Former BYU gymnast comes full circle as new gymnastics head coach

Natalie Bothwell
BYU women’s gymnastics head coach Guard Young at the meet against Boise State and UC Davis. Young is a former Cougar gymnast and now coaches the women’s team. (Natalie Bothwell)

Former Cougar gymnast and silver-medal Olympian Guard Young has returned to BYU as head coach of the women’s gymnastics team.

“I love gymnastics with every bit of my body,” Young said.

Young spent his entire life surrounded by gymnastics and became a member of the BYU men’s gymnastics team in 1996.

He had his own key to the gym to work out — it didn’t matter if coaches were there or not. Young’s passion and dedication helped him win six All-American awards and two NCAA National Championships on the vault.

Young was training for the 2000 Olympic trials during his senior year when BYU announced it would be cutting the men’s team from the program the following season.

Young described it as a hard year, as his personal efforts were being overshadowed by many of his coaches, trainers and teammates who didn’t have much to look forward to and had mentally “checked out.”

“I was still very much focused on the mission at hand,” Young said, “and a lot of times felt like I was doing it alone.”

Young was a member of the BYU men's gymnastics team from 1996-2000. (BYU Photo)
Young was a member of the BYU men’s gymnastics team from 1996-2000. (BYU Photo)

Young left for the Olympic trials frustrated.

“I left Provo mad at BYU,” Young said. “I was not happy and there was a lot of resentment toward BYU for many years.”

Young did not make the 2000 Olympic team. He finished in tenth place, missing the cutoff by three spots.

Young’s high school coach, Mark Williams, had become the head men’s gymnastics coach at the University of Oklahoma the same year. Williams contacted Young asking him to be an assistant coach and offered to train him for the next Olympics.

“I wasn’t ready to be done,” Young said.

Young coached and trained alongside the team in Oklahoma for the next five years where they won three national championships. He went on to make the 2004 U.S. men’s gymnastics team and helped them win a silver medal.

Young coached high school gymnastics in California for six years after the Olympics. BYU called Young in 2010 and invited him to be in the BYU Hall of Fame. Young felt honored to be recognized for his accomplishments as a BYU athlete.

“That’s when that healing process, the forgiveness process, started for me,” Young said. “I think that’s what I needed.”

Shortly after, Williams called Young and asked him to come back as an assistant coach to Oklahoma. Young agreed and coached Oklahoma from 2011 to 2015. The Sooners won another National Championship in 2015.

Young said returning to Oklahoma the second time was all about timing and added that coaching there prepared him for what was coming next.

BYU reached out to Young after former women’s gymnastics head coach Brad Cattermole retired. Young was ready to step into the new role as a head coach.

“I’m having the time of my life being back here as a coach for BYU,” Young said. “Yeah, happy to be here, I love it.”

In his first year as head coach, Young’s focus is getting the most he can out of the varsity team.

“He’s so different from every other coach I’ve ever had,” gymnast Sin To said. “He has so much love and passion for the sport that he wants you to do well.”

Young shares his passion and experience with the team. Young had the team sit in a circle before their first meet, sharing stories of their favorite gymnastics moments to remind them of their own passion for the sport.

“He really believes in us,” gymnast Emily Vidmar said. “He’s always telling us we can do it and he tells us that every day.”

Young hopes to bring the success he had at Oklahoma to the BYU women’s gymnastics program.

But he’s still surprised he made it back to Provo.

“To have things happen the way they happened … It’s amazing how the Lord knows what you need at those times,” Young said.

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