The first team worlds following the Olympics is always exciting to watch how the different teams around the world adjust to the new fig code of points. It gives the team that wins the gold the early momentum and confidence heading into Tokyo for the 2020 Olympic Games. Even though Team USA had a disappointing 5th place finish at Rio, they are loaded with a mix of veterans, young talent and budding superstars. Last November the USA Gymnastics leadership position for the men’s national team was reorganized from a national team coordinator to a high performance director. Let’s take a look into the new mens high performance director, 2004 Olympic team silver-medalist Brett McClure.
As an athlete Brett McClure was on the U.S National Team from 1999-2006. His accomplishments on the team include a 2004 Olympic team silver medalist, two World team silver medals, and two U.S National Championships pommel horse titles. McClure also spent 5 years on the USA Junior National Team from 1994-1999.
In the coaching realm, McClure was the assistant coach for the U.S Air Force Academy from 2006-2010, where he was named Mountain West Associate Coach of the Year in 2010. He was also the assistant coach for Stanford from 2010-2013. In 2011, Stanford won the NCAA title and McClure was named National Assistant Coach of the Year. Since 2013, McClure has served as head coach for California-Berkley men’s program. In his time with the Bears, Cal finished sixth in the country in both 2015 and ’16.
There is no questioning McClure’s accomplishments as an athlete were outstanding and as a coach he has done a stellar job keeping Cal’s program going and competitive day in and day out. However, as the men’s program set their sights on capturing their first gymnastics team gold medal in US history at the 2018 World Championships, one question that comes to mind is was McClure the best candidate for the position? Were the other candidates seriously considered? If so, then who?
In my crystal ball, these are my seven spectacular candidates that would have been in consideration in my world. First up is the 3-time National Coach of the Year, Penn State gymnastics head coach Randy Jepson. After leading his teams to three national championships and three Big Ten titles, Randy is known as as one of the great coaches of this era. Under the 26 years of Randy serving as head coach he has mentored 17 individual national champions, and 111 All-America honors. In 2008, Randy coached 2008 Olympic team bronze medalist Kevin Tan.
The 2012 Olympic assistant coach, widely considered one of the top 3 junior coaches in the country, over the last two decades, Cypress Academy of Gymnastics head coach Tom Meadows has a built a powerhouse program. He serves as personal coach for two-time Olympian Jonathan Horton and 2016 Olympian Chris Brooks. In 2010, was awarded USA Gymnastics Senior Coach of the Year, and was selected as World Team assistant coach.
The next candidate is no stranger to the gymnastics community, he took over an 0-16 Michigan program in 1996 and since then has won 4 NCAA titles (’99, 2010, ’13, ’14). Michigan head coach Kurt Golder has had tremendous success over the last 5 years, including back-to-back NCAA and Big Ten Championships in 2013 and 2014. He also coached 2-time Olympian, Big ten Champion Sam Mikulak.
Thom Glielmi, Stanford head coach, known as a players coach has lead the Cardinals to NCAA titles in 2009 and 2011 where he was awarded National Coach of the Year. Glielmi has served on the USA Senior National Staff for ten years and was a member of the 2006 and 2007 USA World Championships Team coaching staff. As the head coach of the 2003 USA Pan American team he was instrumental in the team capturing the bronze medal.
Xiao Yuan, University of Michigan assistant coach is the only active coach to help two programs win NCAA titles (Oklahoma 2005, Michigan 2010, ‘13, ‘14). Upon arriving to the United States, Xiao coached Chinese Olympic and World Championship gymnasts, most notably Olympic gold medalists Yong Wei and Xing Aowei. Xiao has coaching with the University of Michigan for twelve seasons.
Rustam Sharvipov, two time Olympic gold medalist, has been serving as the head coach for the Ohio State men’s program since 2011. Last year he lead the Buckeyes to their first Big Ten title since 2007 and their highest NCAA finish since 2005 (3rd place). In addition, Coach Sharipov was awarded National Assistant Coach of the Year in 2006 and 2008 with Oklahoma.
And let’s not over look the most qualified person for the position, who I know interviewed. Fresh off back-to-back NCAA Championships (2015, 2016), Coach Mark Williams has his seventh team title in fifteen years with OU. The University of Oklahoma Men’s Gymnastics team is on a 58 consecutive win streak and has not lost a competition since April 11th of 2014. To date that is 2 years, 9 months, and 23 days since they finished second place at NCAA Championships. William was also the 2016 Olympic head coach and since being head coach at Oklahoma in 2000, he has positioned the program as a national contender every year with an overall mark of 433-36 (.923) in 17 seasons.
As you will notice the men’s program had quite a few candidates worthy of consideration for the high performance director position. So what was the deciding factor in choosing Brett McClure? Were the other chooses not even a choice for the Job? Did they not interview? After two unsuccessful Olympics, did USA Gymnastics really go after the best candidates. And why did it take them until one day before Winter Cup to choose a New coordinator? The womens program changed their national coordinator 30 days after Rio concluded and they won team gold. With the selection of a new national team on Saturday, did they really give the new High Performance Director, Brett McClure a chance to speak on the direction of the national team. It makes me wonder. I’m sure I am not the only one to say what has been going on since the Olympics, especially knowing the former coordinator Kevin Mazieka would be leaving by the end of the year. These are the questions that should be asked to the V.P Dennis McIntyre and the Men’s Program Committee (MPC) of USA Gymnastics. I am not saying Brett McClure, the new High Performance Director isn’t qualified for the position. As a fan of his and USA Gymnastics I hope this works out. But I would think after a tough last two Olympics we would have had a bit more transparency about the direction we were heading in and who is the person steering the ship of the U.S men’s gymnastics program. For all the talent, we deserve a reason why other qualified candidates did not get the nod.
Only time will tell, but if this selection does not pan out than maybe we should not only look to High Performance Director McClure as the reason we have not progressed, but also the selection process as well. USA Men’s Gymnastics you are on the clock.