Full Twist contributor Anna Rose Johnson recently caught up with USA’s Kittia Carpenter to discuss her coaching highlights, her top elites, and a typical day at her gym.
After a successful career competing in elite and NCAA gymnastics, Kittia became the Girls Team Director at Buckeye Gymnastics. She coaches junior national team member Nia Dennis, the all-around silver medalist at the 2014 P&G Championships. In addition to coaching Nia and Shania Adams, another top-level junior elite, Kittia recently became the coach of 2012 Olympic Champion Gabrielle Douglas.
FT: What have been some of the greatest highlights of your coaching career?
KC: Nia qualifying to her first USA Championships was a great moment. But Nia being selected to represent USA at the PacRim was an incredible experience and a great highlight. Certainly working hard so that my gymnasts may experience more highlights.
FT: What are some of your favorite coaching memories from competition?
KC: Nia’s bar routine at 2014 US Classics and Nia’s floor routine from 2014 P&G Championships would be my favorite coaching memories from competition.
Nia has worked so hard to improve her execution and start values especially on bars. And then to “hit” her bar routine and win bars at US Classics was amazing. But then Nia’s floor routine at P&G Championships, after her tough beam routine, showed me what a competitor she really is. “Attack every tumbling pass and trust every landing!” And she did!
FT: Can you briefly explain how you have adapted your coaching style over the years to fit each new Code of Points?
KC: Since I am an FIG brevet judge (and I’ve been a judge for nearly 30 years), skill values and connection values are a bit second nature to me. I always think about the value vs. the execution possibilities. So I am not sure how it changes my coaching. I think I have always been like that. I study the code and try to decide on skills that fit the qualities of my gymnasts.
The one area that we have emphasized a bit more is the dance and artistry. The new code is very precise regarding deductions. However, the one variable area is in the artistry deductions. So you must do everything you can to ensure the quality of each movement is addressed in the presentation of the routines.
FT: How is training going for Gabby Douglas and Nia Dennis?
KC: They are both amazing me – daily. They encourage each other in such a way that is producing great skills, great confidence and great attitude.
FT: Who are currently some of the best up-and-coming gymnasts at Buckeye?
KC: Shania Adams (13 years old next month) qualified to US Classics and Nikki Beckwith (11 years old) qualified to US Challenge this year. Definitely both are up-and-coming. But we have a couple gymnasts even younger to keep an eye on: Marissa Saunders (9 years old) and Amari Drayton (10 years old).
FT: What is a typical day like at Buckeye?
KC: Our elites begin at 8:00 am. They do a quick conditioning circuit after warm-ups. Then we do all four events and a full conditioning and flexibility session. Second workout is a second rotation of bars and beam. In between workouts, gymnasts rest and do their online / homeschooling. But this is only part of the day. We then have our J.O. athletes in the gym from early afternoon until 9:00 pm.
Many thanks to Kittia for taking time out of her busy schedule to chat with Full Twist!
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