Exclusive Interview: Jenny Rowland, UF Gymnastics Head Coach

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Jenny (Ester) Rowland started her gymnastics career as an athlete training under Toni LaFleur (Rand) at LaFleur’s Gymnastics in Largo, FL.  She eventually moved to Oklahoma to train at Gymnastics Country USA under coach Kristy Krafft.

Rowland at the 2000 US Classic.
Photo: gymn.ca

Jenny was a U.S. National Team Member from 1985-1990 and was a member of the 1989 World Championships Team that represented the U.S. in Stuttgart, West Germany.

In 1986, she appeared in the movie “American Anthem“, a gymnastics themed drama, as Tracy Prescott.

As a collegiate gymnast, Jenny was an All-American on Bars in 1993 while attending Arizona State.

After Jenny retired from competitive gymnastics due to an injury, she coached at Bart Conner Gymnastics Academy where she was an elite coach for 5 years.  In addition to being an elite coach, Jenny is a Category 3 International Brevet Judge.  As a judge she has had the honor of judging the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Trials.

After coaching at Bart Conner Gymnastics Academy Jenny was the Oklahoma University Assistant Coach from 2001-2006.  She then found herself at Auburn University as the Assistant Coach from 2010-2013 before becoming the Assistant Head Coach from 2013-2015.

Jenny is the current National Collegiate Assistant Coach of the Year and was also named the co-National Assistant Coach of the Year.

Jenny Rowland now brings her wealth of experience and knowledge to her role as the new Head Coach of the three time National Champions, the Florida Gators.

Q: What differences have you noticed between coaching at Auburn compared to UF?

A: No two years have ever been the same; every year brings new energy and different dynamics to a team’s chemistry.  This team is no different than the others I have coached in the past.  Other than working alongside two new coaches, gymnastics is gymnastics and there is always a new story after each season.

Q: Tell me about your freshman coming in this year (strengths/weaknesses)?

Alicia Boren – biggest strength is vault and floor.  Consistency in workouts and past performances have proven her to be a strong competitor.

Amanda Cheney – should be a strong contender on vault and beam.  Her hard work is second to none and a great role model in and out of the gym.

Lacy Dagen – is sidelined for the 2016 season with a knee injury.

Peyton Ernst – will be a strong beam competitor; strengths include international experience and competition history

Ashley Hiller – should be a contender on vault and floor.  Competitive nature is a plus.

Peyton, Alicia, & Lacy
Photo: floridagators.com

A: This senior team is filled with a variety of veterans.  Not only do our seniors bring a lot of international experience to the table; they bring leadership qualities such as work ethic and competitive spirit into the gym that is contagious.  Each has their own unique quality that has helped bring this team to be what it is today.

Q: What are your feelings (pros/cons) about recruiting former Elite athletes compared to recruiting top JO athletes?

A: Recruiting athletes with talent, desire to continue to learn and a passion for gymnastics is of utmost importance.  You may not always find these qualities in all Elites and JO athletes, but are important attributes to look for regardless of their “level”.

Q: Your third meet of the season will be at Auburn.  What advantages or disadvantages do you think you have going against your former team?

A: As gymnastics is a subjective sport, I don’t foresee any advantages or disadvantages competing at Auburn vs. any other team.  Whichever team hits and is better each night, deserves to win.  Most importantly, you should learn something from each meet and try to improve throughout the season.

Q: Did Rhonda leave you with any advice about coaching the three time National Champions?

A: Enjoy the ride!

Q: What, if any, changes have you made this year to the training schedule or coaching philosophies previously followed by Rhonda Faehn?

A: I feel that most everything has changed as far as coaching philosophies go, as no two coaches are alike.  However, the training schedule has not changed much (if it is not broken; don’t try to fix it) but just tweaked a little bit.

Q: What is your coaching philosophy?

A: I would say that I have an athlete driven coaching style.

Q: Does being a former national team member and brevet judge give you any advantages as a coach?

A: I feel that all of my past experiences in and out of the sport have helped me be the person/coach I am today.  As a former national team member, I have the knowledge and understanding of what these athletes have experienced.  As a judge, I feel that it has helped me become a better coach in understanding technique and composition.

Q: What are your team goals this year?

A: My goals for the team this year is to enjoy the process, as this is a new journey for them.  If they do this and have fun at what they are doing, their talents and competitive nature will help guide them to achieve much success.

Q: Tell me the types of emotions/feelings you have as you approach the beginning of your first season as the Head Coach of the Florida Gators Women’s Gymnastics Team?

A: I couldn’t be more excited to be on the competition floor as a Florida Gator!  So incredibly honored and proud of what this team has already accomplished!  Now to have a lot of fun!! 🙂

Gym Blog Central would like to wish Jenny, the UF Gators, and all the NCAA gymnastics teams a safe and successful season!

Source: al.com, ncaa.com, wikipedia.com, floridagators.com, Toni Rand (LaFleur)

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