Directions: Use the interview notes/quotes to write a 400-500 word profile on Penn State women’s gymnastics coach Jeff Thompson. You may also draw from anything you can find online at http://www.gopsusports.com/sports/w-gym/psu-w-gym-body.html including Thompson’s bio, season results, etc. Use anything else you can find on Thompson online if you’d like (with the exception of the actual profile that was published using this interview!).
Interview with Jeff Thompson, first-year women’s gymnastics head coach at Penn State
Thank you for taking the time to talk with me. Why don’t we start by telling me about how you got into coaching:
I grew up going to the YMCA. I got involved with the YMCA leaders club and what the leaders club does is they learn how to teach all the different things the Y offers. I taught swim lessons and diving and gymnastics, volleyball, soccer, you name it. In high school I did a lot more stuff. When I went to college I started in mechanical engineering for 2 ½ years. I didn’t want to calculate the efficiencies of refrigerator systems so I switched majors to physical education. I went into physical education to go into the Y. Y jobs are like coaching jobs, sometimes there are a lot of positions available, sometimes not only are there a lot of positions available, but they are also good ones. Other times the pickings are slimmer. At the time I graduated I didn’t see myself going to downtown Detroit to a YMCA. I just worked some part time stuff that summer and went back to school and looked for a grad program and found sport biomechanics and basically biomechanics isthe study of human motion. Mechanical engineering and physical education blended perfectly in biomechanics. It was at that time that I got into coaching.
Now, you weren’t a gymnast growing up, right?
No I wasn’t. I played rugby in college, actually. I didn’t really think about gymnastics at all.
How did you get into coaching, then?
I was invited in January of 1986 as a master’s student [at the University of Kentucky.] I was dating one of the girls on the team, so I knew the coach, knew the girls and the gymnastics training facility was in the PE building, so I was there all the time. I walked in one day and was asked if I wanted to help out, move the mats, move the boards. I realized I could look at a gymnastics skill and tell them what they needed to change to complete it because it’s basic mechanics and physics. If you understand how things work mathematically you can use English to coach someone to do that.
“Most gymnastics coaches were gymnasts themselves. What I find in every sport is coaches coach as they were coached. You say things coaches said to you. I’m not like that. With every skill I approach it from the mechanics standpoint.”
I’ve been doing it for 26 years, but on some things I can go back and think what did I use to do for drills for this.
Get a FREE copy of Kill the Quarterback
Get a free digital copy of Jim Stovall's mystery novel, Kill the Quarterback. You will also get Jim's newsletter and advanced notice of publications, free downloads and a variety of information about what he is working on. Jim likes to stay in touch, so sign up today.