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New Auburn Mountainview gymnastics coach Andrew Stranack looks to stick to the basics
For the first time in school history, the Auburn Mountainview gymnastics squad is competing under the leadership of a new coach.
This past season Jayme Hostetter – a former Auburn Reporter Coach of the Year winner who led the Lions to a 3A Washington State title in 2010 – stepped down after eight years. The school then named 3-year assistant coach Andrew Stranack as head coach.
Stranack, a 2004 graduate of Auburn High School, has coached gymnastics for seven years, including stints at Roach Gymnastics and the Auburn Gymnastics Center, where he still coaches recreational gymnasts.
"One of the coaches here [at Auburn Gymnastics Center] is one of my best friends, Chris Heinig," Stranack said. "He said they needed another coach down here. I was already working with Roach Gymnastics and I started working with the rec program here. I really like working with kids, it's fun."
Stranack, a star sprinter and high jumper in high school and college, said the initial learning curve for coaching gymnastics was steep.
"I knew nothing," he said. "I started coaching forward rolls, backward rolls, cartwheels and handstands, really basic stuff, and just worked my way through it. I just learned as I taught, and if I had questions, I could always go to other coaches and ask how to teach other things."
Stranack, however, was a quick study.
"Then I started working for the high school about three years ago and started working on bigger tricks," Stranack said.
Initially, Stranack said, Hostetter approached him when he began coaching the Lions and suggested that he start thinking about taking over the program.
"She was throwing around the idea of retiring," Stranack said. "She's been doing it so long, and she wanted time to do other things. She asked if I wanted the job as soon as I started. I asked her to give me a couple years and then I might take it."
When the time came after last season, Stranack jumped at the chance
"I was happy to take it. It's a new adventure. And I liked the kids. I was already there coaching also, so I took it."
He credits his time working with Hostetter for speeding up his development as a coach.
"She helped a lot," he said. "She has a very logical approach to gymnastics. You either can do it and work towards it, or you can't. It's actually really refreshing and not so emotional, which is important when working with teenage girls.
"Patience has been the hardest thing to learn," he continued. "Just knowing that a skill will not be immediate, that it takes a lot of time. Also, just reassuring the kids and teaching them patience. Because they all want it now, they want to be able to compete now."
Typically, the schools with the most club players are the ones that do well at the state tournaments, Stranack said.
With just one club kid on the Lion squad this season, Stranack said, competing with club athlete-laden South Puget Sound League was intimidating.
"When you go to a meet and the kids see the tricks from the other teams and they want to do them, it's intimidating," he said. "And it's tough to help them swallow that pill that other kids have been doing it their whole lives."
But for Stranack and the Lions, it's all about the basics.
"Jayme taught me with high school gymnastics that it's best to just teach the basics, do them well, get out on the floor and do well and be done," Stranack said. "We've been given a lot of compliments from judges already, but we don't have unrealistic expectations for them."
"I think a state championship is a little out of our reach, but I also think we can get a handful of kids to state," Stranack said. "We have some performers that can perform and some new kids with potential. We'll just play it as it comes."
As a coach, Stranack said he also is playing it as it comes, learning as much as he can as he hones his skills.
"I kind of want to go along with the logical aspects of just focusing on the physics [of gymnastics]," he said. As long as I can teach the kids this is what needs to happen, it's pretty basic. I kind of want to keep our standards high and stay clean and simple and just go out and get the job done."