Mental Approach Made Shealy ISU's Greatest On Beam
AMES, Iowa – While other gymnasts quake at the prospect of making mistakes, Iowa State junior Michelle Shealy is filled with excitement and that mentality helped her become the best balance beam worker in Iowa State history.
In a sport where success is defined by not making mistakes, most gymnasts enter a routine consumed by the fear of failure. Every wobble, form break or fall results in a gymnast’s score slowly decreasing. Gymnasts may smile at judges throughout their routines and look calm, but inside they are a ball of nerves.
Shealy’s approach to gymnastics is the contrary.
The Snellville, Ga., native cannot wait to perform. Shealy views every gymnastics meet as an opportunity to show off, and making mistakes does not enter her mind. That mindset is why Shealy excels on the most mentally trying event in gymnastics, the balance beam. In the most pressure-packed situations on the apparatus, Shealy is the coolest customer in the arena.
“I don’t really get nervous for beam,” Shealy said. “I know that’s weird. I get really excited because it has always been my favorite event. I just really love to compete. Practice is fun but competition is why you practice.”
Iowa State head coach Jay Ronayne believes Shealy’s mindset is truly unique.
“It is often the case that gymnasts get very nervous before beam,” Ronayne said. “I’d say 98 percent of the gymnasts out there are just trying not to mess up. Those two percent that can focus on the details are the truly great ones. Before Michelle competes on beam I think how about how good it can be. I never think she is going to make a mistake.”
Take Shealy’s performance at the NCAA Championships preliminary qualifying round for example. She entered the competition knowing her best chance to earn an All-America honor was on beam. While others would have wilted under that pressure, Shealy and the ISU coaches decided to make her beam routine more difficult by adding a Gaynor. She would be performing a skill for the first time in 2013 at most high-stakes gymnastics event of her life.
Shealy nailed her Gaynor and scored 9.900 on beam with a near-flawless performance. She moved on to the NCAA individual event finals and, as a result, earned All-America First Team distinction.
For most gymnasts, the pressure would increase at the event finals with the national title on the line. To illustrate just how nerve-racking the event was, two gymnasts ranked in the top 18 on beam in the country fell. The only thing that increased for Shealy was her excitement to have one more chance to compete on beam in 2013.
The 2011 Big 12 Newcomer of the Year certainly delivered on the highest stage in college gymnastics. She scored 9.8375 on the event to tie for fifth with a performance that would require the most highly trained gymnastics eye to find a deduction. Shealy’s 9.8375 and fifth-place finish were both the highest ever by a Cyclone at the NCAA event finals on beam.
Shealy can now lay claim to being the best on beam in Iowa State history, but what is probably at the forefront of her mind is she has to wait another eight months before her next opportunity to compete.