Men’s gymnastics team holds camp for aspiring athletes

By Daniel Johnson

For 32 years, head coach Yoshi Hayasaki has been hosting gymnastic camps in communities, something he enjoys doing as a way of giving back to the sport.

One of the first events of Hayasaki’s last year at Illinois was a boys’ gymnastics camp that ran July 7-11.

The community responded, too, with campers as young as eight years old and as old as high school seniors in attendance.

“I know how lucky we are to be doing this sport for a living, and I’m just glad that I am in a position to do something like this camp,” Hayasaki said.

Both the coach and the Illinois gymnasts in attendance cited the camp as something that all elite-level athletes should be doing. Between the collegiate atmosphere of staying with fellow performers at Bromley Hall, practicing for a few hours each day and spending time with teammates – the experience is more or less a complete college simulation.

“As I said earlier, this is the college environment where the elite gymnasts train, they’re using a facility like (Kenney Gym,)” Hayasaki said.

“If you’re serious at all about the sport, you’re going to be going to a camp at some point, especially when you’re getting to the point where you need coaching of this level,” alumnus Wes Haagensen said. “You’re coming to a place like this to learn skills when you’re the age most of these kids are. You want to be pushing yourself more and more.”

Skills, the different techniques and routines completed in the events, were being shown off on all of the apparatuses. For the Illini gymnasts, it was a slight change of pace from performing to teaching, but it was a difference that recently graduated Tyler Yamauchi took to very easily.

“When you’re practicing with everyone all day, every day during the year, you’re going to be doing some coaching or at least looking at people’s routines to help them with things,” Yamauchi said. “So I think that everyone who’s working this has a good jump on the coaching aspect of this.”

Two of the campers who were more than willing to experience the week were incoming Illinois freshmen, Devin Regan and Anthony Sacramento, both of Libertyville, Ill. While both will be in Champaign on-and-off throughout the summer for school and gymnastics, the camp was a time to get acclimated with the coaching staff and meet some of their new teammates.

“When you look at a place like Illinois, it was really a no-brainer for both of us; it’s a great school,” Regan said.

Sacramento echoed his teammate’s sentiments.

“My dad is an alum here and between their academics and having one of the best teams in the Big Ten, it really was an easy decision,” Sacramento said. “When you’re going into collegiate gymnastics, you have to be going to things like these. It just worked out well for Devin and I that our college team is so close to us.”

Although the camp was held Monday through Friday, the campers had a special-guest coach when Olympian Justin Spring came for the final two days of the camp. Since being named to the U.S. Olympic team, life has been a “whirlwind” for him.

Given Spring’s recent international recognition, he has been in high demand. Although he had planned on being there as much as he could, Hayasaki put the star on the spot.

“He put me on the brochure for the camp,” Spring said, smiling, “People were expecting to see me here.”