Sports Person of the Week
Ward Wears the Captain’s Hat with Pride
Erin Ward holds an all-important leadership role as a sophomore captain for the Valley Regional gymnastics team. (Photo courtesy of Erin Ward )
Erin Ward’s schedule is filled to the brim for a big chunk of the school year. Erin is a sophomore on the Valley Regional gymnastics team that recently won the Shoreline Conference title and also competes in levels for Flip-Flop Gymnastics in Deep River. Last fall, Erin was part of a Warriors’ girls soccer squad that made Shoreline Conference final. In the spring, she will do the hurdles and the high jump for the track team. To top it all off, Erin was named captain for the Valley gymnastics team this winter.
Life can get pretty hectic for Erin when things are going full tilt. Fortunately, she has everything under control.
“I have levels practice four days a week all year-round. They are later at night, so with soccer and track, those practices are earlier on,” says Erin. “I just go straight from soccer or track to gymnastics. I just try not to let it stress me out. I have good time management skills. I can do homework between practices and, if I have time during the day, I can work on classwork.”
Erin felt beyond honored when she was named a captain for the Valley gymnastics squad. Erin didn’t expect to earn that title as a sophomore, but she cherishes the opportunity.
“My biggest personal achievement is being named captain. I learned it right at the beginning of the season,” Erin says. “I just felt really honored that the coaches thought highly enough of me that I would be able to lead the team.”
Erin also received quite a jolt when the Warriors took first place at the Shoreline Conference Championship this winter. Erin spent many hours helping her fellow gymnasts tinker with their routines in order to find the best path to a higher score.
“Winning Shorelines was amazing. We had no idea that we were going to win. We didn’t know what the team scores were during the meet, and we just found out at the awards,” says Erin, a Chester resident. “Our team was really surprised, and I was definitely proud of them, because I knew how hard they had been working. I was just happy that they could get the result that they deserved.”
As happy as Erin was to bring home a banner, it was also a bit bittersweet as she was unable to compete due to a back injury. Even though Erin couldn’t compete, that didn’t stop her from attending every practice to help the team improve.
“I’m still out, and it affects me day to day. I’m not allowed to do any physical activity except physical therapy. So, it’s really limited me in what I can do,” Erin says. “It’s been tough mentally. I’m not used to having so much time. I go to gymnastics practices to see everyone.”
Erin is making the best of the situation and has found a silver lining. With more time to focus on her teammates’ routines, Erin is starting to develop her coaching skills.
“Even though it’s hard to watch people do things that I can’t do, it helps me develop my ability to coach,” says Erin. “I can also get to see corrections for myself that I can see in my teammates. I can see things that can be fixed and help fix them.”
Valley co-Head Coach Monica Bauer, who’s also the owner of Flip-Flop Gymnastics, has a long history of working with Erin. Coach Bauer had faith that Erin would be a good leader for the Warriors, and it certainly seems that her instincts were correct.
“Erin has a lot of experience, and she was best suited for the job of captain. She communicates well. She’s a good all-around athlete. She’s a great kid and a good leader,” Bauer says. “She’s always at meets cheering on the team. She’s always there to support the kids and motivate them. They’re young. There were a lot of freshmen this year. She helps out with routines and what upcoming freshmen will need.”
While she’s currently sidelined, Erin knows that she will be back in action soon enough. Erin is ready to pick up where she left off in her quest to master all four events.
“Bars is usually my highest score, just because I’m more consistent there, but I have pretty consistent scores all-around when I compete. I have a connected routine on bars that’s always flowing. So, I can get through my routine smoothly without deductions,” Erin says. “On the floor, I’m looking to have the most difficult tumbling, then balance that out with difficult, but well-executed dance. I have skills through level gymnastics that gets me a higher start value, which makes my score higher.”
Once Erin is cleared for physical activity, she plans to compete with the Valley girls’ outdoor track team this spring. Even though she may be starting a bit later, Erin can’t wait to get back into her routine.
“I’m hoping I’m going to be ready to go for the track season. I’m planning on trying pole vault this year, which will definitely help in gymnastics,” says Erin. “I’m definitely excited to continue with all of my sports. I’m just excited to get back into my sports once I’m cleared.”