GymHawks ‘stand out’ with new motto

Iowa women’s gymnastics is in the thick of a long season. A new motto is helping the team work through the Big Ten schedule.


Grace Colton

The Iowa women’s gymnastics team celebrates together during a meet against Rutgers on Saturday, January 26, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Scarlet Knights 194.575 to 191.675.

Jess Westendorf, Sports Reporter

It is no secret that in gymnastics, the goal is to get a perfect 10 score, but what exactly makes a gymnast stand out during a routine to achieve such a goal is much more complicated.

The answer is going to be different for each gymnast, but the overall goal is to “Stand Out.”

Standing Out is something that Iowa women’s gymnastics head coach Larissa Libby and the GymHawks have striven for and achieved.

The motto started at the team’s beginning of the season bonding retreat.

Now that the GymHawks are in the thick of the 2019 season, the team’s motto to Stand Out means more than finding that perfect score.

“It has been a philosophy of mine and the program for a long time with the culture that I want to have, and I think it is very important with the day and age that we are in,” Libby said. “The things that are happening in the country and around the world where women are still blocked, so I think it is important to celebrate who you uniquely are, and I don’t know that it often is.”

For years, Libby has built her gymnasts up to compete at the highest level, and she also has worked toward building those same young women into amazing people who can achieve anything they set out to.

RELATED: Confidence is key as Iowa gymnasts head into Big Ten competition

“Gymnastics is often not only tied to what they do but who they are, so when it comes time to leave, they feel as though they don’t have an identity anymore,” Libby said. “I have always wanted these four years to be about helping them move on.”

With Stand Out being integrated throughout the whole team, junior Clair Kaji has taken her leadership role and embraced the powerful motto.

David Harmantas
Iowa Gymnast Clair Kaji performs on the balance beam during a gymnastics meet against Rutgers on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Scarlet Knights 194.575 to 191.675.

“Stand Out really means empowering others to find what makes them unique,” she said. “I see it as meaning owning your story, and it is different and unique to everyone. It doesn’t mean just one thing to one person.”

After coming back from an injury that ended her 2018 season, Kaji said, she has been able to work through and find what makes her stand out and how to own it.

“For me, it’s kind of finding that confidence again to believe in myself and believe in my gymnastics,” Kaji said. “While also knowing that my team is behind me pushing me to be myself.”

But sometimes it can take some time to find out what makes a person unique and who a person is. Senior Nicole Chow said Iowa works through this as a team.

“When you come in freshman year, you are still trying to find yourself, and I think each year you find out a little bit more about yourself,” she said. “But having this motto and a team to support you while you work toward this is amazing and gives you the confidence to be yourself.”

As for winning and what happens on the mats, Libby sees Standing Out as a big part of having that success.

“Everybody has something really cool about them, and it comes down whether they choose to celebrate it or hide it, and we do not want them hiding anything,” Libby said. “This is tied to gymnastics because it is designed to show, it’s designed to be watched, so it boils down to helping ensure that they show and own what makes them stand out.”