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Season Preview Q&A: Wilcox talks Acrobatics & Tumbling

Photo by Trammell Lynes
Photo by Trammell Lynes

Q: When you look at this upcoming season, being your first as a head coach, how much do you reflect on your past years experiences?
A: So, looking at my previous experience last year as a graduate assistant, I looked at the execution on how the athletes would perform the skills based on steps and perfecting everything. Now this year as the head coach I'm looking at the bigger picture and making sure they are hitting all the skills and then we adjust based on execution.

Q: This is now year two of the program, how much of a drastic difference is there from last year is there?
A: It's extremely different I would say. We brought in a lot of really talented freshmen who had a variety of skills. We had some athletes who came more from a cheerleading background, so we have probably a lot more acro silks than we did last year; but our tumbling has definitely exceled. You'll see the difference in our tumbling events this year because we have much higher start values than we had last year. As far as acro goes, we have things that are a little more difficult because of the changes in the start values this year. Sometimes it doesn't reflect as well, but there definitely more experienced. The upperclassmen came on board teaching the underclassmen how it's done, so we have a lot more experience this year in general. The practices have been better this year and are extremely different, especially coming from my background. I've taught them exactly how Oregon practice went, but then kind of formed them to how our team works better. Last year we were kind of hoping to get some skills performed and if it worked, it worked. This year we had a few injuries already, but this team is so strong. It's been easier to move people around just because we have more strength in general.

Q: How good is it for your program to be able to compete against the likes of Oregon and Baylor with the prestige they have on a national level, and to bring them to our Field House?
A: It's great for our program to get the experience in the first meet, especially competing against Division I teams. They think that sometimes they don't have any chance of beating them, but we have two coaches that came competed for Oregon. As coaches we have changed their mindset and that's what we have been teaching them this year, that it's now about who you are or where you're coming from but it's about your mentality. To have the mind over matter mentality. I'm really glad were competing against Oregon first because then this team can see how much harder they need to work and understand what I've been trying to stress what mentality it takes.

Q: What is the outlook for the season knowing that this first one is going to be really difficult against Oregon and what is the outlook knowing that you have some talented athletes on this team?
A: I think we have a very high chance of getting different heats going to the NCATA National Championship and competing for that national title. For example, I think a lot of our pyramid heats have serious potential of scoring 10s this year. I would also say that our acro units in general have a really high chance of doing that as well. Last year we didn't really score as well as we could this year, so some of the things we are doing with acro events are what Oregon and Baylor are doing now.

Q: How do you recruit for a sport that is not widely known and still pretty young? How hard is it to get people to come in and buy into a system that they don't even know what it is?
A: Well, it depends where you're reaching out to. For example, I have a competitive cheer background so the majority of athletes I'm recruiting are at competitive cheer gyms. I recruit at local competitions that are in the area and I'm the one who talks to them and tell them about my experiences, and try to show them how similar it is to their skill set that they've learned. My assistant (Sarah Koenig) has a pure gymnastics background, but then moved into acro. She recruits at gymnastics meets and talks to those athletes and parents. Are main goal is to talk to those athletes in their language and then try to show them how Acrobatics & Tumbling will relate to them. We mainly recruit from a gymnastics background just because it's easier to teach someone how to put someone in the air, believe it or not versus teaching someone how to flip over backwards. However, it's difficult but it can be done and I think every year it's a learning process on how to recruit better.