Column: Tabitha Yim leading Arizona gymnastics program to new heights
A new aura has most certainly shined on the Arizona gymnastics program this season. Although the actual roster of gymnasts has most of the same faces as those from the past few seasons, with of course a few exceptions, the GymCats boast an impressive coaching staff with a wealth of experience.
Leading that staff and the team’s transformation is head coach Tabitha Yim. When Yim was hired by athletic director Greg Byrne in May, who could have predicted the success and preparation the team would have gone through in just nine months?
It starts with the rankings. Arizona is ranked No. 10 overall nationally. While it is nothing new to see the team rank in the top 25, top 10 is one of its highest rankings in the past couple of years.
While gymnastics is normally thought of as an individual sport, this team has shown a whole new mental attitude about teamwork. All one has to do in order to believe that statement is read through the GymCat Feature Friday articles on the Arizona Athletics website and read through what made Arizona stand out.
“The girls on the team were so fiery and enthusiastic when I visited Arizona.”
“The atmosphere and the bond that everyone had on the team.”
“The girls on the team are absolutely amazing inside and out.”
You get the picture.
Yim’s ability to coach her gymnasts and athletes through struggles is one of the main reasons she was hired in the first place.
“When I was watching Stanford compete, I watched Tabitha and her regular interaction with her student athletes and the way they responded to her and the coaching she was giving them,” Byrne said when Yim was hired. “It was very positive and they were constantly learning and being taught and thought this is something that would make sense for the UA.”
At the first meet of the season, Yim proved exactly that and I was able to watch it all first hand. In warm ups for the third event, freshman Skyler Sheppard seemed to struggle and had fallen off the beam a plethora of times during practice runs.
Before Sheppard actually competed, Yim spoke to her on the sidelines and coached her through each movement she was about to make.
Through the coaching, Sheppard earned first place overall in the event with a score of a 9.825.
“Providing that development for young leaders to use those skills after college and do everything with integrity and heart [is] something that I really value,” Yim said back in May.
It’s easy to see why her gymnasts listen to every word she says. Yim lives and breathes success. As a collegiate gymnast, Yim was a 14-time All-American, the most in Stanford history. Additionally, she competed for the U.S. National Team and won floor exercise at the U.S. Championships.
But it’s been her community involvement which helped her break GymCat attendance records at the season opener against Michigan State.
Yim and the GymCats hand-delivered season tickets to fans in the Tucson community. But even more so, it has been the social media videos grabbing all the attention.
From the “Whip/Nae Nae” video with Arizona football head coach Rich Rodriguez to the “So You Think You Can GymCat” videos, it’s easy to see why this team can walk with a little pep in their step during meets.
Probably the most underrated part of the coaching staff is their own ability and experience together. Anchoring Yim on the coaching staff are assistant coaches John Court and David McCreary.
Court has been with the program for 18 years and has served as the lead recruiter. McCreary, on the other hand, is also new to Arizona like Yim, but he brings top notch Pac-12 Conference experience as well. He previously coached at Washington and Oregon State. Rounding out the coaching staff is volunteer assistant Randi Acosta, who is an expert on floor choreography.
Sometimes change is necessary and, for the Arizona gymnastics program, it has only been positive thus far with Yim leading the charge.