This fall, the women’s gymnastics team welcomed assistant coach Andrew Leis, who has since worked with head coach Barbara Tonry and the Bulldogs after a career at Daggett Gymnastics, a private club.
In addition to coaching, Leis served as the NBC sports research statistician for USA Gymnastics for the last three Olympic Games.
The student-athletes have greeted Leis excitedly and quickly embraced him as part of the team. In interviews, they noted his positive and encouraging mindset.
“I think he’s a great addition to our staff so far,” Charlotte Cooperman ’21 said.
A native of Connecticut, Leis graduated from UMass-Amherst in 2002 with a degree in sports management. Leis began gymnastics at the age of nine and continued pursuing his passion through college, where he captained the gymnastics team his senior year.
After graduating, he returned to work with his old coach for 15 years, which provided him with a unique perspective that he brings to college coaching.
“On the club level in high school, I had a lot of kids recruited onto colleges with scholarships and all that, so I was on the other end,” Leis said. “Now I’m on the college side recruiting all those kids.”
Coaching the Yale gymnastics team is Leis’ first experience in coaching on the college stage. According to Leis, college gymnastics is more team-focused than club, which is often very individualized. Rather than working on developing gymnastics skills from the beginning, Leis will now be working with athletes that are already at a high level.
Leis added that he was excited to work with Tonry, who started the Yale gymnastics program with her late husband, Olympian Don Tonry, 46 years ago. Under her leadership, the team has won 16 Ivy Classic Championships and the 2017 ECAC Championship, earning her the ECAC Coach of the Year award.
“We have a really good working relationship and I feel like she’s a really valuable person to learn from since she’s been in it from the beginning,” Leis said.
In addition to his personal goals of learning from the team and from Tonry, Leis hopes to work with the athletes to accomplish their goals of improving their personal scores and the team aims to bring home another Ivy Championship.
According to Tonry and the team, Leis is already fitting in well and has been quick to learn the ins and outs of the job.
“He’s willing to listen to them and to me and change anything that he had done previously in the club to what we have here,” Tonry said. “He’s enthusiastic, he keeps me going, he’s on top of everything and I just couldn’t ask for anybody better.”
Last year, the team placed third in the semifinals behind Air Force and Lindenwood. Their scores placed them just outside of a qualifying position in the national team, but the Bulldogs still managed to secure the Ivy Classic title for the second year in a row.
The team will have their first game on Jan. 12 against Brown, SCSU and Springfield.
Rebecca Huang | firstname.lastname@example.org