Team management helps Iowa women’s gymnastics succeed

Team management has always played a pivotal role in Iowa women’s gymnastics’ success. This season’s cast of team managers is particularly interesting.


Joseph Cress

Iowa head coach Larissa Libby huddles with her athletes during a women’s gymnastics meet in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday, Jan. 13, 2017.

Cassandra Buchholz, Sports Reporter

The surface structure of Iowa women’s gymnastics is quite simple. It consists of head coach Larissa Libby, assistant coaches Jennifer Green and Vince Smurro, and the 17 student-athletes competing in the black and gold every weekend.

The unsung heroes of the GymHawk family are hard-working team managers. Libby does not want the world to overlook the incredible efforts of senior Rachel David and sophomore Carter Dochterman.

“For myself, they are my brain when I can’t think,” Libby said. “They’ve allowed me to come down a little bit, and always remembering and taking care of things that I don’t get to. [Without our managers], I’m not sure we would survive those tough times when it can get bad [during the season].”

Student-managers have the same rigorous schedule as the student-athletes. They attend practices, training sessions, competitions, and road trips throughout the year.

“We have a routine just like the girls,” David said. “Every Monday, I get food from the fueling station [located in Carver-Hawkeye Arena] to bring back to the Field House, because it runs low a lot. Carter and I do everything from mat setting, board setting on bars, practice music, even food orders for them on competition day.”

David emphasized the strong bond managers form with the coaching staff they work with.

“I’ve gotten to know [the coaching staff] very well over the past year-and-a-half now,” David said. “I have picked up on the little things like Larissa wanting water while we compete on beam and where Vince stands when we’re on floor.”

David was a club gymnast under Libby throughout her childhood. She was part of the Iowa Gymnastics Academy, based in the University of Iowa Fieldhouse.

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David had discussions with Libby in high school, expressing her interest in playing a different role with Iowa gymnastics if she wasn’t good enough to compete at the collegiate level.

David waited until the previous managers had graduated before stepping into the role with Iowa women’s gymnastics. David also serves as an assistant coach with the Iowa Gymnastics Academy.

“There’s a lot of skills people don’t think you need as a manager. You have to be organized, reliable, patient, and trustworthy — especially with equipment adjustments,” David said.

Junior Erin Castle sees the family ties in the GymHawk program, starting with the managers.

“Days when they’re not in the gym, we genuinely miss them,” Castle said. “Then when we have to change our own vault settings and do the grind work they do on a regular, it makes us even more appreciative.”

David is graduating this May and has an eye for coaching, and Libby hopes to find another role for her in Iowa Gymnastics.

For now, there will be an open management position in the Iowa women’s gymnastics program.

“I’m not looking for someone with gymnastics knowledge — it helps, but it’s teachable,” Libby noted. “I want someone with a great personality, strong communication, and dedication. I want good people in my program.”

David and Dochterman are exactly what Libby is looking for in her managers.

“We wouldn’t be what we are without them. [David and Dochterman] represent everything about the program so well.”