Packer gymnasts turn to a new head coach

Published 7:37 pm Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Alex Bade is the new Austin gymnastics head coach. -- Rocky Hulne/

Alex Bade is the new Austin gymnastics head coach. — Rocky Hulne/

The Austin gymnastics team is turning to a young coach who has coaching experience with one of their rivals at the state meet to lead them this season.

Alex Bade, who has coached with Melrose High School, a Class A state power, is taking over the Austin gymnastics program and he has come to Austin to keep up a winning tradition. The Packers have competed in four Class A state meets in the past six seasons and getting back to state is still the goal of the Packers, who have also won back-to-back Big Nine titles.

“I moved all the way from St. Cloud to coach this team. If that doesn’t tell you I want to be here I don’t know what would,” Bade said. “There’s a lot of talent on this team that I’m excited to work with. The goal is definitely to go to state and hopefully win it. We’re going to aim high.”

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Bade, who graduated from Big Lake High School in 2007, coached at a club gymnastics team in St. Cloud for the past two years, he coached with Melrose for three years, and he coached with the Brainerd High School team as well. Bade, who played college football at Central Lakes College in Brainerd, became involved in gymnastics after his senior year in high school when he worked as a spotter for the summer and sport just stuck with him.

Bade has the advantage of having two very experienced seniors to assist him this season. Austin gymnasts Abby Bickler and Carolyn Hackel have been varsity gymnasts since they were seventh graders on they were on all four of the state qualifying gymnastics teams.

Those two seniors will make the coaching transition much easier for the team. Bickler said the squad remembers seeing Bade at a couple of summer camps in Brainerd and he also worked with the Austin team a little over the summer.

“It’s definitely a big adjustment for all of us,” Bickler said of the coaching change. “Hopefully different experience will bring different results this year.”

Hackel said the team had built a close relationship with former head coach Mark Raymond over the years and it’ll be a big change to turn to a new coach this season. But she’s still excited to get this season going.

“He’s pretty intense and for the most part, we’re all pretty open to new things. It’ll be difficult, but once we all get moving on the same page, we’ll be great,” Hackel said. “I think he’s a great coach. It’s nice to know he’s worked with girls that are successful, but we’re a lot different from Melrose. He brings a lot of good things from Melrose to the gym and we really appreciate it.”

Bade said he knows Raymond and he was familiar with how successful the Austin gymnastics program has been over the past few years. He said that having gymnasts like Hackel and Bickler will be very helpful this season.

“They are very experienced,” he said. “They know what they’re doing and the kids feed off it. They’re very good leaders and it helps a ton to have them here.”

The Austin gymnastics team will open its season with the winter-warmup invite at the Austin YMCA Nov. 29 at 11:30 a.m.