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Assistants step up, coach CV gymnastics

Central Valley assistant gymnastic coach Sara Lawrence, left and co-head coach Brittney Schmidt watch their team practice on balance beam Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016. Schmidt is a new coach for the team this year and is a former CV gymnast. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Central Valley assistant gymnastic coach Sara Lawrence, left and co-head coach Brittney Schmidt watch their team practice on balance beam Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016. Schmidt is a new coach for the team this year and is a former CV gymnast. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Lizzie Roberg and her coaching partner Brittney Schmidt have bigger jobs this year.

The pair, who had been assistants under longtime Central Valley gymnastics coach Kim Brunelle, teamed up to coach the Lady Bears after Brunelle’s retirement.

“Brunelle was an amazing coach and the girls love her,” Roberg said. “Whenever she pops her head in to see how things are going the girls just flock to her.”

Roberg laughed.

“I have to say, the job is different for us this year,” she said. “The last few years all Brittney and I had to do was show up and work with the girls. Now we have a whole new batch of responsibilities.”

Roberg competed at Lewis and Clark before joining Brunelle’s coaching staff. Schmidt is a former CV gymnast who competed for Brunelle and was an assistant for seven seasons before taking on the top job.

“I knew Kim when I was younger,” Roberg said. “To be honest, she intimidated me a little bit. She has a strong personality, but she has a way of getting her girls to listen to her that is impressive. I think because she was doing it for so long she had a lot of knowledge. She just knew what drills to do to help her girls get better. She had a way of taking a girl who had no skills as a freshman and have them be a state-caliber gymnast by the time they were a senior. That’s amazing.”

Roberg and Schmidt are taking a long view of their first season as head coaches.

The Bears do not have a single senior on the squad, so the entire team will be back next year.

So the team will forego an annual trip to Western Washington for a holiday gymnastics tournament in favor of saving some money from the team budget to go toward buying some new equipment.

“The whole point of making a trip like that is to help the team chemistry and help the girls bond,” Roberg said. “We’ll see if we can accomplish that with a good team sleepover.

“What we really need is a new set of uneven bars and, if we can find the room in our team budget, a new floor.”

University is upgrading its padded floor, a primary need to protect gymnasts during the floor exercise, and CV hopes to buy it at the end of the season.

Too many gymnastics programs are forced to use a wrestling mat for the floor exercise. But what works to protect wrestlers doesn’t come close to protecting gymnasts from the pounding that comes from landing required elements of their routine.

“Our athletic director, Butch Walter, has been great and a huge supporter for us,” she said. “He got us a foam pad that we can put down. It helps – it’s designed for cheerleaders. It’s not as good as a foam gymnastics floor, but it’s better.”

Roberg and Schmidt are committed to building the team aspect of their squad.

“I like to think that gymnastics is the most individual of all the team sports and you can get locked into that individual mindset,” Roberg said. “We want our girls to feel how important it is to be a team and to compete as a team.”

The team has a solid core of experienced gymnasts who started out in area clubs.

“I remember what it was like to compete in club,” Roberg said. “I hate to admit it, but I was a selfish gymnast when I was doing club. I can honestly say that I don’t remember ever caring whether my team won or lost. That wasn’t the focus you were supposed to have.

“That’s the great thing about competing for the school team. It’s a team and you’re representing your school.

“Brunelle was really into getting the girls to buy into being part of a team and we’re continuing that. And at the same time I believe that we need to make this as much fun as we possibly can.

“The key thing for me is to make sure gymnastics stays alive and stays in the schools. I don’t want it to go away. I think it’s too important.”

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