Coaches find love on the mats
Eleven women's gymnastics coaches work with their spouse
|Alabama||Head coach Sarah Patterson and volunteer assistant David|
|Arkansas||Co-head coaches Mark and Rene Cook|
|Boise State||Co-head coach Neil Resnick and assistant coach Patty|
|BYU||Head coach Brad Cattermole and assistant coach Dawn|
Co-head coaches Peter and Mary Jansson
|Iowa State||Head coach Jay Ronayne and director of gymnastics operations Mary|
|Minnesota||Head coach Meg Stephenson and volunteer assistant Jim (former head coach)|
|New Hampshire||Head coach Gail Goodspeed and associate head coach Ed Datti|
|Oklahoma||Head coach K.J. Kindler, assistant coach Lou Ball|
|Oregon State||Co-head coaches Michael and Tanya Chaplin|
|Penn State||Head coach Jeff Thompson and associate head coach Rachelle|
|Utah||Co-head coaches Greg and Megan Marsden|
Amy Farnum, NCAA.com
Everyone who has ever said “I do” knows that marriage is hard work.
But for several couples around the nation, their marriage is not the only thing they are tending to on a daily basis. Those 11 couples also serve on the coaching staffs for top collegiate women’s gymnastics programs around the nation.
While commonness of married couples working with gymnastics teams may seem odd at first, a closer look provides a little more insight.
“The nature of our sport lends itself to a combination of couples,” Arkansas co-head coach Mark Cook said. “The sport often requires spotting, whereby men tend to be stronger overall in this area. The dance component is usually better addressed by women who have had extensive background in this area. Also, many of the athletes come from private clubs where husbands and wives teach. It is a comfortable feel for the athletes, and they respond to both genders differently.”
“I think we spend a lot of time doing our jobs and most coaches are very dedicated and devoted to the sport and to the athletes so it is natural that we would find life partners that feel the same way,” said Minnesota head coach Meg Stephenson, who coached the Gophers with husband Jim until 2010. He now serves as a volunteer assistant for the team.
Lengthy marriages are also the trend for gymnastics couples with six of the pairs being married for over 20 years – Sarah and David Patterson, Alabama; Greg and Megan Marsden, Utah; Gail Goodspeed and Ed Datti, New Hampshire; Neil and Patty Resnick, Boise State; and Brad and Dawn Cattermole, BYU.
The Pattersons have been coaching at Alabama for 33 years after meeting at a summer program in Huntsville, Ala., before Sarah took the head coach job in Tuscaloosa. They recently celebrated their 400th regular season victory with a defeat of Auburn last weekend.
“Our strengths really complement one another,” Sarah Patterson said. “David is such a great technical coach, while I tend to enjoy the artistic side of the sport. I think both of us are good motivators, though we have different styles in that respect. David also provides the balance for our career and our family, keeping us focused on what’s best for us and the program. And while I love to be out there speaking and promoting the program, he’s more comfortable in the background, providing the plan and structure.”
The Resnicks met working at Flips Gymnastics in Reno, Nev.
“The first day I saw Patty, I wrote her a note saying that one day we would be married, she crumpled the note up and threw it away,” Neil Resnick said.
They have been married for 22 “blissful” years according to Patty, but like most of these couples, the toughest part is separating the gym from home.
“Much of the job is dealing with things other than the sport itself-the human element,” Mark Cook said. “There is a lot of stress that overflows into one’s personal life and can disrupt a relationship. It is almost impossible to escape work.”
Some couples also commented on the toll it takes on family life.
“The toughest part is being away together from the rest of our family. It’s not a situation where I’m away and he can stay with the kids,” said Julie Clark, an assistant to Georgia head coach Jay Clark. “That’s the biggest challenge, being away together for a period of time when we travel for a road meet.”
But the pros seem to outnumber the cons when it comes down to it.
“I can think of a million positive advantages,” Meg Stephenson said. “We do take our work home with us and that gives us an edge because we are always talking and brainstorming and trouble shooting. It’s nice to go home and completely share your work day with your spouse. If things don't go well, we both feel bad, but we have each other to help us get through and that's a positive! We have such respect for each other that we really can talk candidly and even if we suggest changes, we trust each other so much that we know the change will be good. We are always trying to improve and do a better job within our value system.”
“You are working with your best friend,” said Michael Chaplin, co-head coach at Oregon State with his wife Tanya. “We are honest with each other at all times. We have the same philosophy in what we want to achieve with the program.”