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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

The face of Arizona gymnastics

Rodney Haas / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Rodney Haas
Rodney Haas / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Passionate, motivational, caring; these are the words that continue to come up when people speak about Bill Ryden, the head coach for the women’s gymnastics team.

Ryden is in his 20th year at Arizona and his 12th year as head coach. Ryden came to Arizona as an assistant coach in the summer of 1990, but it was a long road to get to that point.

“”I grew up in all of the conventional sports, doing well at them, and I also raced motorcycles,”” Ryden said. “”I’m like an adrenaline junkie. I was getting out of racing motorcycles. I needed something else that had that same amount of adrenaline or danger, and men’s gymnastics is very dangerous.””

Ryden followed in his sister Alison Ryden’s (now Alison Shearer) footsteps. She was a gymnast, and because of her, Ryden had watched gymnastics his entire life. He began to compete during high school, looking for that same adrenaline rush.

“”I liked the idea of flying through the air and controlling my own destiny,”” Ryden said. “”Flying through the air, and you are responsible if you don’t get hurt, or do get hurt.””

Even as a 17-year-old, there were coaching skills prevalent. He eventually began coaching other kids that worked out in the same club as him, and at one point he was even coaching the upper level kids.

“”I had a knack for analyzing physical movement,”” Ryden said. “”I could sit there and say, OK, that person is doing that wrong and that is why that’s going wrong.””

Ryden points to Diane Monty as he explains that she was one of the girls he coached when she was 9 years old. Monty would later be one of the major reasons Ryden came to Arizona.

Ryden soon competed at the collegiate level, while attending ASU. At this point in his career, he had no intention of returning to coaching. While at ASU, he received a degree in engineering.

The bonds he made with the girls he coached was so strong that he felt bad when he left them to pursue another job. Ryden was sucked back into gymnastics.

There have been many pit stops in Ryden’s career on his way to Arizona.

“”I ended up going to Colorado to start an engineering job and intended to leave gymnastics behind,”” Ryden said. “”Clubs in Denver slowly discovered I was in town, and would call me and ask me to look at this girl. I didn’t want to coach I just gave them my opinion as if she were my girl. After a while it sucked me back in and I was coaching the upper level kids at Denver school of gymnastics.””

In late 1990, Ryden was again thinking of getting out of gymnastics and pursuing a job in engineering. He then got a call from his old pupil Diane Monty, who had just finished a fantastic career at Arizona.

“”At that point Arizona needed an assistant, and Diane had grown up and she was the star here at Arizona,”” Ryden said. “”She recruited me and my predecessor recruited me, I never really applied for the job. I decided to come down here for two years, and low and behold I am here for 20 years.””

Keeping tradition alive at UA

Although Ryden’s voyage to Arizona was full of changes and pit stops, his time at the UA has been filled with consistency and a winning tradition.

“”You always have to be flexible and learn as you go,”” Ryden said. “”As the athletes change, your philosophy has to change.””

Within the team, Ryden is revered for his ability to adjust to each athlete, his passion for the sport and his concern for each girl.

“”We really are an individual sport that was put into a team. Each person’s gymnastics are so different, their strengths and weaknesses,”” Ryden said. “”You have to be willing to mold yourself to whatever is going to help that athlete the most.””

Ryden had a hard time choosing just a few memorable moments in his long career, because there have been so many.

“”In ’93, when went to nationals with only six healthy kids, and five all-arounders,”” Ryden said. “”We made it to the Super Six; it was like defying all odds. Beating ASU, at ASU, in 2002 to leave them home and us go on to the NCAA championship meets.””

That’s what she said

“”I remember one of things that inspired me to come here was his passion for gymnastics. I always felt that if I am going to be working really hard, I wanted to do it with people that wanted to be here too.”” — Miranda Russell

“”He is an overall amazing coach he cares about us so much, and he just wants the best for us. I think it’s funny when we are practicing and Britney Spears starts playing over the radio and he just starts singing it, like no normal 50-year old-guy knows Britney Spears.””

— Katie Matusik

“”It’s such a family program, he cares about us more than anything, and we are his kids. It’s just a really big family in here, and I love it.”” — Deanna Graham

“”Bill is a really passionate coach; he always has the best interests of the girls at heart. He treats us as his own family and we are his first priority. We kind of want to propose something this year that if we make nationals that he has to completely shave his head. It’s just something that we really want him to do; we haven’t proposed it yet though.””

— Sarah Tomczyk

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