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Being the only gymnast who had not yet visited the campus, I was in for an exciting weekend! Once I arrived in Tucson, Arizona on Thursday night, my future head coach, Bill Ryden, picked me up and drove me to the resort where all of the recruits would be staying. I had to to rest up for the big weekend ahead.
We started Friday with breakfast with all of the new recruits and their families as well as the coaches. There were 6 recruits and we each roomed with one of the other girls, we got to know each other very fast and had so much fun spending the weekend together. The weather was stunning the whole time we were there, clear blue skies and around 25 degrees each day. Arizona is known as the sunniest state in America so the perfect weather wasn’t much of a surprise! After breakfast it was time to set off and head to the campus where we would firstly meet up with the team strength coach and the team athletic trainer. Stepping on campus I was so amazed and impressed by how massive the school was and all of the facilities they had to offer. It was also homecoming weekend so there were red and blue decorations everywhere and stalls set up all down the streets. A lot was going on! It was more than I ever imagined and it was so exciting to know that I get to go to a school like this for the next four years.
The fact that the University of Arizona offered each sport so many privileges for the athletes was very impressive! It was also very reassuring for myself, and for my parents, that I was in a very caring and supportive environment. For the gymnasts having there own strength and athletic trainers already showed us how committed the university is to the athletes and their performance! Rob, the strength coach, took us around the athlete only gym where we would soon be doing fitness and strength testing as well as body composition tests to make sure we remain healthy and fit in order to provide our maximum to the team. Stephanie is the athletic trainer and is there to look after our body whether it is mental or physical, like injuries. After this we had lunch in the athlete canteen we then began our campus tour. We were taken all around the school, which meant a lot of walking was involved because it is such a large campus (with about 40,000 students attending)! There were cacti everywhere and a massive grass strip down the middle called ‘the mall’ which was completely lined with palm trees.
We then spoke with Britney who is our Team Academic Advisor, which means she is there to help us with any of our classes and to make sure we stay on track throughout the year. She also makes sure no NCAA rules are broken so that our scholarships are not jeopardized in any way. We then went to see the amazing football field, which was also in the campus; it was very big and impressive! We ended our tour at the Mary Roby Gymnastics Training center where my future teammates were training. The gym was very specialized to Arizona, with the back walls covered in giant writing saying ‘Arizona Gymnastics’ and other walls filled with red, white and blue or the alumni gymnasts from previous years. The training in college gymnastics is quite different from elite gymnastics with the changed rules in the NCAA and the way that they train. It was a lot more relaxed instead of being a very controlled and strict training like it is for us international gymnasts back in New Zealand. Watching them train made me so excited to get out there next year! After practice we joined our future team for dinner at a teppenyaki restaurant. One thing I can get used to is the free food! After a busy day and fun night we headed back to our rooms at the resort, ready to start our next day!
The main event of Saturday was the football game, which was being held at the Arizona stadium that night. Before that we had a team-bonding hike up Sabino Canyon. It was a great way for us to see the beautiful scenic side of Arizona and gave us a chance to bond with the team. We then went back to campus where ‘the mall’ was completely packed with students and families all dressed up and ready for the game. Before football games there is the tradition of tailgating so we tailgated with the team and then head off to the big homecoming game. It was crazy how packed the stadium was and it looked just like an all blacks game would but in Arizona colours and with football instead of rugby! The atmosphere was unbelievable and being recruits we got to be down on the field before the game kicked off. Seeing how the whole student body got behind the football team was incredible and definitely made the game! It was a very exciting way to end our official visit.
The few days I got to spend in Tucson, Arizona were so much fun and really made my commitment to this college a reality. I was so impressed by everything the school had to offer and couldn’t have asked for anything more. The team and staff we are involved with show full support towards us and I know they will help us strive to our best during our years at the university. I can’t wait to become a wildcat!