A change in dynamics; Assistant coach and judge, Bethany Hander takes over as Austin head gymnastics coach

Published 10:56 am Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Austin gymnastics team keeps winning and the changes keep coming.

The Packers, who have competed in seven of the last eight Minnesota Class A State Gymnastics Meets, will turn to their fifth head coach in five years as Bethany Hander takes over head coaching duties.

But the change isn’t a major one for Austin as Hander was an assistant coach and she’s coached at the Austin YMCA for more than a decade. Hander also served as a gymnastics judge in the past.

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“It’s a learning experience for everybody. We’re all learning,” Hander said. “They’re used to having a different coach. They just have to get used to the dynamics of me being the authoritative head coach and not the fun assistant coach. I’ve been a little more aggressive and they’re not used to that.”

Hander hasn’t had to go it alone as she’s received plenty of help from two of Austin’s former head coaches — Mark Raymond and Nikki Lindberg, who have both helped out with the team. That has been crucial for Hander as she deals with nuances of going going from YMCA coach to head coach.

“It’s a learning experience for everybody. We’re all learning.”
– Bethany Hander, coach

“With Mark and Nikki in the gym, that makes it pretty easy,” Hander said. “Mark is awesome to work with.”

While they did graduate some key leaders in Maddie Mullenbach and Paige Raymond, Packers also have a long-time varsity standout in senior Jen Boyle, who won a state title in bars as a sophomore.

Boyle said she’s been working with the younger gymnasts to adjust to the varsity level and she’s enjoyed working with Hander so far this season.

“She runs practice well. I feel like we get a lot done,” Boyle said of Hander. “She’s pushing us a lot. She’s making sure that we’re not slacking and when we’re learning a new skill she makes sure that we’re doing it efficiently instead of wasting a lot of time on different stages.”

Hander said it’s helpful to have athletes like Boyle on hand to help lead the team from within.

“There are girls here that were on my YMCA team and I knew some of them as an assistant coach last year. It’s been a pretty easy transition,” Hander said. “Jen’s been great. She’s been in here coaching the YMCA and a lot of the kids say they want to be like Jen. She’s been a great role model for them.”