ASU gymnastics coaches flip priorities

This is the first season the husband and wife coaching duo will lead the ASU women's gymnastics team.

Point your toes. Extend your legs. Knees together. Remember, “pretty feet win the meet.” Arms straight. Reach for that perfect 10.0.

A gymnastics coach says these things so often, they are forever ingrained in the minds of gymnasts.

Gymnastics is a sport of perfection. Every toe must be pointed. Knees must always be glued together and straightened. As a gymnast, you train hard to reach that perfect 10.0. That perfection cannot be reached without the help and support of your coach.

Jay Santos was hired earlier this past year as the head gymnastics coach of the ASU women’s gymnastics team. His wife, Jessica Santos, is coaching beside him as the new assistant coach.

The coaching duo coached Eastern Michigan University gymnastics and led them to the Mid-American Conference championship. They also broke eight school records during their time at Eastern Michigan gymnastics.

This is the first gymnastics season Jay and Jessica are leading the ASU women’s gymnastics team. “I think there is a lot of change with a new coaching staff,” Jessica says. Their approach to coaching involves an open pathway of communication between the coach the and the gymnast.

“Culture is so important to the success of the program,” Jay says.

Communication helps sustain a quality program, according to Jay.

Gymnastics is typically an individual sport. As young athletes, gymnasts always competed against their teammates. However, in college gymnastics the team score is highly emphasized.

“We really try to bring that team aspect into it,” Jessica says. “How can we make it cohesive and a team, but yet make sure that we are coaching the individual gymnast to make them the best gymnast that they can be.”

Jay and Jessica hope to help the girls become more confident on each event. Currently bars and beams are the team’s strongest events, says Jay and Jessica.

“One of our biggest things is trying to find balance between trying to work as hard as we possibly can without overdoing it,” Jay says.

Last year several girls were unable to participate during competition season due to injuries. The goal is to have strong, healthy athletes on the team.

This year, every single athlete is training in an event, the coaching duo says.

“That means we are healthier, but a lot of those athletes are limited on what they can train,” Jessica says.

The health and depth of the team were two of the greatest obstacles the coaches had to overcome, Jessica says. Many of the gymnasts can only train one or two events. This makes it more difficult to have consistent scores because if a gymnast is missing, there is no one to replace her. This greatly impacts the total score of the team.

“We are making improvements and we need to keep working on that,” Jay says. “Every time we go to a meet and make a mistake, we put emphasis on that event.”

Gymnastics has taught Jay and Jessica several lessons. However, patience is one of the greatest virtues the two have learned as coaches.

“There are going to be bumps in the road,” Jay says.

A gymnast may have a bad routine, but learning to move forward is the difficult part.

“This career is one of the most rewarding careers,” Jessica says.“Work ethic, confidence and mental toughness are skills they will use for the rest of their lives.”

Nichelle Christopherson is a junior on the Arizona State University gymnastics team. She is also co-captain and one of the only two upperclassmen on the team.

“I think our coaches saw me as a potential leader on the team and I really wanted to fulfill that role,” Christopherson says. “I see this team as an awesome opportunity.”

Reach the reporter at or follow @Sunaina_Tandon on Twitter.

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