Kasey Crawford has been with the UW-La Crosse gymnastics program for 12 years, but this season she’s taking on a new role.
In her first year as head coach, Crawford is taking over a team that features seven returning NCGA All-Americans, a group of seniors who have all performed at the national level and a freshman class of eight that have already transitioned to a new team. In leading the program, Crawford’s bringing a vision that comes with three key components — heart, honesty and finishing.
“I’m creating my vision, or mission, for the program since it has officially come under my wing,” said Crawford, who was a UW-L gymnast from 2004-08. “With heart, we have athletes that love gymnastics and want to be here and they’re learning what it means to have heart. It means working hard and caring about your teammates while being committed to team goals and having gratitude.”
The heart is coming from a senior group of Amy Enright, Monique Muehlethaler, Leah Spankowski, Samantha Wiekamp and Lauren Wilson. Enright is coming off her fourth All-American performance after tying for seventh on the uneven bars last season. Wiekamp earned her fifth All-American honor last season after placing eighth in the all-around competition.
Next for Crawford’s vision is honesty.
“As 18-22 year-olds they’re (the team) learning to communicate honestly and learning how to have positive self talks with themselves and being positive; it’s more of a mental training,” Crawford said. “Honesty is an important part of the program.”
Learning that component is a freshman class that has been adjusting to the in’s and out’s of what it means to be a UW-L gymnast. The learning came relatively easy, according to Crawford, as she described the transition as something that happened quickly.
The final component of Crawford’s vision is finishing.
The Eagles have shown they know how to finish after placing second at the National Collegiate Gymnastics Association team championship last year. The second-place finish marked the program’s 24th top-two finish in 34 NCGA appearances.
“As a gymnast, that (finishing) can be hard as it’s a tough sport. A lot of them have been doing it since they were 3 years old and having the mindset that even though this is a difficult sport, we will still have 100 percent commitment and to finish what we begin,” Crawford said. “We want to finish out our careers as best as we can.”
The Eagles begin their season with a flight to Colorado Springs, Colo., to take on the U.S. Air Force Academy on Jan. 6. The team’s schedule also features three home meets before capping off the regular season against UW-Whitewater, a team that always brings great competition, according to Crawford.
Crawford has made it her goal to not only have her team perform well, but to do whatever it takes for the gymnasts to embrace the team aspect of the sport.
“As a team, whatever happens at the end is what happens,” Crawford said. “We’ll do whatever it takes to be successful and improve, but I want them to love being a UW-L gymnast.”