Women’s gymnastics is a small world after all.
Michigan head coach Bev Plocki and assistant coach Joanne Bowers will be looking forward to this weekend in part because they will be able to meet their former coaches, colleagues and gymnasts.
A bevy of familiar faces will be coming to Cliff Keen Arena, but it’s not homecoming weekend. Rather, it’s a tri-meet with No. 19 Kent State and West Virginia. Plocki is an alumnus of West Virginia, and her former coaches from both club and college will be on hand, as well as Bowers’ old colleagues and gymnasts from Kent State.
“It’s going to be so much fun, all of us seeing our old friends,” Bowers said.
The influence of the West Virginia coaches on Plocki has been immense. Plocki said that much of what she knows about college coaching is due to West Virginia head coach Linda Burdette.
West Virginia assistant coach Danny Warbutton was Plocki’s club coach when she was 11 years old, and he taught her everything she knows about technical aspects of gymnastics.
In short, both have been major factors in Plocki’s life and may have led to her desire to coach.
“Both of these people were major influences on the person that I am and the direction that I chose for my career,” Plocki said. “A lot of how I do what I do is patterned after what I was taught by them.”
Bowers, on the other hand, was an assistant coach under Brice Biggin at Kent State and coached current assistant Jill Mackey. Bowers is looking forward to seeing them all this weekend.
“I am so excited, Brice and I are great friends,” Bowers said. “A lot of the girls are girls I helped recruit on the team.”
Bowers also has some inside information on how Kent State might respond to being on the road.
“I know the four years I was at Kent State we always competed so much better at home than we did on the road,” Bowers said.
Michigan is coming off a very disappointing weekend when it finished third at the State of Michigan Classic. But this week’s practices have been encouraging, and Plocki has seen a big difference in the way the team has approached practice. The Wolverines think they’ve put their mental breakdowns behind them.
“I think definitely it’s been unreal in the gym – the atmosphere has been so positive,” Big Ten co-gymnast of the Week Calli Ryals said. “Everyone seems to have taken that meet and used it for some good reason.”
Originally, the Golden Flashes weren’t on the schedule for Michigan, but Biggin wanted to get one more dual match in. It just so happened that this weekend was open for both teams, and Kent State was able to squeeze in. What transpired amounts to a large reunion.