At the elite college Division l level in athletics, competition is fierce. With so many talented athletes competing at the same level, it is the art of recruiting that gives schools the leg up in these competitions.
In the Pac-12 conference, twelve powerhouse schools go head to head with athletes that, in addition to playing for their universities, compete in professional leagues, on teams abroad, and even with our country in the Olympics. It’s almost impossible to say that one of these teams is more or less talented than another, since they are all highly skilled, but they can’t all be first place. So, how do some teams build up their credibility and acquire the better recruits?
The University of Utah, along with the University of Colorado Boulder, joined the Pac-12 in 2011, and since then, they have had to step up to this heightened competition that comes along with this conference of champions.
The past seven years have seen both ups and downs for the sports at the U, but you can’t count these “newcomers” out. Utah gymnasts have made their impact on both the Pac-12 and the nation, as they have been ranked in the top ten nationally every year since joining the league.
Utah football has competed in and won five bowl games since joining the Pac-12, and they finished this past season with a 7-6 overall record, as well as a big win at the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas bowl game against West Virginia University.
In addition to football and gymnastics, the Utah baseball, softball, and soccer teams have all found success within their schedules, and they have all advanced to the NCAA tournaments in previous years.
At the U, five teams ended their seasons with records under .500. These five teams were competing in one of the toughest conferences in the nation, so their lack of success is hard to measure when you take a look at what they are stacking up against.
Bouncing back from a low season can be challenging, and it may be hard for players to find the motivation to pump up their teammates. However, there are many strategies that teams use to pull themselves back up after a rough patch.
The Red Rocks are the gymnastics team at the U, and while they had incredible results this past season, they still hit some slow times in their season, and they were able to pull themselves out of those ruts as a team.
“I feel like last year we tried having fun, but we could feel the pressure on us,” sophomore MyKayla Skinner said. “If we just enjoy the moment and realize that this is a once in a lifetime thing, and we have worked so hard for this, so just go out there and have fun.”
Playing college athletics is a huge opportunity, and it should be fun for all of the athletes. They have made it to the highest level, and they are competing to the best of their abilities, and that is all that you can ask for.
Having fun is the right mindset to be in, and it is the way that the Utah softball team approached the last part of their season, after they realized that their chances of making it to the postseason were slim to none. Since athletes are at this level because of their talent, but they aren’t getting paid to play, every game should be fun and an opportunity to grow and soak in the experience of playing at this level.
Building up a team to come back and compete at the level that is asked of them can be challenging, but there are aspects of the game that can be worked on by both coaches and players alike.
“Having more confidence is important. Beam was one of our biggest struggles this year, and we weren’t very confident on it, which is unfortunate because we have a really good beam team and I think that as long as we pay more attention to the little details from the start, we will be very successful,” said Skinner. “It all comes down to being able to go up and hit routine after routine on every event and having no mistakes. A lot of it comes down to just being able to hit those routines that we go over in practice.”
Like the saying goes, “practice makes perfect”, and while college athletes aren’t asked to be perfect, they are asked to dedicate themselves to their sport both on and off the field, and this pressure can get to players, or it can strengthen them.
The comeback after an unsuccessful season can be challenging, and it can be frustrating to not achieve the results that you want to achieve. However, through hard work and dedication, it is possible for a team to achieve anything, and in the conference of champions, there are no boundaries as to what can be achieved.
A part of the Pac-12 mission statement says that, “We’re humble. We celebrate our successes, but we know we still have more work to do.” This is a message to both the teams that were successful, and those who were not in this past season, and these words prove that every team is going to work towards success as much as possible.