Lakeville North gymnast Ashley Myers performed on the balance beam during a recent practice.
It's an oversized space with all the makings of a top-notch gymnastics facility: a tidy mess of uneven bars, wires, runways and trampolines all covered in a thin layer of white chalk.
But what you won't see in the gymnastics room at Lakeville North High School is something that lurks in every facility like it, big or small.
First-year Panthers coach Teri Homan, a former gymnast at Rosemount who has coached in Lakeville since the mid-1990s, said mind games are inevitable.
"We talk about working through mental issues a lot," she said. "You have ups and downs, peaks and valleys. There are times you hate the sport, and it hates you. And then you work through it -- those dead times -- and you know it's going to come back again."
For a time last summer, Lakeville North senior Ashley Myers wasn't so sure.
"I was scared of everything," she said.
Myers, a key cog to a Panthers team that has aspirations of making a third consecutive trip to the Class 2A state tournament, took a month off in the offseason and worked her way back this fall.
She used different strategies as part of the process, including a wall of foam mats stacked as high as the top of the uneven bars.
One by one, the mats came down as Myers' confidence went up.
"In my brain I just kept telling myself, 'Go, go, go. You're fine,'" she said.
While not all the way back to the form she'd like to be at with the section meet two weeks away, Myers says there is reason to be optimistic. Her coach agrees.
She is among the metro's top 10 gymnasts in the all-around, including a 9.7 mark in the floor exercise and a 9.5 on vault and balance beam.
"She is so high-energy; never a dull moment with her in here," Homan said. "She certainly brings enthusiasm, [and] her skill level is outstanding. She'll do things that make other girls go, 'I can do that.' And she'll show them how."
In other cases, Homan said, gymnasts who have gone through a bout of skittishness have gone the opposite direction.
"When you hear a lot of negative self-talk, it's a snowball effect," she said. "One kid being scared all of a sudden turns into three or four. [Myers is] proving that you can get through it. It's hard, but it can be done.
"She's so loyal, and gives us all she's got."
In the next two weeks, Myers said she will work to polish up the little things can lead to minor, yet costly, deductions. A solid layout on vault here, a flawless connection on beam there. And, of course, working up the strength and confidence to perfect her double-back bail on the uneven bars. It's the lone skill she has yet to fully master since her unplanned layoff.
A fan of high-intensity cop shows on television, Myers said she has plans to go into law enforcement with aspirations to be a narcotics officer.
Facing her fears is a good first step on such a career path.
"Right now she wants it, and I don't know if she's ever wanted it before," Homan said. "She's very much a contender."
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