LSU coach D-D Breaux says the longevity and consistency of a staff is crucial to the team’s success.
The Tiger coaching staff includes Breaux, coaches Jay Clark and Bob Moore, volunteer coach Ashleigh Clare-Kearney and graduate assistant Ashleigh Gnat.
Clark and Moore in particular have been vital to LSU’s success in the last 18 years, combining for six national champions and 54 All-American honors in their respective events.
“Both of our assistants are both national champions so they both have that ‘been there, done that’ feeling,” Breaux said. “Jay and Bob have coached national champions, coached Super Six teams and, for Jay, national championship teams. So there’s so much experience as a coaching staff and we have a very consistent coaching message.”
“The longevity of a staff and the experience of our staff and our ability to be able to compete with the market and keep our staff has been critical,” Breaux said.
But how do two men become some of the most successful coaches in the history of women’s college gymnastics? Both Clark and Moore describe their entrance into the world of gymnastics as “accidental.”
While at Samford University, Moore took a gymnastics class as his physical education and found out he had an aptitude for the sport. He often worked as a spotter at gyms close by in order to pay his way through college.
Clark, on the other hand, went to college hoping to walk on the University of Georgia’s football team. He didn’t end up on the team, but he became acquainted with multiple gymnasts that opened doors for him.
Behind every strong female coach is a long battle she fought to better women’s athletics for…
He, similar to Moore, started as a student assistant, working camps across the country and getting help from wherever he could.
Before joining the Tigers, both Moore and Clark came up in the ranks at other Southeastern Conference schools.
Moore spent six years at the University of Florida and six at Auburn University as an assistant, while Clark spent time as assistant coach, head coach and recruiting coordinator at Georgia, his alma mater.
“Jay is a tremendous recruiter,” Breaux said. “He was a head coach and an assistant coach with a tremendous amount of experience and wisdom about what it takes to compete at this level. It’s not like we have anybody on our staff that we’re trying to bring along or coach up.”
Managing the psychological and emotional aspects of coaching gymnastics is where the maturity of the staff really begins to matter, Clark explains.
The scenarios that they have encountered as a staff, from girls dealing with social life to academic struggles, Clark says they know how to nip things in the bud before they become problems.
“The experience of our staff really lends itself well to stability and a calmness under fire,” Clark said. “We’ve seen so many things happen over the years that I’ve been through that and we can say that to our kids when they experience it.”
The University of Miami football team has a “turnover chain,” but LSU gymnastics has its own bling.
While LSU’s coaching staff has largely contributed to its success in recent years, the consistency of its gymnasts and the recruiting of elite gymnasts has changed the way LSU competes in the SEC.
Moore has coached LSU’s elite vault lineup that finished in the top-10 in 13 of his 18 seasons and No. 1 in the country in 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017.
Clark took LSU’s bars lineup to new heights with his arrival in 2013. Since then, LSU has finished third in the nation every season.
“The more time you have with any athlete, theoretically, the better they’re going to get if you’re doing your job and I’m enjoying the ride,” Clark said. “People want to give credit to a coach sometimes but really it’s about the kids and what they do.”
As he recruits, Clark often reminds recruits that he was in their place just five years ago, after resigning as head coach at Georgia. When Breaux was looking for another coach to join herself and Moore, who arrived at LSU in 2000, Clark was the only person she thought of calling.
“I came because I felt like it was a place where the same kinds of things could happen that I had seen over the course of 22 years over there [at Georgia],” Clark said. “What convinced me to take the job was that I really believed that it could happen for us here.”
Those same things that drew Clark to the position are what draw potential gymnasts to LSU. From the academics to athletic facilities and the exposure the University gets, not many places can rival LSU in the recruiting process, Clark said.
LSU itself presents a special overall experience that goes further than gymnastics.
“Honestly, I am so honored to be a part of all this because I’ve been around for 40-something years,” Moore said. “I get this message. I get what we do with the girls. I like what we do. We do more things than just gymnastics. It’s life lessons, prioritizing and all that stuff.”
It’s not just about the talents an athlete has when they come to LSU. It has to be the group of them together to make an impact, Moore explained.
LSU and its coaching staff present an environment that allows athletes to come in and succeed.
“I think we have a good system here,” Clark said. “I think we have a great culture and environment. We’ve got kids that have bought in and that’s the single most important thing. Coaches are not any good if they don’t have the right kids in their program.”