Jan. 20, 2013
By Jourdan Rodrigue
Cheers can be heard even outside the John Spini Gymnastics Center, where the Arizona State University Women's Gymnastics team is gathered within. They cluster around a balance beam, yelling encouragement while team members take turns demonstrating their routines.
Assistant coach Tom Ward is the loudest. His voice echoes through the gym and bounces off the walls, bars, and beams.
"Come on Amelia, don't lose focus now," he cries as senior Amelia Rew flips on the narrow beam, then teeters slightly. "You're only as good as you think you are!"
Cheering for team members is a common practice throughout the gymnastics world, and Ward incorporates that mentality throughout his Sun Devil life as well.
"That's just how our sport is," said Ward. "It's high energy, there's lots of cheering, enthusiasm, and support."
So who better to be a Sun Devil superfan?
Ward, who is in his second year at ASU and was the 2011 NWGCA Assistant Coach of the Year at Kent State, attended more than 25 Sun Devil Athletic events in 2011 and almost 20 in the fall of 2012 alone. From tennis to swimming and diving, water polo and softball, Ward showcases his Sun Devil pride across every sport at Arizona State.
"College athletics to me is the best spectator sport-the best bang for your buck-in all of sports," said Ward. "Especially here at ASU. You have some of the top athletes in the world in their given sport...and we get to see them multiple times a season and their athleticism is amazing to me."
And Ward's understanding of collegiate athletes further fuels his support.
"Understanding the difference between what a good collegiate softball player is and a great one is key, just like for all the athletes," he said. "And here we have some great ones."
His energy beams out of him at gymnastics practice as well and it is of the opinion of the women that his positivity and support takes the team to a higher level.
"He [Ward] is really motivating," said Rew. "He's very supportive and easy to talk to. He understands the team and helps us be better...and he really buys into the program. He wants us to succeed more than anything, and that's very motivating and encouraging."
The Gym Devils earned the title of "most-improved" team in collegiate gymnastics last year and now are fired up for an even better season.
"It's a young, talented team that's hungry to win," said Ward.
The Gym Devils play host to No. 4 UCLA at Wells Fargo Arena Friday, Jan. 25 at 7:00 p.m.