Tips and advice from those who know
After earning Coach of the Year in 2005 and leading Iowa State to
its first NCAA Super Six finals in ’06, Kindler made a switch to
Oklahoma. The second-year Sooners coach recently told IG what
it’s like to coach with a spouse, what all freshmen need to learn,
and her secret strategy for selecting a lineup.
You were a standout gymnast and coach at Iowa State before
going to Oklahoma. What led to the change, and how hard was it
to leave your alma mater? I never sought another head coaching
position while at Iowa State, but this one fell in my lap. Oklahoma
made it impossible to say no. I have had very little change in my life —
18 years at ISU — and I decided to challenge myself. It was heart-wrenching to leave friends, alumni, athletes and recruits. The ISU program was in a good place, and I felt Lou and I could move forward.
safe. Ultimately, support is the most important element: support from
the Athletic Department, the coaching staff, the academic student-athlete services and the University. Oklahoma is a great product, and that
makes the sale that much easier…. I truly feel we have it all.
What do freshmen need to learn their first year in college? Time
management! School, conditioning, practice, tutoring, community service, recruiting, marketing and mentoring are just some of the obligations of a student-athlete. Exhaustion is usually evident in the first
semester near late October! Organization and balance is key, because if
you are tired and stressed out, you will never get the best out of yourself — in school or gymnastics.
What is your biggest challenge at the beginning of each season?
Determining the lineup. You have so many talented gymnasts and they
all want to compete! The first and last spots in a six-person lineup
require the most consistent athletes, and the middle gymnasts need to
provide WOW! You want a lineup that resembles a jawbreaker (hard all
the way through)‚ not a gumball (soft in the middle)!
Were you surprised by the sudden resignation of Steve Nunno,
after he had returned the Sooners to the NCAAs? Yes. The resignation of his assistants was very surprising as well. I knew friends who
were interviewing for the assistant
position with Coach Nunno when
the news came. I was shocked.
You took Iowa State to the Super Six finals in 2006. How close
are you to getting the Sooners there? In order for Oklahoma to
qualify to the Super Six, we must
dream about the possibility, take
advantage of opportunity and work
toward it every day. Combine these
essential ingredients with heart and
anything is possible!
One of your assistants is your
husband, Lou Ball. Are you the
boss at home, too? Not at all! We
have never set boundaries; it just
works! Lou is a great cook, and I
burn everything! I am a clean freak,
so that is my job at home. There is a
lot of give and take, and Lou would
never call me the boss!
How has motherhood changed
your principles as a coach?
I don’t think it has changed my
philosophies as a coach, but it has changed my perspective on life. I
used to work 10 to 12 hours a day …. These days, I am excited to get
to day care by 6 p.m. to pick up my daughter and spend the evening
with her! I have never been home at 6 p.m. before! I am trying to get
Maggie to say mama, but all she says is dada!
The coach-gymnast relationship
can deepen over the course of
four years. How do you maintain
an emotional distance? One of my
important responsibilities is to create
an atmosphere that feels like home.
There is no doubt that I have expectations of every athlete…. I very
often feel like a parent — proud,
protective, disappointed, etc.
Though it can be very easy to feel
too involved, a barrier of respect
must exist. I often find that my relationships grow even deeper with
alumni. These athletes often realize after their journey how amazing
and special that time of their life was, and they love you for it.
K.J. Kindler, Maggie Grace, Lou Ball
What do you think potential recruits are really searching for in a
college, and how do you sell them Oklahoma? I think most
recruits want to have a positive training environment, an excellent education and a knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff. I believe some
recruits are impressed by facilities, perks, uniforms and tradition.
Parents want to know that their child will be well cared for, happy and
What mistakes did you make when you began coaching, and
what skills have you developed since to make you a more effective coach? There is no room to list all my mistakes! I was named the
assistant coach at Iowa State when I was 21. I had to utilize all the
knowledge I had from my experiences as a gymnast. I was a sponge at
clinics, absorbing all the information I could. Today, and every day, I
learn something new or attack a situation from a different angle.
Mistakes make you better! —Dwight Normile/IG Editor