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Carly-Anna Barba is leading the Hand gymnastics squad as the lone senior on the team this winter. Carly also played field hockey for the Tigers and is looking into continuing her career at the collegiate level. (Photo by Nick Greene/The Source | Buy This Photo)
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It took Carly-Anna Barba three years to earn a starting spot on the Daniel Hand field hockey team. The hard work paid off for Carly, who is now being recruited to play in college by multiple Division III schools. However, before she makes the transition, Carly is preparing for the final dismount of her high school athletics career the leader of the Hand gymnastics team.
Carly is leading the Tigers as the team’s only senior, and she’s also their top all-around performer this season. Like many gymnasts, Carly has been a part of several different club teams in the area, although Hand is where she found her extended family. The senior is hoping to put together a solid finish to her last campaign, while carrying on the legacy of the Tigers’ previous seniors.
“Every senior that’s been here that I’ve known makes you feel welcome, and it’s exciting to know you have people here to support you,” says Carly. “Knowing I’m the only senior, it is good knowing I have a whole family backing me. It is a really supportive team, and we are just there for each other.”
Carly has unlocked a newfound confidence on the beam this year. She’s progressed from being a single-event competitor to a true all-around gymnast for Head Coach Kelly Smith’s team.
“Since her freshman year, the biggest shift with Carly has been developing a level of confidence in her all-around skills,” Smith says. “We’ve watched her grow and mature, and we have a level of confidence in her that you find her at the end of the rotation in each event. She is very consistent and our top competitor.”
While the vault is Carly’s strongest event, she enjoys doing the floor routine the most. Carly is drawn to the self-expression and dance components of the event.
“I love to dance and to be able to show everyone who I am. I love tumbling and being able to show what I can do,” says Carly. “My front fold took me awhile to get used to. The front tuck is especially hard. You need to make sure you land on your feet and not over-rotate.”
Conversely, the beam is the biggest mental hurdle that Carly has faced in her gymnastics career. Standing on the beam can be a nerve-racking task for any gymnast. It’s taken time, but Carly’s mind has outweighed matter.
“Once you salute the judge, you can only control what you do. You have to just get up there and be prepared mentally,” Carly says. “I used to get up there and shake on the beam, because I was so nervous. You can really feel the beam, feel every groove—if it is smooth or not. That kind of controls if you stay on or not. I personally try to think of it as practice and not any sort of competition.”
As a sophomore, Carly helped Hand win its 10th-consecutive Southern Connecticut Conference title with a first-place finish at the SCC Championship. She went on to post a score of 8.525 on the vault at the Class M State Championship, where Hand came in second place.
Last year, Carly earned All-SCC honors with a vault score of 8.35 at the conference meet, after which she scored an 8.65 in the event at states.
As this year’s championship meets draw closer, Carly is focused on helping the Tigers continue their legacy by putting together another strong postseason showing.
“All the seniors I knew always talked about pushing their hardest their senior year. My goal is to push myself the hardest I can,” says Carly, a junior fireman in Madison who also works at the Arts Barn, helping organize fundraisers such as the Daddy Daughter Dance. “This is the last time I’ll have an opportunity to do anything like this, so I’m going to push myself and walk away knowing I did the best I could.”
Carly won’t be putting down her field hockey stick anytime soon. Carly started playing the sport a little later than many of her peers and had to incrementally work her way through the ranks. After seeing some varsity minutes here and there in her junior year, Carly solidified her place in Hand’s starting lineup as a senior last fall. Now, she’s is being recruited to play field hockey by both Keene State College and Western New England University.
“It gave me a reason to fight harder every day,” Carly says. “I worked as hard as I could. It took so much hard work to become a starter that I needed to keep that work up, and I wouldn’t let anyone slow me down.”
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