Some see losing as bad for a team, no matter how you look at it. Others believe losing can be a good thing sometimes the best thing for the right team.
"Can you use it as a motivator? Maybe," said University of Utah gymnastics coach Greg Marsden. "You can take away things from losses that you can use to get better. . . . Our losses made us mad, more determined. We've had very good workouts."
Marsden hopes to see the No. 3-ranked Utes use their back-to-back road losses as incentive in their quadrangular meet against No. 6 Florida, Stanford and California today at the Huntsman Center. It will likely take as much talent and confidence as the athletes can muster as they face at least two teams performing their best this season.
Utah, Florida and Stanford were half of the 2004 NCAA Championships Super Six. Stanford tied for third, while Florida was fifth and Utah finished sixth. Utah is ranked the highest, despite two very narrow road losses.
One change he saw in the two losses was that the Utah gymnasts performed with a different attitude.
"We were much more aggressive," he said. "We looked like we expected to win. If you're going to win a national championship, you have to go out and do big gymnastics."
He said in the loss two weeks ago against Nebraska the team lost small deductions throughout the meet as a result of too much caution.
"We played not to lose," he said. "We lost by 5/100th of a point, the least amount you can lose by. . . . In the second meet (against Georgia), we dug ourselves a hole at the beginning of the meet (with poor performances on bars). We left it in somebody else's hands. We had to fight our way back into the meet, and it was up to the judges. It wouldn't have even been up to the judges if we'd done what we should have at the beginning."
At this point in the season, every team is dealing with injuries, soreness and mental fatigue.
"Everybody has talent," Marsden said of the competition. "The separator will be who is mentally the strongest. . . . It can all change very quickly. We're cautiously optimistic, and now we have to walk the fine line between practicing enough to improve, but not to aggravate nagging injuries or create problems from overuse."
The four-team meet is a great opportunity for the Utes, who have three nationally ranked gymnasts. Instead of the relative calm of the dual meets, this has athletes competing simultaneously."It's a four-ringed circus," Marsden said with a grin. "In a dual meet, you get to watch every routine. . . . We can use this meet to begin to think about the difference (between regional and national meets)."