Utah’s gymnastics team won the school’s first Pac-12 team championship this month. Red Rocks co-head coach Megan Marsden, a two-time NCAA all-around champion, reflects on the big win and discusses other topics with Deseret News sportswriter Melissa Yack during Utah's bye week before NCAA regionals on April 5.
Q: Describe what winning the first Pac-12 team championship for Utah means to you.
A: It’s been quite awhile since one of mine and Greg (Marsden)'s teams have won something of this significance since we hadn't been involved in a conference recently, and our last national championship was in 1995. Of course to be the first Pac-12 championship team for Utah, we take a lot of pride in that. But I’m proud for our entire department, not just gymnastics. I think it’s a group effort to prove we belong in the Pac-12 and this helps. Everybody can ride on this.
Q: You loved the beam when you competed, but few others feel the same. Why is that?
A: I was unusual, and anybody in this day and age is unusual if they choose beam as their favorite out of the four events. I think the reason is that event is such a mental game because it moves slower and allows more time for your mind to move to the negative. Over time it costs gymnasts meets, and they have a bad memory from a certain situation where they blew it on beam. By the time gymnasts get to college, I have to spend time as a coach building the love back a little bit.
Q: Gymnastics is a physically demanding sport. Do you see more positive or negative effects after gymnasts stop competing?
A: We are fortunate to stay in touch with our alumni. I rarely hear negative stories, other than about a few surgeries here and there. Many of our gymnasts take what they can with them. Sure, flipping and twist go away, but most continue to involve fitness in their lifestyle whether they are teaching CrossFit or spinning, or just working with their family to keep everyone healthy. I see the benefit of them being in a sport where they had to pay attention to their body and that carries over.
Q: Why do you stress community service to your gymnasts?
A: I really believe service opportunities help the girls grow. We’ve had so much fun at our elementary school assemblies teaching kids about finding something they love and working hard. We’ve also volunteered with the Humane Society because so many of our girls love animals. This past year we volunteered at a senior center and had an 80-year-old woman show us her splits. The girls really love building these relationships, and we try to find activities that fit with their interests and connect them to the community that in turn supports us.
Q: What’s it like when you have to say goodbye to a student-athlete you’ve coached?
A: We get to spend four, five years with these girls during a developmental time when they are trying to figure out who they are, what they are about, and who they want to be. We train together, travel together, and experience the good and bad times together. We see kids go from freshman year to senior year and become the people they become. They come in as cool kids, but get even better, believe it or not.