New assistant gymnastics coach fits in at Missouri

Thursday, February 2, 2012 | 9:00 p.m. CST; updated 9:35 p.m. CST, Thursday, February 2, 2012

COLUMBIA — Missouri freshman gymnast Rachel Updike has won the Big 12 Conference's past four Newcomer of the Week Awards, something that must thrill new Tigers assistant coach Jennifer Green.

Before she came to Missouri, Green had worked with Updike for the past several years at Kansas Gymnastics Dance and Cheer in Olathe, Kan. 

“Jen is like my second mom,” Updike said. “She is always there for us, and she really is a big part of this team.”  

But while Green said she is happy to see Updike do well, the situation has made her transition to her new job tricky at times.  

“It's a little bit of a challenge having a connection already with one athlete and not the other 16,” Green said. “I love all the kids now, and I expect the same out of all of them, I just know her better.”

Green, whose lifelong dream has been to coach collegiate gymnastics, was immediately interested when she heard Missouri had a coaching vacancy.

“When I found out that Mizzou was in need of a gymnastics coach, then I did all I could to get there,” Green said.  “When I came on my interview, I felt a connection with them, and its been the same ever since."  

Green said her ability to connect with her young athletes helps her as a collegiate coach.

“I kind of like who they are at that age,” she said. “I’ve always had a better rapport with the older kids I’ve coached than the younger ones.”

Green started competing in gymnastics at age 7 and continued all the way to the collegiate level, where she was a four-year letter winner at Louisiana State University from 1986-89. While at LSU, she helped lead her team to the 1986 Central Regional championship as a freshman, and earned All-America status on the vault her sophomore year.  

Green has coached gymnastics since graduating from LSU, spending more than 20 years in the Kansas City area before accepting the job at Missouri.

Updike has been one of the most important gymnasts for the Tigers this season. However, Green does not take credit for Updike's success.

“This is a place that I knew Rachel would thrive in college gymnastics,” she said. "She’s working very hard and she deserves what she is getting, but she would have done this with or without me."

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