Guard Young, BYU’s gymnastics coach, is realistic about his team’s chances of upsetting No. 3 Utah Friday in Provo, acknowledging that the Utes are on another level right now.
But he still has his expectations.
“I want our girls to go out there and be competitive with them and not shrink,” he said. “They have a lot of great talent on that team and look like a Top 5 team in my opinion, but I want to see who we are. We could be a MyKayla Skinner to two away from being on the level Utah is and I want us to rise our level of gymnastics and not shrink.”
Having the talents of someone like the Utah phenom certainly would help anyone’s roster, but Young isn’t feeling desperate about his own team by any means.
Young, who is in his fifth season as the Cougars’ coach, has had the Cougars on an upward swing. Last year they finished ranked 17th, their highest ranking in 13 years, and took second in the Mountain rim Gymnastics Conference and fourth at NCAA regionals.
“We carried the momentum of last year into our off-season training and we want to build on it,” Young said. “Regionals are something we need to be in every single year and we want to be competitive in the conference too and challenge teams for that title.”
A gymnast for BYU from 1996-2000, Young was familiar with the women’s program and understood what it would take to make it successful again when he was hired in 2015 to replace long-time coaches Brad and Dawn Cattermole who retired after 28 years.
The Cattermoles built a solid program that competed in eight national championships and 24 regionals, but it had slipped in recent years, failing to make the NCAAs since 2005.
Bringing some consistent success to the Cougars was one of Young’s first orders and he has pushed the Cougars in their workouts and stressing the importance of their summer voluntary workouts.
Coaches can only be present for safety purposes during voluntary workouts according to NCAA rules, but Young said he expects his team to focus on getting in shape, learning new skills and working new routines during that time.
“I believe in hard work,” he said. “There is no substitute or secret sauce, you have to put in the work and you make the biggest jumps in summer months,” he said. “Once the season comes around the hard work pays off. You don’t learn a new skill in January.”
Young also believes in building the program by recruiting specialists, rather than all-around talent.
ABOUT GUARD YOUNG
• Head coach of Cougars since 2015
• Served as assistant men’s coach at Oklahoma 2000-05
• Member of BYU men’s gymnastics team 1996-2000, winning NCAA vault titles in 1999 and 2000
• Member of the 2004 Olympic team that won a silver medal
• Father Wayne Young was a BYU gymnast from 1970-75 and coached the men’s program from 1979-87
Such a philosophy allows him to get talent other programs might pass over in favor of all-arounders and with the NCAA regional format expanding from a one day to three-day event, Young believes having more bodies available will become even more important.
“I think it is something we are going to see more of,” he said of specialists. “We can compete with 15 gymnasts and I think you are going to see bigger and bigger teams.”
This year the Cougars have 11 freshmen on the roster and just two seniors in Natasha Marsh and Cheyenne Hill.
Junior Shannon Evans is the team’s leader on the floor after she had an impressive 2018 season in which she won the league all-around title and became the school’s first All-American in 14 years when she earned the honors on the uneven bars.
With the talent on the roster this year, Young has growing expectations for his team. The improvements have been noticed by others too, including Utah coach Megan Marsden.
“They came in and pushed improving and there is no question they have done that,” she said of Young and his coaching staff. “Their team each year has been ready for the season. They are performing better under pressure and are well prepared. They are definitely bringing the program back on track.”
Although Young had never coached women’s gymnastics before taking over the program, Young said there wasn’t much of a difference between coaching men and women.
“The bigger challenge was moving from being an assistant to a head coach, there are a lot more moving parts to worry about like donors, academics and things like that,” he said.
Even with the challenge of rebuilding BYU’s program, Young feels lucky to have the opportunity, remembering the times he followed his father, Wayne, around the campus when he coached the men’s team from 1979-87.
“I grew up in these halls,” he said. “I walk the halls and the memories come flooding back.”
NO. 3 UTAH AT BYU
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Records: Utah 1-0; BYU 0-0
Series: Utah leads 97-2
Last regular season meeting: Utah won 197-194.275 (Jan. 5, 2018)
Of note: This is the first of three road meets for the Utes, who travel next to Oregon State (Jan. 11) and Arizona State (Jan. 25)…Utah’s 197.175 against Penn State in the opener was the best opening day score for the program since 2005…The Utes have won 39 in a row against BYU…The Cougars were ranked No. 24 in the preseason poll but are unranked since they have yet to compete…BYU’s Shannon Evans was a second-team All-American on bars in 2018, playing 12th at the NCAA Championships.