Welcome back, Gym Dog fans!
After the surprise announcement of
Suzanne Yoculan former Gym Dog Courtney Kupets Carter as the new head coach of the team, most of the speculation from both Gym Dog fans and neutral observers in the college gymnastics community was that CKC would be focusing on hiring assistants that had a significant amount of college coaching experience to help fill in the “weak spots” in her resume.
Rumors swirled with several relatively big names that would fit that bill, with the biggest names being UCLA’s Chris Waller and the coaching team from small-program-national-champion Texas Woman’s University of Garrett Griffeth and Courtney McCool-Griffeth (another former Gym Dog). There was also some speculation that CKC (which, for now, is how I’ll refer to Courtney Kupets Carter, since I’ve seen no guidelines on whether to refer to her as “Coach Kupets,” “Coach Carter,” or “Coach Kupets Carter,” or what) could also try to “get the band back together” and bring Doug McAvinn back as an assistant. McAvinn was an assistant under Suzanne Yoculan during pretty much her entire run at UGA, and is now in semi-retirement at Georgia Elite Gymnastics in Watkinsville.
Instead of backing herself up with seasoned, experienced college coaches on her full-time paid staff, however, CKC went... another direction. The exact opposite direction, in fact.
The first (non-volunteer) assistant hire was announced last Friday, in the person of Charlie Tamayo. Coach Tamayo was a top international competitor for his native Cuba before defecting to the USA in 2003. After that, he coached club gymnastics in California and Colorado for 12 years before being hired as an assistant by the U.S. Naval Academy in 2016. Oh, and he was hired to coach the Navy men’s gymnastics team. By all accounts, Coach Tamayo coached both men and women at the club level, but his only college coaching experience was this past year (just 1 year) on the men’s side. Based on the common events between men’s and women’s gymnastics, I’d assume that Coach Tamayo will be handling vault and floor.
CKC’s second assistant hire was announced today, and is Josh Overton. I know literally nothing about Josh Overton, so the following information is based on the press release and a quick Google search. Coach Overton has extensive connections in the Georgia club gymnastics community, having worked at several clubs in the Atlanta area, including the Gwinnett Gymnastics Center from 2006-2013, before moving to a club in Iowa for the past 4 years. (While in Gwinnett County, he coached Lauren Johnson, who just finished her senior year as a Gym Dog.) Overton also has no college experience, but does have an impressive resume at the club level. Honestly, for an experienced head coach, this is exactly the kind of assistant hire you’d like to see... someone who has had many years of experience at the club level and is looking to take a step up to college. For an inexperienced head coach, though... well, let’s get to that in a minute. Simply based on my guess with Tamayo above, I’m assuming that Overton will be coaching beam, bars, or both. Given CKC’s incredible success on bars, though, it might be reasonable to make an educated guess that she’ll be coaching bars herself, which leaves Overton with beam.
So, if you’re keeping track at home, the Gym Dogs’ entire paid coaching staff has a combined 1 year of college coaching experience, and exactly 0 (zero, zip, nil) years of women’s college coaching experience. But if you add in the volunteer coaches, the entire staff has a combined 26 years of coaching experience! (And 29 years if you include grad assistants Mary Beth Box, Brittany Rogers, and Brandie Jay! But then you have to count CKC’s 1 year of grad assisting at UGA, so it’s actually 30 years! Even better!)
As I said in my first post about CKC’s hiring, this move was a high-risk decision from the beginning for Greg McGarity. Sure, CKC brought Suzanne Yoculan along with her, and that’s not a small thing. But I really don’t think Yoculan is going to be around for more than a year or two. The assistants CKC hired were always going to be the real support staff for her as she got her “sea legs” in the coaching world. And instead of bringing in seasoned assistants who know the college world (and especially the recruiting world), she brings in two assistants who are as fresh and new to the college game as she herself is.
On the other hand, it’s possible to put a positive spin on this and say that she didn’t want to be implementing “somebody else’s system,” that she wanted to do things
Yoculan’s her own way, and wanted her new coaches to buy into that. And honestly, there’s some value in that statement. You don’t want to constantly be fighting an assistant that says, “Yeah, but at ‘x program’ we did it this way, and that worked really well.” Still, though... no experience. You’ve got an entire paid staff full of no experience. I’m having trouble getting around that. At some less-elite program experiencing hard times like Penn State, NC State, or Ohio State? Sure, go crazy. But at the University of Georgia? The premier gymnastics program in women’s college history? I just don’t know.
My head is conflicting with my heart here. Every business and competitive instinct in my body says this is a bad idea. At the same time, though, I want the Gym Dogs to be champions again, and CKC is strong on that message. She has the desire and the charisma; there’s no doubt about that. I suppose time will tell in determining whether she has the actual ability, though.
Stay tuned to this space, as I’ll be coming back (eventually) with a run-down of the Gym Dogs’ incoming freshmen, who look like they’ll be a big addition to the program in CKC’s debut season. Until then...