Head Women's Gymnastics Coach Q&A - Jenn Najuch
What did it take for your student-athletes to excel on the national stage in your first season?
Springfield Gymnastics was proud to have three gymnasts advance to the National stage in Heather Gomes, Bri Kerr, and Marissa DeAngelo. What really helped them become so successful? Their team. They wouldn't have been the top scorers in the team if there wasn't 17 other women working with them and pushing them to get better. The team had an incredibly strong showing at East Championships-- scoring our season high and greatly improving on beam and bars-- two of our weaker events all season. The team's relentless fight during the season, and at this difficult Championships is what helped the three National qualifiers become so successful.
In your first year at Springfield College, describe how you were able to build such a strong culture of commitment to excellence?
I was lucky enough to inherit a growing and highly respectable program and a talented group of athletes from Coach Cheryl Raymond. This meant I was able to build off of what was already there, while adding my own expectations to continue the tradition. I am such a fan of the Springfield College philosophy and much of what I learned and acquired prior to Springfield has helped me fit right in. It's really about trying to get the women to understand how talented they are and how to use those talents, how sometimes their goals can be bigger, and that their hard work will pay off, even if they aren't seeing the results they want right away.
How will support from alumni and friends of the women's gymnastics program help elevate your student-athletes experiences?
I'm really looking to build this team even bigger than it already is. External support will help us better achieve this goal.. Whether it's simply coming out to watch a meet with Springfield Pride gear on and cheering us on; or supporting us with funding to enable us to improve the student athlete experience. I plan to continue improving our facilities; updating equipment and creating a safe, smart space for our athletes to improve.
We are excited to announce that we will be hosting the National Championship competition in 2017. This is a huge undertaking and any support can be helpful with this prestigious event. We would love to have a huge fan base as well as have the ability to conduct a first class experience for the competitors.
Under your leadership, how do you envision your program developing over the next several years?
My hope is that the team and program continues to be a force in the NCGA organization as well as in the Springfield College community. Gymnastics wise, I want our difficulty and consistency to increase, making it a team to strive to be on and one you have to work hard and be determined to continue to be a part of it. We will continue to develop and embody our tradition of excellence by being a positive influence to the college, community and NCGA organization. Honestly, I just want to always have as much fun as we did this first year. Everyday in practice we saw something exciting, new, or found something to joke about.. At every meet, someone accomplished a new goal or hit a new a high score. Those small moments added up and made the year special for everyone.
What does it mean for you personally to be at the helm of the Springfield College women's gymnastics program?
Being the head coach of such a unique and notable program has been a life-changing experience. I never really envisioned myself in this rare of a position, but I can't imagine myself going in a different direction. Being a gymnast is such a weird life-style-- You start very young and it consumes your life. You are in the gym 5-6 days a week, 4 hours a day, all year round. You develop a second family with your coaches and teammates, who you often see more than your real family. You begin to wonder what you will do when it is all over. It is always a scary moment for seniors in high school or college when it's time to move on from something that was a integral part of your life for 17 plus years. It is so rare to be able to continue to be a part of this sport as a career, and to be able to find myself in this type of position is a dream come true. To then find myself at a college rich with tradition and excellence and a philosophy that is empowering, it's made me grow into a better person just within the year I have been here.
With the NCGA National Championships being held in Wisconsin next year, what would it mean for your program to qualify as a team and travel out of region to compete against the best in the nation?
Making it to Nationals as a team is always the goal from Day One. Like I said, we have so many routines that are National worthy, but it is so difficult to make it as an individual, and it's much more fun to be there with your team supporting you. So placing top three at East Championships is always on the mind, last year we missed it by only nine tenths. We constantly discuss how we can find those extra tenths, build our consistency and be better at every competition. Furthermore, we are looking ahead to 2017-- where we will host the National competition-- we want to be competing as a team on the stage we set.. accomplishing this goal in 2016 will put us in a better place for 2017. I think it would be a huge moment for this team to head to the Mid-west as a group-- The competition is such a memorable one-- the travel and lodging, banquet, practices and actual meet is unlike anything else during the season. The teams come together and support each other in a way that is unlike anything I've seen. For example, a moment I'll never forget during the 2015 Nationals: A young women from Ursinus had an amazing floor routine, full of powerful tumbling and unique, energetic dance that she rocked. By day 3 of the weekend, all the gymnasts from all the teams stopped to not only watch the floor routine.. but to do the choreography with her. It was a great moment, showing that it's so much more than where you are on the podium. I think it is essential for us to work our way there as a team and be around this high level of competition and comradery.