BYU gymnastics head coach Guard Young took on a 2015 team that averaged a score of 194. A short three years later during the 2018 season, Young proudly watched his team hit the 196 mark not once, not twice, but 11 times.
Last season fans relished in the Cougars’ success at the NCAA regionals on Apr. 7, where the team snagged a fourth place win and logged its highest regionals score of 196.300. Consequently, BYU improved its national ranking to No. 17.
“We weren’t getting better by tenths, we were getting better by points,” Young said. “That’s not incremental stepping. That’s leaping.”
However, the transformation of a team whose average jumped two points in three years came with a learning curve.
“A lot of what I do is try to educate them,” Young said. “I tell them, ‘This is what we’re doing and this is why we are doing it.’ Especially with generation Zs. As soon as you connect the why, they’ll work hard for you.”
Young’s coaching style propelled the team to achieve two all-time team records this past season: a 49.325 on beam and a 49.425 on bars. These records had remained untouched since 2005.
“We focused on fixing the fundamentals of their gymnastics,” Young said about his coaching approach. “We weren’t missing the big skills. We were messing up the little things. Last year, all the hard work we spent fixing the fundamentals paid off and, as soon as we did that, the falls stopped.”
Team captain and senior Natasha Marsh earned a spot with the Cougars as a freshman at the same time Young replaced former head coach Brad Cattermole. Entering the program together, Marsh and Young watched the team adapt.
“He is really passionate and dedicated,” Marsh said. “I know there isn’t a night that goes by that he doesn’t go to sleep without us being on his mind or what the next practice is going to be.”
Last season, Marsh boasted two personal records on bars (9.875) and beam (9.900).
“I think I ended on a good spot and I felt really confident,” Marsh said. “I want to build on that confidence and help the other girls recognize their abilities and how incredible they can be by doing what they’ve been practicing.”
The Cougars welcomed 11 freshmen and volunteer coach Leonid Matsyuk in preparation for the 2019 season. On Jan. 11, the Cougars in no way eased into the season as they broke records against No. 3 University of Utah.
Positioned toward the top of the vault set in the first rotation of the season, junior gymnast Angel Zhong foreshadowed a strong meet by earning a 9.725 on vault. Just three days prior to the meet, Zhong made the transition to hard landings after nursing an ankle injury during the preseason. This dedication follows suit of the team’s 2019 season motto.
“This year, we are focusing on being all in and working more together as a team,” Zhong said. “We’re going to surprise a lot of teams with how much we have improved because we are ready.”