Young coach connects with athletes

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When they graduate from college, most students look for jobs or internships. It is difficult to find your dream job at such a young age. But that is exactly what former Husker gymnast John Robinson found.

Story and photos by Garret Durst, NewsNetNebraska

A 2010 summer UNL graduate with a degree in marketing, Robinson finished up his academic work at the same time that there was an opening at Nebraska for an assistant coach in gymnastics. Nine others applied for the position, but Robinson’s youth, motivation and starring role on the team in recent years landed him in a position to become one of the youngest assistant coaches in the sport. Robinson is 22.

“It was a very good decision to hire Robinson because he will bring youth and energy to the team,” said Jim Hartung, an assistant coach at Nebraska for the past seven seasons. “Robinson just got done with his gymnastics career and will be able to communicate better with the athletes, rather than two 50-year-old coaches.”

Hartung is impressed by Robinson’s mastery of the sport, and his knowledge of computers. Since the team uses computers to help practice their form and technique, his savvy with them will come in handy.Photo

Chuck Chmelka, serving in his third year as head coach for the Huskers after over two decades as as assistant coach, said Robinson has much to add to the team.

“There were almost a dozen applicants for the position, but I just felt that Robinson will bring something new to the table and to this team, despite his inexperience,” said Chmelka. “I mean he was a great gymnast for our program and was very technical when it comes to the basics.”

Nebraska is not the only program across the country that is hiring youth. One of the top gymnastics teams in the nation, the University of Illinois, has a rising young star in its head coach. Justin Spring, a former Olympian gymnast, sees his top coaching slot there as keeping him in touch with the sport.

Gymnastics is a struggling sport, with only around 30 universities continuing the acrobatic display. “There are so few programs in gymnastics, that I think my degree in marketing could help with the sport,” said UNL assistant Robinson. “Promoting the sport and getting it out there to the public is key.”Photo

Robinson plans to make a career out of coaching gymnastics. Down the road as he gets more experience, Robinson envisions himself as a head coach. Robinson first heard of the job opening online and filled out an application. So young, he was not expecting to even be considered for the job.

After graduating this past summer, Robinson was looking to move back home to North Carolina and look for a job in the sports marketing field. But those plans took a back seat when he was given the opportunity of a lifetime.

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