Gymnastics hires former Olympian as coach


Jackson Lamar New Reporter

Hiring a coach with experience is important if a team wants to be competitive, especially when trying to replace a school legend like the former gymnastics coach Jerry Nelson. However, Southern’s gymnastics team did something alike with Mary Fredericks.

Fredericks previously worked at Towson University before coming to Southern, and also was a part of the staff for Brigham Young University and Southeast Missouri State.

Fredericks will be replacing long time coach of 15 years, Nelson, who during his tenure with the Owls, won multiple championships and recieved a National Coach of the Year award in 2007.

“I feel like I’m a nice, fun-loving person, maybe not as bubbly as him,” Fredericks said. “There’s some shoes to fill and that’s always something to keep in your mind.”

Fredricks has an impressive resume of her own. She was an alternate for the U.S. Olympic team in 1996, a Pan American gold medalist in 1995, a U.S. team member that won Bronze in 1996, and a 7 time national team member. Fredricks said she hopes her accolades will inspire her girls to work just as hard as she had to.

“They were impressed. I shared stories where I was not born good,” Fredericks said. “I had to work a lot in pre-Internet days you didn’t get to see all my biffs.”

Practices for the team have already begun and Frederick’s first focus is building the girls strength back up.

“Right now we are doing a lot of focus on strength, trying to get them strong so they can do their skills,” Fredericks said, “then we break down the basics so again they remember the beginning part of their skills.”

Members of the gymnastics team have said Frederick’s impact on the team is noticeable. One of the captains for the team, exercise science major Jackie Kutcher, a senior, said she feels more confident in her event.

“Her main event was bars and that’s my favorite event,” Kutcher said. “She’s definitely given me corrections on bars, and I think that overall it’ll help because bars has been our weaker event in the past.”

Kutcher talked about the advantages of having a former Olympian as a coach.

“The main thing is she has visions that are far and beyond than I ever expected,” Kutcher said. “So that’s kind of good because she always says shoot higher than you expect to make, because you can never disappoint yourself if you’re doing better regardless.”

Physics major Keylea Brothers, a senior, is the other captain of the team, and she said it’s important to trust her coach.

“Trust in gymnastics is a very big thing, because they are spotting you on and off” Brothers said. “You’re doing skills that you can hurt yourself on and you have to trust their judgement”

In gymnastics teams receive a score out of ten. The score is compiled by judges based off the gymnast’s execution and difficulty of the skills. What Fredericks is doing is incorporating more release moves which boost the difficulty score and result in a higher overall score.

“We went from completing two release moves last year and now it looks like our whole lineup will have release moves,” Kutcher said. “It looks like we could have 10.”

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