My Change in Mindset

BY ZACH NUNEZ

This series is brought to you by United Dairy Industry of Michigan.

That sounds like way too much work, so I’m not going to do it.

When I was younger, I had that thought in my head constantly.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I didn’t work hard.

But I relied heavily on my natural talent and ability before I got to college.

When I got to Oklahoma, I knew I couldn’t do that any longer.

OU has one of the best gymnastics programs in the entire country.

I would be teammates with some of the best gymnasts in the world, and even more so, I would be competing against the best of the best around the country.

There would be no shortcuts if I wanted to accomplish my dreams of being named an All-American and winning a national championship.

Between strength training, taking care of my body, and holding myself accountable both inside and outside of the gym, those are all goals I needed to accomplish in order to live up to my potential.

More importantly, I had to put in the work when no one was watching.

It wouldn’t be easy, and there would be plenty of times when I’d want to throw in the towel and not put in the extra effort, but OU helped me understand that if I wanted to be a champion, I had to have the mentality of such.

It was time to go to work.

A turning point

I suppose you could say I was a late bloomer in that I didn’t realize how far I could go with gymnastics until my senior year of high school.

I qualified for the 2019 U.S. Championships, and that was a real turning point for me.

During that time, I was being recruited by Penn State, Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois.

They’re all amazing schools, and I would’ve been honored to compete for any of them, but they weren’t OU.

Cypress Academy was my home gym growing up, and many of the gymnasts from there went on to compete for OU.

From a young age, I knew about the prestige of OU gymnastics and all the talented gymnasts that competed there, so when they showed interest in me, it turned into a very easy decision.

Not only were they the closest proximity to my hometown in Cypress, I believed they could help me take my talent and skills to another level.

Learning from the best

When I got to OU during my freshman year, I was in awe of my upperclassmen teammates and looked up to them in so many different ways.

They became my inspiration because I didn’t necessarily have the work ethic that these guys did. I quickly began to see why they were some of the best gymnasts in the country — they were giving everything they had day in and day out.

Whether it was voluntary or mandatory, they didn’t miss a practice, session, workout, etc., because they knew it would make them better.

That mindset and mentality has stayed with me since my freshman year.

In and out of the classroom, I wanted to make sure I was the best version of myself as a student-athlete and leave nothing on the table in regard to what I can accomplish in my four years at OU.

And if it wasn’t for the upperclassmen and leaders on the team, it may have been too late before I came to that realization.

It wouldn't be easy, and there would be plenty of times when I'd want to throw in the towel and not put in the extra effort, but OU helped me understand that if I wanted to be a champion, I had to have the mentality of such. It was time to go to work.

Visualizing success

Throughout my time at OU, one thing I always do is visualize success before each competition.

I’ll visualize how the event is going to go in my head, and that makes a tremendous difference in getting my mind right and calming me down.

Gymnastics is such a mental sport. Everyone’s heard of the twisties and all the mental blocks that come with being a gymnast, so visualization is a technique that’s had a significant impact on my career.

What’s made my OU career so special is that I’m not just competing for myself. I’m not even just competing for the 20 guys on the team.

I’m competing for the gymnasts that came before me, and that will come after me in one of the most prominent programs in the country.

I take a tremendous amount of pride in wearing that OU name on my chest and honoring the legacy of this university and program.

While that can be an overwhelming feeling at times, I know I’m surrounded by the best coaches, teammates, and resources in the nation.

I can’t tell you how much that support has meant to me in my career.

Like anyone, I want to leave a lasting legacy and help carry on the tradition of OU gymnastics, but it’s not something I want to consume me, either.

And thanks to the encouragement of so many, it doesn’t have to.

I have the peace of mind of knowing whatever happens, I’m going to have the backing of my teammates, coaches, and the entire university, which means everything in the world to me.

The OU standard

As a two-time All-American, who’s had the opportunity to compete each season at NCAAs, my career at OU has been everything I could ask for and more.

With my senior season on the horizon, I just want to continue to push myself and give everything I have to a program and university that has given so much to me.

Beyond the goals and aspirations I have for this upcoming season, I’m currently trying to qualify for the Philippines National Team.

Ever since I arrived at OU, it’s been a goal of mine to join the Philippines roster and compete on the global stage. The thought of that always seemed like a pipe dream before, but OU changed everything for me.

Before OU, I didn’t have the discipline or drive to even think about competing for a national team, but I have a different mindset and mentality now.

With my training regimen, I feel prepared and ready to overcome any challenge that comes my way, and to be honest with you, I don’t believe I’d have that same feeling anywhere else.

Due to the prominence and prestige of this program, we hold ourselves to a different standard here at OU.

And I want to do my part to keep that cycle going.

As an upperclassman now, I want to help the younger guys realize their goals and aspirations so they can continue to raise the bar for OU gymnastics.

A lesson I learned that I will continue to pass down to others is to never be afraid to do the work and push yourself beyond your perceived limits.

If you do that, believe me when I tell you that there is truly nothing you can’t accomplish.