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Gymnastics heads to California on season-opening business trip

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Gymnastic head coach Tim Garrison starts his second season at UK on Saturday. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Gymnastic head coach Tim Garrison starts his second season at UK on Saturday. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
Tim Garrison's Kentucky gymnastics team is going to California. Berkeley to be more specific. It's not vacation, but there are worse ways to start a gymnastics season.

The Wildcats' trip to the San Francisco Bay Area will be anything but a sight-seeing trip, however. Kentucky heads west Saturday morning, flying out of Cincinnati to reach the final destination of the University of California-Berkeley on Saturday evening. It will be a quick, two-day trip.

A trip with purpose.

"It's going to be more business," said Garrison. "So we're going to get up in the morning, have breakfast at the hotel. We're going straight to the venue after that. We're going to have lunch at the venue. And then we're going to start warming up and get after it."

While some might say it's a difficult task to have the first meet of the season all the way across the country on the West Coast, Garrison would tell them that they are exactly right. That's the very reason he chose to do it.

In athletics, in life, there is always adversity. At some point during a road trip, whether it's during travel, during a meet, during practice, something out of the ordinary, something unplanned for, is likely to come up and affect performance. While many coaches would try to control their environments as much as possible to limit distractions and interference, Garrison does the opposite.

"Really, I like to create adversity," said Garrison. "I know that sounds strange. We create adversity in (the practice facility) all the time."

Garrison says that during practice he'll shake up the order of their events. Sometimes he will give his gymnasts a shortened period of time to warm up with no warning, all in an effort to help his team prepare for the unexpected.

He sees this Saturday's meet at Cal as an opportunity to take on adversity from the onset of the season. The early-morning travel, the long flight, the quick turnaround and the opponents they'll see will all present early-season challenges for the UK squad.

"I think it kind of creates a little bit of adversity, which is something I want them to face head on," said Garrison. "And I think they will."

Garrison has good reason for believing his team will be up for the task this weekend. He likes what he sees from his team, even after taking some time off over the holidays.

The holidays always present a challenge for coaches as they are not allowed to require athletes to stay on campus to train, but they always encourage them to train on their own at home. Whether or not they do as their told is always in question.

Early indications show that Garrison's athletes stayed disciplined during their time off.

"I asked them to a person when they came back, and they were all 'Yep, went in, trained, everything was good,' " Garrison said. "And not only that, when they came back and were training here, you could tell that they had."

The distractions of the holiday season can make it difficult to get work done, especially when athletes are used to training with their teammates in a controlled environment. Their willingness to continue to work is exactly why Garrison believes they will get off to a good start in 2013.

"It makes me feel good because I know that they care," said Garrison. "They're excited about what we're doing. They're excited about where this team is and where we could be at the end of the season. I think that's huge for them because they have bought in 100 percent."

The talent and skill are there. The athletes feel good about their gymnastics, their routines and their teammates. If they can hone in on their consistency, Garrison and his team will have had a fruitful trip out West when they take on Cal, Auburn and Arizona.

"I think it's important for us to be consistent," said Garrison. "It's a subjective sport, so you never can tell where you're going to end up score-wise at the end of the day, but you need to be consistent.

"We need to be able to go out there, put six out there at every event. I would like to hit six routines per event. I would like to come out of there hitting 24. If we can do that, then I'll be happy."

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