With just about two weeks under her belt, Diana Gallagher already feels at home in Kresge Gymnasium.
Gallagher, who was named the new head coach of the women’s gymnastics team over the summer, brings 15 years of coaching experience to an already accomplished group of student-athletes.
“The tradition of the program is strong,” Gallagher said. “The athletes are so aware of the school’s mission of humanics, which isn’t something you see everywhere.”
In her own words, Gallagher is a late bloomer in the sport, genuinely becoming passionate and active in gymnastics when she was already 11 years old, crediting a notable lack of parental pressure as a catalyst for her growing devotion.
“I was always the one steering the ship and wanting to pursue it,” Gallagher said. “It was just something I really loved to do.”
She competed in high school, as well as the collegiate level at SUNY Cortland in upstate N.Y., where she graduated in 2008. Her time with the Red Dragons saw Gallagher join the SUNYAC All-Academic team and place tenth on the floor exercise at nationals.
Shortly after graduating, she pursued a master’s degree in creative writing and literature at Stony Brook University and served as a writing instructor. This shift into becoming an educator was a sensible progression of her gymnastics career.
“I knew I wanted to still be involved in the sport, and utilizing the teaching skills I was learning into coaching made sense,” Gallagher said.
While working at Dunne’s Gymnastics in Hebron, Conn., Gallagher served as a choreography coach for balance beam and floor routines. During her time there, she taught qualifiers for every level of competition, from state and regional to national qualifiers.
The valuable experiences of a former Division III student-athlete and a coach with plenty of years of experience would make Gallagher comfortably qualified, but she also brings a unique perspective to the mats. She also boasts the distinction of being a level 10 judge for the USA Gymnastics Federation.
A level 10 judge is the highest achievable level in the USA Gymnastics Junior Olympics Program. Gallagher has had the pleasure of judging numerous important meets and competitions, including the New York and Connecticut State Championships and the Manhattan Classic in 2015 and 2016.
This aspect of her career is essential to Gallagher’s overall coaching approach, as she can operate from the perspective of the judges. The distinct viewpoint impacts the strategy of routines, the risks that each gymnast will take and the type of flaws in execution that will lead to deductions.
“Having a real eye for the best execution and choice of skills is important, and a main focus for me is having whatever the athletes do in their routines maximize their scoring potential,” Gallagher said.
The program that will be under Gallagher’s leadership this winter isn’t looking to skip a beat after finishing runner-up for the second consecutive year at the NCGA East Regional Championships, as well as finishing fourth at the NCGA Championships.
The goal remains clear for the new coach and her team.
“We want to peak at the regional championships and qualify as a full team to nationals,” Gallagher said.
Gallagher and much of the team look forward to showing off their artistic abilities at the 113th annual Home Show titled “Let it Rock” on September 30 at 6:30 p.m. in Blake Arena.
Photo courtesy of Springfield College Athletics