COLUMN: New gymnastics coach Christine MacDonald brings steady force that program needs
Without a doubt, Christine MacDonald is the right hire for the Central Michigan gymnastics team.
She steps into the role occupied by Jerry Reighard for the past 34 years. She served as his assistant coach for the past 23 years, being promoted to associate head coach in 2006. As of 2020, she will be the fourth head coach in program history.
While an overall successful season of competition in 2019, the program had one of its more difficult seasons out of the arena with the fate of its longtime head coach in limbo. With that said, the Chippewas handled themselves the best that they could.
MacDonald held everything together, tight as glue.
A 13-2 record with close losses to nationally recognized programs showed a strong season for CMU. However, a perfect 6-0 record in the conference put the Chippewas in the driver's seat to secure the MAC regular season championship, the group's ninth in 17 years.
When Reighard was placed on administrative leave on Feb. 20, the team knew it was business as usual, just with a new person at the helm. But throughout the lineup, it seemed evident that each gymnast was still having fun, maybe even more fun. The smiles were apparent, and there was a new sense of energy and that translated to higher scores, routine after routine.
A lot of the “culture change" can be attributed to MacDonald.
Much of what she has said since she took the reins of the program includes keeping things “fun-oriented” and “enjoying the little moments.”
That seemed to be something that was missing under Reighard, who was more “winning is everything" than “we need to have fun" type of coach. He had more of an old-school philosophy, and it worked – seeing as his teams won 16 MAC Championships.
But that philosophy has since faded out to a new competitive mentality, something MacDonald brings to the table.
In a day and age where fun has seemed to take the highest importance over grueling completeness, old-school does not cut it. MacDonald seems to relate better to her team and fully wants her squad to have fun while they are on the mats competing.
Could it be the fact that she, too, wants to have fun? That is entirely possible. In the short, while she has taken on the role, she has been having fun and enjoying the ride.
MacDonald looks and acts the part of a steady force for a program that needs one. The gymnastics program was in a desperate need of a culture change.
MacDonald fits that mold for overall success, more MAC Championships and possibly even making noise in the NCAA Championships.
When looking at the returning lineup that's combined with the leadership of MacDonald, do not be surprised if the Chippewas find themselves in the national conversation again in 2020.
This time, however, it could be a deeper run towards the title.