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Q and A with UK's new gymnastics head coach

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Thumbnail image for 4705135.jpegTim Garrison, an assistant coach at Nebraska, has been named the new head coach of the Kentucky gymnastics team. UK announced the hiring Thursday.

Garrison comes to Kentucky after five years at Nebraska, where he helped the Cornhuskers annually compete for national championships as the Huskers' vault, floor exercise, and strength and conditioning coach. The program went to two NCAA Super Six appearances and won two Big 12 Conference championships with Garrison on board.

Fans can read the full release of Garrison's hiring here.

Cat Scratches had the chance to talk with Garrison on Thursday about the hiring process, his coaching philosophy and his vision for the UK gymnastics team. Here is the Q and A from the interview:

Question: This is your first opportunity as a head coach on the collegiate level. Can you talk about the opportunity you have been given to fulfill a dream I'm sure you've had for quite some time?
Garrison: I am extremely excited. I was a head coach for a club program out in California for 10 years, but when you move to college, you are in a completely different arena. Getting to be at Nebraska and spend some time there under head coach Dan Kendig was an amazing opportunity, but I am excited to put my name on a program like Kentucky and make it grow.

Question: How did you initially get into coaching and when did you know you wanted to do this for a living?
Garrison: I just started coaching just like most gymnastics coaches, with a club team. That's how I initially got into it. I went to Cal State Fullerton and I was a part of their men's program as an athlete. After my first year, they actually dropped the program. They had a women's collegiate program and the head coach knew that I had coached before. I was currently coaching a club team and so he asked me if I wanted to come coach with him, and so I ended up coaching there. I had two years of coaching experience there and I then went on to pursue the dream of coaching elite talent. I did that for 12 years, and then on to Nebraska I went.

Question: What did you know about Kentucky before you decided to pursue the job?
Garrison:  Well, I have a friend who works there in (current assistant coach) Chuck Dickerson. He is a good buddy of mine and he has just praised this program and athletic department as being a great family. It seems like everybody is pulling for each other and that is a great feeling to have. Not only that, but being in the SEC as well. The SEC is the best gymnastics conference in the country. There are a lot of great teams out there, but when you look at the conferences, top to bottom, it's the best conference there is. To be able to get a head coaching job in that conference is really exciting.

Question: Can you explain the process a little bit of deciding to pursue the job and when you became interested in it?
Garrison: Obviously, in October, there were some changes made and it was clear that there was going to be a new head coach hired. Going through the year, having the success that we have had (at Nebraska), it actually took me a while to decide. I really wanted to be a head coach, there is no doubt about it. It was just the when and the where. Having great success at Nebraska had a great role in it. The more I thought about it, the more I told myself I was going to go for this job and do my best to get it.

Question: I'm sure a big part of the decision was leaving Nebraska. How tough was it leaving a place you've called home for some time?
Garrison: You develop relationships with people in the department, you develop relationships with people in the community and you develop relationships with athletes. It's tough. When I had to say goodbye, that was a tough day, and it worried me a bit. But you look ahead and move forward. I am really excited about the future of this program. We are going to get these athletes excited. We are going to go to competitions and we want them to know that they are going to come out successful. That for me made it easier to look ahead and see what we can achieve.

Question: Have you met with the team, and if so, what have you told them?
Garrison: I have not since I was hired. I have scheduled meetings with all of them after their finals, that way I can get a direction of the team, what the framework will be like, how I will be in the gym, how I expect them to be in the gym and some of the goals. There is going to be a lot of changes. We will get them on board and we will get them to see the benefit of the changes that will be made.

Question: When you get back to Lexington, do you have some sort of plan of how you want to start things and build?
Garrison: I will get into town next Tuesday. It will be more than likely next Thursday or next Friday when we will have our block meetings with each athlete individually, get to know them a little bit and kind of outline where we are headed. I have a good idea of how we are going to get started. From there it will be day-to-day in the maintenance. I have a plan as far as strength and conditioning and what is to be expected. We can't require them to do anything, but I can tell them what will be required when they come back to school and where we are going to go from there. Yes, there will be a plan in place. I will suggest things to them to get ready for next year. I think they are ready to go to work, and from what I understand, they are a very motivated group.

Question: You've mentioned that you want to take Kentucky to the next step. How exactly do you do that?
Garrison: Once you get a framework in place and you raise the expectations of the athletes themselves, we will work hard to get to where we want to be at. We will train every day and stay healthy. All of those things are going to happen, that way when we walk into competitive environments, we are confident. Success breeds motivation. Once you get a little success going, you start to get wins against some SEC teams that we are going to be seeing. That's how you take those steps. I'm not saying it's going to happen overnight. To be able to move up in the ranks is going to take some time, but I feel we are capable of doing it. We will be very diligent and smart and we will be successful.

Question: You were obviously at a national championship competing program at Nebraska. Can you take any of that experience there and use it here?
Garrison: It all goes back to expectation level. When you walk into a program like Nebraska, you look through the media guides and you look up at the walls of all the national champions. You see this many trips to nationals and all of the conference titles. There is a certain expectation level. You walk into the gym and you say, 'I have to raise my expectation level.' I plan on changing our expectation level. I want them to know, regardless of the competition level, that we have a shot at them. When we get on that bus after a meet, I want them happy. I want them excited because they just did awesome; they just did their best. I think it really comes down to expectation level. We need to get a good coaching staff that is pulling everyone in the right direction. We need to have quality planning and good athletes. If we can have the right mixture of those things, we can turn this thing around and make it successful. It will take a little time, it will take a little recruiting, but we can get it done.

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