Troy Mather has been a high-level gymnast for quite some time, so he knows all about dedication, perseverance and mental toughness.
But Mather’s mental and physical strength is being tested in a whole new way. Mather, who graduated from Nazareth this spring, is continuing his gymnastics career at the Air Force Academy.
But before the Hinsdale resident can get on the mats, he has to get through basic training, which began last week.
“It’s basically three weeks of military training,” Mather said. “It’s really testing you physically and mentally and seeing who wants to be there. They want to get rid of the people who are just there for sports. They want to see if you really want to become an officer.”
Mather believes that his gymnastic training will help him endure the inevitable and unrelenting barking of his drill sergeants.
“I’ve had some really hard gymnastics coaches so I’m used to doing what I’m told and not arguing,” Mather said. “I think I’m pretty disciplined. I’m in it for the long run and I’m going to make it happen. The only thing that’s gonna kill me is the running; I’m not a runner.”
Mather’s club coach, Tim O’Connell of Aerial Gymnastics, has a lot of faith in him.
“Out of all the kids I’ve coached, and I’ve been coaching for 30 years, I can probably count on one hand the kids who could make it mentally and Troy is on that list,” O’Connell said. “And when you graduate from the Air Force Academy, you don’t come out looking for a job. You come out as a leader of men.”
Mather was recruited heavily and had narrowed down his choices to Nebraska, Michigan, the Naval Academy and the Air Force.
“I didn’t visit the Naval Academy, but Michigan was great and the same with Nebraska,” he said. “They were really awesome to me but when it came down to it, it was Air Force. I love the environment and my future is set there. And I really liked the team and coaches.”
Although he doesn’t have any aviation training, Mather is interested in becoming a pilot. His mom believes he’d be a natural.
“I think he would make an excellent pilot,” Jennifer Mather said. “He’s always had a good air sense and he’s very brave and likes challenges.”
As for gymnastics, Troy Mather won’t have a chance to compete this year. He’s spending a year in the Air Force preparatory school and won’t even have an opportunity to get on the mats until October.
When he does begin gymnastics training, he’ll be in for quite the experience. Mather and his teammates will be practicing at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
“It’s where all the Olympians train and the facilities are incredible,” Mather said. “The Olympics are beyond my reach but I’ll get to work with Olympic coaches.”
While Nazareth doesn’t have a boys gymnastics team, as a youngster Mather trained at Premier Gymnastics before switching to Aerial in sixth or seventh grade.
His biggest sports achievement came in May, when he took fourth place in rings at the Men’s Junior Olympic Championships in Long Beach, California.
“My junior year at nationals was more pressure because I hadn’t committed yet,” Mather said. “I went out there and tried to impress everyone. But this year there was less pressure and I just went out there and tried to have my best meet.”