By ADAM MANGUM
Endowed with wonderful athletic abilities and an intense competitive drive, brother and sister Guard Young and Britney Young are both realizing their dreams here at BYU, one in the gym and the other on the hard courts.
Both siblings took winding paths to Provo, paths influenced by their father, Wayne Young, an Olympic gymnast in 1976 and former gymnastic coach at BYU.
Guard Young is a junior gymnast from Oklahoma City, Okla. Guard said he grew up in the gym when his father was a gymnastic coach. While other kids his age had birthday parties at pizza places with costumed mice, the Young family would open up the gym for their unique celebrations.
With gymnastics in his blood and an Olympic father, Guard could have felt the pressure to follow in his father’s footsteps, but he said that was not the case with his father.
“He’s just a big supporter in everything I do,” Guard said. “I don’t feel there’s competition between me and what he’s done.”
Whether Guard compares himself to his father or not, Guard is headed down a similar path.
In both 1995 and 1996, Guard was the national junior champion. He then decided to attend BYU over national power University of Oklahoma, mainly because of the LDS standards in Provo and the part he could play in building up the Cougar program, which finished fifth at the national championships last year.
Guard himself has had mixed success since his arrival at BYU. He finished 16th in the nation on the parallel bars as a freshman and was ranked as high as fourth overall last year. But he did not compete in the national championships due to injury.
This past August, however, Guard rebounded to place 10th at the USA National Championships, placing him on the senior national team. Guard’s goal is the 2000 Olympics in Australia, but he will have to place himself in the top six to guarantee an Olympic trip.
Guard said the driving force behind his Olympic goal is not an external pressure from past glories of his father or the success of his older sister Jessica Wicherly, who was a gymnast here at BYU until last year. He said the drive comes from his desire to give his all and to succeed at what he does.
One Christmas, the Young family received a Ping-Pong table. Britney and Guard both tell of intense family tournaments that lasted for six months after Christmas with each sibling trying to outdo the others.
Guard said he believes this competitive drive has helped him put in the hours necessary to compete on the national gymnastic scene. Britney said this competitive edge also helped her on her way to BYU.
Britney is a sophomore on the BYU tennis team and was also in gymnastics until her freshman year in high school. After switching to tennis, she attacked her new sport with the same tenacity she had used in the gym and on the Ping-Pong table.
“It just wasn’t my sport,” Britney said about gymnastics. “It was a family sport. I had to find my own thing. I picked up tennis the same day I quit gymnastics.”
Not being a typical “little league father,” Britney said Wayne Young was very supportive through each step of her transition, trying to facilitate what she really wanted.
After only two years of playing tennis, Britney placed seventh in the Oklahoma state championships as a junior in high school and fifth as a senior. Last year, she attended North Central Texas Junior College and was ranked No. 38 in the nation. Armed with an additional year of competitive tennis, she transferred to BYU with the idea of walking on to the team.
Britney was scared about transferring, especially with the national success BYU has enjoyed over the years. Despite these reservations, she made the BYU team and has joined a couple of older siblings as Division I college athletes.
Like her brother, Britney spends countless hours improving her skills. Often times she is the first woman at practice, hitting balls with assistant coach Andy Norda before any of her teammates arrive, continually striving to be competitive at whatever level she’s at.
Their father said he’s not sure how much of the competitive drive in his children is learned or how much is inborn. Regardless, Wayne Young said he isn’t as concerned with his children’s athletic success as he is with their progress as individuals.
“We’re more pleased with the fact that they’ve learned discipline. We’re more interested in teaching life skills,” he said.
Echoing her brother’s sentiments and her father’s intentions, Britney said her parents never put any undue pressure on any of the siblings to perform up to the standard set by her father or anyone else.
“Our parents never put more emphasis on someone who won. My brother’s a national champion, and they never looked on him different than anyone else,” she said.