John Spini began and ended his career at Arizona State. He graduated from ASU and began coaching the Sun Devils gymnastics team in 1979. The 2014 season concludes his time at the helm of the program. During his 34-year career Spini has sent his Sun Devils teams to 21 NCAA championships and has had at least one athlete represent ASU at the NCAA championships in 26 of 33 seasons. Spini’s athletes have achieved 27 perfect 10s.
The biggest change would be the level of the quality of the equipment. The spring floors and padded beams have changed tremendously. With the change of equipment, the level of skills you are able to do has changed. Also, the athletes have changed. Nowadays, athletes start going to gymnastics school at age 3 or 4 and demonstrate a high level of commitment at an early age.
Q: What is something that has not changed about the sport?
The excitement and enthusiasm of the athletes that love doing gymnastics -- most everything else has morphed, but not that.
Q: What are your thoughts on the subjectivity of gymnastics, and are they ways to coach around it?
There is no way to coach around it. Good quality always equals good technique. I just try to get them to do the best they can at this point in their life, my athletes are no longer uninjured 14-year-olds; they are more mature gymnasts. The rules change often, and the only thing I can do as a coach is put together a routine that meets the requirements.
Personally speaking, there is no such thing as a perfect man or woman -- nothing in this world is actually perfect. A perfect vault looks like one that is laid out, but could she do it higher and bigger, yes.
Q: How do you encourage athletes to practice after a perfect 10?
These athletes are very talented because of extensive practice. After a perfect performance, the athlete is usually stoked and ready to get back to it. They become more responsible for their routine and begin working a little harder. They want it again and achieving it once acts a motivator.
Q: Are perfect 10s your goal as a coach?
My goal is to keep these kids healthy when they walk away from the sport. I want them to leave that gym healthy and knowing they had a good day. Perfect 10s can’t happen every day.
Q: Do you have any favorite moments from the years?
My favorite moments have been every day in the gym. I have enjoyed them all.