Imagine trying to do a combination of handstands and back flips
while having to stay within a four-inch-wide line on the floor.
Now, imagine having to do this same routine on a four-inch-wide bar
that is 4 feet off the ground. Members of the Michigan
women’s gymnastics team perform this task on a daily
The Wolverines’ performance on the beam will play a
crucial role in Minnesota on Saturday as they attempt to claim
their 12th Big Ten championship in 13 years, as the Wolverines have
performed consistently in the event this season.
The balance beam requires great skill, concentration and
practice. It’s easy to see how trying out a new move on the
beam could get a bit dangerous. When learning a new move or routine
for the event, gymnasts begin practicing on a line drawn on the
floor. After getting down the basic movements, gymnasts will then
try to perfect their routine on a balance beam resting on the
floor, rather than the normal height beam.
“It’s not really scary,” junior Chelsea Kroll
said about practicing on the beam on the floor. “You can see
the beam, so it helps because you get a feeling for what
you’re tumbling on.”
But no matter how much someone practices, there is no way to
simulate what it is like to perform on the balance beam. Prior to
stepping on the beam, the athletes try to clear their minds and
block out everything else. Kroll usually does not have much time to
think prior to her performance, as she typically performs first for
“I’m used to that now, and if I have more time to
think about it, I feel as if I don’t do as well,” Kroll
Most gymnasts are able to recall minute details in their
performance. Kroll said she is usually able to guess her score
before it is posted.
In sports that require intense focus and concentration, such as
golf and tennis, silence is often demanded of the audience. But
gymnastics is quite the contrary.
Not only is there no request for silence from the crowd, but
gymnasts listen to music during their routines on the balance
Kroll said that the music sets her rhythm. Most athletes pick
songs that they know very well, so that they will not really be
listening to the song. In many cases, the familiar music just
serves as a way to block out every other noise in the arena.
“It’s pretty much all I hear,” Kroll said.
“I don’t hear anybody talking or anything like that,
and once and a while I don’t even remember hearing the
Freshman Sarrie Rubin agreed. She said she likes to listen to
slower songs that calm her down.
“If you listen to your music, you can get to the end of
your routine before you even realize you’re there,”