All about mental prep as Tigers host regional meet

It didn’t take long for the LSU gymnastics team to shake off its disappointing third-place finish in the Southeastern Conference championships two weeks ago.

After digesting things on the way home, coach D-D Breaux was proactive in making sure it didn’t linger.

She canceled a scheduled day off that Monday and had the third-ranked Tigers back at work in the gym less than 48 hours later, even though the NCAA regionals were still two weeks away.

Considering its body of work had its atop the national rankings for almost a month, Breaux wanted to make sure the mental preparation was there for the NCAA regional that LSU is hosting at 4 p.m. Saturday in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

LSU will face No. 10 Stanford, No. 13 Auburn, Arizona, Kent State and Iowa State, with the top two teams advancing to the national semifinals April 18 in Birmingham, Ala.

“It was like, ‘Let’s go in and regroup and change a little bit of what we’re doing. Let’s regroup and refocus,’ ” Breaux said. “I think we succeeded and, at the end of the week, the kids had a great intrasquad on Friday. We focused on details and just breaking things into smaller parts. So we did lots of small parts, and I thought it helped them a lot.”

Improving their focus was vital after a couple of mistakes on beam and floor exercise did them in at the SEC championships.

To help them with their mental approach, the coaching staff sat the Tigers down for a rerun of a samurai video they first showed them last season.

“We never thought they understood it (last year),” a smiling Breaux said. “We brought them back in and played it and slowed it down and had some conversation and dialogue about it. They were like, ‘We get it now.’ The samurai mentality has to be automatic. You can’t think about it, and I think they were doing too much thinking at SECs. We had to get back to it being automatic and just let it come to them.”

All-Americans Rheagan Courville and Sarie Morrison said being focused will play a role if the Tigers expect to advance out of the regional and eventually to the Super Six finals for a second consecutive year.

“We’ve been in a relaxing state, getting back to preparing how we used to when we didn’t put so much pressure on ourselves,” said Courville, who ranks second in the nation in the all-around. “We had to not try to be perfect because that’s when we’re our best. We realized that, so the key is to stick with what we know and what we can control. We can’t worry about scores or judging, so we went back to our roots and how we got to this point.”

“I didn’t think it was a confidence loss (at the SEC meet); it was a loss of focus,” Breaux said. “We got out of the process and what had been working for us all year long. We started looking at the prize and the end result. The task at hand has to be the most important thing.”

Even with the slip-up at the conference meet, LSU has been extremely consistent this season and enters the regional having scored at least a 197 in a school-record 10 competitions in a row — including a 197.325 at the SEC championships when the Tigers finished behind Alabama and reigning NCAA champion Florida.

“At conference, we just let a few things slip (mentally),” said Morrison, who is tied for fourth in the nation on bars. “It wasn’t exactly like any part of our gymnastics slipped; it was more like we lost track of our sights. That’s what we’ve worked on this last week.”