailey said.

Freshman Jimmy Riedel is the only gymnast on the freshman team with previous gymnastics experience. Riedel has competed level five at the club Premier as well as Elite Sports Complex, but he took a short break before the season and is now competing similar skills for the team. Like Schmidt-Bailey, he chooses to look at the positives of the abnormal coaching schedule.

“It’s mainly just independent work. We only have three coaches and since only one or two are there at all times, we don’t have that much coach support, so we try to learn a skill ourselves and have the coaches help us when they can. So it’s really independent, you have to work hard yourself to get better and have a lot of motivation … but, really because of our self motivation, the coaching schedule doesn’t really affect us that much,” Riedel said.

Norris noticed their motivation and is proud to be coaching such a dedicated team. “The freshmen work pretty hard in practice. We try to get to two to three events a day and for the most part, most of the freshmen work very hard … As the season goes on, the team just gets better and better. The whole team, and the freshmen group. Some friendships are being made so that is a positive,” Norris said.

Freshman year is normally a time of making new friends and branching out of social groups, and the boys on the freshman team did just that. Norris, Cipra and Herion all noticed the bonds that were formed and the friendships that were made.

“They bond through playing games after their conditioning is done, playing Fortnite with each other outside of going to practice, and going to open gyms together. They’re always pushing each other to get better and to learn new skills,” Herion said.

Although Cipra also sees the dedication these boys share, he also notices the skill level of the team. He knows that they are not the best team out there, but he feels that the boys are learning that it doesn’t matter how what their team ranking is, so long as they are learning and having fun with their friends.

“Because we are not one of the best teams in the conference, I am more concerned about us performing well, doing what we prepared for, here and in practice, and having fun,” Cipra said. “For the freshman though, the end of the year I think is when things get the most stressful. I think this is the first case of what exactly their whole strength has been revolving around, all the work they’ve been putting in … I am really hoping that once they get a taste of that, they will get their spirits up and come in here and eventually step up and eventually qualify for state.”