The name that will never show up on the stat sheets for the Michigan women’s gymnastics team may have had to work harder than anyone this year. Athletic trainer Lisa Hass has been with the Wolverines virtually since Michigan coach Bev Plocki took over 13 years ago, and has had to keep a depth-challenged and injury-ridden team healthy this year.
“There’s a couple different times where we’ve joked and said, ‘Lisa’s the MVP of the team,'” Plocki said. “She’d get my vote.”
This year’s pressure is nothing new for her, though.
“There’s been a few years where there’s been quite a few injuries,” Hass said. “Some of those have been some of our best teams too, because people really rallied together to get it done. They know that it’s them or nobody.”
When Hass first came to Michigan after four years as head trainer at Dakota Wesleyan, she knew nothing about gymnastics. But now Plocki calls her “quite an expert.” Her knowledge has allowed her to model treatments to fit the gymnast’s needs. The trust level between the coaches and Hass has gotten to a point where she is often the one who decides when injured players are ready to return to action.
“It’s gotten to a level of trust between myself and Lisa that she basically makes the calls on what the kids do,” Plocki said. “Obviously, they’ll come and discuss with me what Lisa’s thoughts are, and 99.999 percent of the time, it’s whatever Lisa says goes.”
Her experience with the team has served as a big advantage, since she sees gymnasts from the day they set foot on campus. Consequently, she knows their injury histories and how best to push them.
One gymnast who has spent more than her fair share of time with Hass is senior co-captain Janessa Grieco. Four years of gymnastics will wreak havoc on anyone’s body, and training gets frustrating at times. But Grieco feels that Hass does a great job of keeping the athletes positive.
“When you have injuries, sometimes that’s the person that gets the brunt of the frustration, and she’s always good about keeping things light,” Grieco said. “She is very, very funny. You can go in there in a bad mood, and she knows how to lift your spirits up. I think she’s one of the best motivators here.”
One of the reasons why Hass is so effective is because she genuinely enjoys the job and the people she works with. Getting in to work at 7:30 a.m. and sometimes having to stay until 7 p.m. can wear on anybody, but she feels that it’s all worth it.
“I really enjoy working with this age group, I think they’re really fun,” Hass said. “You certainly see kids really grow up during their four years.
“In my job, my wins and losses are seeing somebody go back, compete and have fun doing it again after missing a whole season or a significant part of the season. When they come over and just say, ‘Hey, you know, thanks,’ that’s a big thing.”
Hass is a big reason why Michigan has survived numerous injuries to compete for its fifth straight Big Ten title this weekend in Champaign. The Wolverines have won 10 of the last 11 titles, but they aren’t taking anything for granted.
“I think this year, complacency is certainly not an issue,” Plocki said. “They know what we’ve been through this year, they know how hard we’ve fought.”
In order for Michigan to go anywhere this postseason, it will need a complete effort from everyone involved in the program.
The names and faces that aren’t seen sometimes are the ones that make a program go. Without them, there would be little glory and fewer wins. And in the case of the Wolverines, everyone is always reminded of this, starting at 7:30 in the morning.