By Carley Crain
When the women’s gymnastics team found out that head coach Jenn Najuch would not be returning to Springfield College, the entire team was shocked. Nobody was expecting Najuch to leave after only seven years of coaching for the Pride. However, last year she had her first child and her husband got a new job in New York.
Najuch decided it was time for her to move on from Springfield College.
When Najuch was on maternity leave during the preseason last fall, assistant coach Emily Bellin stepped in as head coach. Bellin helped the team reach the NCGA National Championships for the first time as a team in five years. Winter Osborne, an Art Therapy graduate student, was additionally crowned as the D-III Uneven Bars National Champion this past season.
Najuch’s departure left Emily Bellin questioning her stance on the team. The title of head coach seemed appealing, but Bellin loves her job as a teacher in the Springfield School District. She didn’t want to leave her kids behind, but Bellin also felt the same way about gymnastics at Springfield College.
Since Najuch’s departure was somewhat unexpected, the nationwide search for a new coach was difficult. Springfield College Director of Athletics Craig Poisson offered Bellin a position that satisfied both desires: she could still teach full-time while taking on the duties as head coach of the Springfield women’s gymnastics team.
As interim head coach, Bellin will continue to work full-time as a teacher during the day, and come to campus later in the afternoon to coach and plan for the gymnastics season. Bellin will not be required to teach Physical Education classes like the other full-time head coaches.
Last year’s trio of graduate assistants, Si-Si Ponder, Lou Knapp and Keara Loughlin, will all be returning to Alden Street this season, and bring experience both about the sport as a whole and within Springfield College’s unique traditions. All three will help Bellin transition into her new role.
“It’s been really nice to work with the graduate assistants again since they kind of know the expectations of the girls and the program,” said Bellin on having a strong group of female graduate assistants.
Bellin made a name for herself within collegiate gymnastics last season, as she was awarded the NCGA Assistant Coach of the Year. She has also been a key part of the women’s gymnastics team here at Springfield since her undergraduate years.
“We really want to just have a fun season and be able to enjoy gymnastics,” said Bellin. “Gymnastics is kind of a weird sport in the sense that you do it your whole life, and you can kind of go through phases of loving it and hating it.
“Finding the love of the sport again for the girls and making sure they enjoy their time here is the most important,” she continued. “After all, they are student-athletes, so we want to make sure they are succeeding academically as well as athletically. We want to make sure they feel confident in their own skin. I consider Springfield gymnastics to be like a family.”
Both the men’s and women’s gymnastics teams kick off their seasons with the annual Home Show, which will take place next weekend, on Friday, Sept. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 1 at 7 p.m.
For more information and to buy tickets, check out their website: https://advancing.springfieldcollege.edu/pages/events/gymnastics-homeshow-registration
Photo: Springfield College Athletics