May 9, 2017
"I'd like to thank Greg McGarity, President Morehead, and the Athletic Association for this remarkable opportunity to lead the Gym Dogs," said Kupets Carter. "As a former Gym Dog, I'm thankful for the experiences I had that contributed to the incredible history of Georgia Gymnastics. Now as Head Coach, I am excited to lead the program into the future. I'm extremely passionate about building on the Gym Dogs' tradition of excellence and winning philosophy. I am appreciative of the support that will enable our student- athletes and the program to reach their full potential. It's an honor to be back home in Athens, in a community that supports the Gym Dogs with such enthusiasm. GO DAWGS!"
More Coverage: Kupets Carter's Full Sit Down Interview
ATHENS, Ga. -- Former Georgia gymnast, nine-time individual NCAA champion and 15-time All-American Courtney Kupets Carter was introduced as the Georgia gymnastics program's eighth head coach on Tuesday. Remarks from Kupets Carter and J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics Greg McGarity follow.
J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics Greg McGarity
"Good afternoon, and thanks for coming. We are thrilled to make the official announcement today that Courtney Kupets Carter will become the new head coach of the women's Gymnastics team at the University of Georgia. Courtney is a winner on and off the floor. She has excelled in virtually every phase of her young life, on the biggest stages of international and national competitions as a student-athlete and as a United States Olympian. Courtney was a member of the 2003 U.S.A. World Champion team, which won the gold medal, and the 2004 US Olympic team, helping lead the United States to a silver medal. She was also awarded the bronze medal in the 2004 Games on the uneven bars. Courtney capped her career in 2009 in spectacular fashion, leading our Bulldogs to their fifth-straight NCAA title and winning the all-around title as well. She received the Broderick Cup as the country's top female student-athlete and the Sportswoman of the Year Award from the Women's Sports Foundation. Recently, Courtney was recognized as the greatest collegiate gymnast in NCAA history and has also been recognized by United States Gymnastics as a member of the Hall of Fame. She earned a NCAA postgraduate scholarship in 2009 and was chosen as a Richard B. Russell Student Leadership Award winner, which is given to a Blue Key National Honors Society member who has demonstrated leadership and potential. She was also a First-Team Academic All-American on multiple occasions, and a two-time Honda Award winner. The list goes on and on.
It is our goal to return to the elite level as a program, and it will take everyone pulling in the same direction, all on the same page, and supporting our program like never before. I am confident our student-athletes, our prospective student-athletes, and anyone associated with our gymnastics program will be energized to watch our program excel. I'm confident that Courtney will provide the strong leadership, vision and work-ethic essential to achieve greatness. In closing, back in 1983, the University of Georgia hired a club coach to take on the challenge of leading our gymnastics program. Suzanne Yoculan Leebern was 30 years old at the time, and this was her first collegiate coaching experience, and we are well aware of the incredible success Suzanne brought to our program. Today in many ways, history is repeating itself as we hire our new coach. Ladies and gentlemen, the head coach of the University of Georgia Gym Dogs, Courtney Kupets Carter."
Courtney Kupets Carter
"Thank you all for coming. First off, I just want to thank President Morehead for being here. Thank you Greg McGarity and the athletic department for entrusting me with the Georgia gymnastics program. To me, it means so much. It's more than gymnastics. It's more than anything I had ever done and I feel like it's a very special opportunity. I am so thankful and grateful for this chance to show the passion that I had while I was a gymnast at Georgia, but now I get to have that passion as a head coach, and I can't wait to instill that in the current and future Gym Dogs. The most important thing I learned as a gymnast here was I built my character and it gave me pride, and for me, that rewarding experience has stayed with me, and that's something I want the current athletes and future athletes to realize. Georgia is not just about your gymnastics. It's not just about going to a top university - one of the top academic institutions in the country - to get your degree. And you can do that while doing one of the best sports that is out there. It's not just about that. It's about building you as a person for life. I think that's the most important thing, and what I look to do as a head coach, is to put the athlete first always, now and forever. It's about their life and what this can do for them as they move forward past gymnastics. I think one other thing that's important to realize is that I am going to bring back the tradition of Georgia Gymnastics.
There are so many alumni - a few of you are in here - that know the passion of understanding Georgia did not start on top. It was built. That started with Suzanne Yoculan Leebern, and that started with so many athletes coming here with the vision and the dream to make what Suzanne had first envisioned possible. I know as an athlete, when I was competing on this team, that gave me even more drive, more adrenaline, to not just do my gymnastics for me, not just for my team, not even to do it for my university, but to do it for every past Gym Dog that had built the program to what I was getting to enjoy during those times. That is what I want to continue. I want to make sure every athlete realizes it's not just about the gymnastics, it's not just about the academics, it's about what you're learning as a person, and I truly feel that with that, you can go further than you ever thought possible. With that, as we move forward, the coaching staff is going to be a big part of how I can bring that vision to pass. It is very important to me to find a staff that compliments my strengths but has different strengths. We need to have the same vision and work together for these athletes to give them the best opportunity to succeed and reach the full potential. We're in the process of that, making sure I make those right decisions. But the one staff member I do have is our volunteer coach. That might be a position you think would come last. What pieces are we missing in our puzzle? What can we add in? Is it a cheerleader, is it going to be on a certain event coaching? In this instance, it's very appropriate to name that volunteer coach because this volunteer coach can fill in wherever needed. I am 100-percent confident in that, and that is Suzanne Yoculan Leebern. With that I just want to say that I am so thankful that she would come back and take the time to invest in the program that she started. It's going to be a monumental year, not only for the program, but for the athletes that get to experience little bits of what I got to experience from Suzanne, which will be really exciting. As we move forward, the last thing I want to say is that we cannot set our sights as a fanbase, as a team, as a community on what is now, where we are now. We have to set those sights on what we want to accomplish. I feel like if we can collectively do that, it's limitless. I just would like to say Georgia Gymnastics will win championships again. Go Dogs."
On when she first envisioned herself as a head coach...
"That's a very good question. The first time I remember thinking of it was in 2010, when I was a student coach. I realized I was made for this sport, and not just for the sport of gymnastics, but specifically college gymnastics. It's where I thrived as an athlete. I realized it was more than just my athletics, because I actually improved as a gymnast even though I had been to the Olympics. The environment set together with your teammates working together, having the support daily, just made me excited about that, and I want to give athletes what I experienced. It started then, but it's always been a thought. It was amazing when this opportunity came about. The first thing I thought about, my gut reaction, was that I could totally see myself bringing this program back to what I know it can be."
On past experience that has prepared her to be a head coach...
"First off, I know I have the knowledge about gymnastics. I have that college experience. I have the passion, the dedication and the drive, and the love for for the sport and the love for the university. I feel like, more than anything else, those key factors coming together will help motivate, will bring out the best in your athletes on the competition floor. Showing them that you care, showing them that you're going to take ownership and make choices, and showing them that it's not necessarily just about their gymnastics. We want the best out of that, but it's about you as a person. What that can do for an athlete is beyond anything you can do getting experience for. That is something that is very hard to find, and I feel like I have that, and I feel like I can motivate the athletes in that way."
On if she learned about coaching during her broadcasting career...
"Honestly, yes. You can't watch a program and not think of what you would do, what you think would be best. Yes I have thought those things. Whether they did them or not, I kept my mouth shut. At the same time, I have learned that there are traits and characteristics about your team that might bring about good things and that might bring about bad things. To your point, I think being with the Network the past three years, analyzing coaches and the way athletes perform for them has been a big help."
On lessons learned from Yoculan Leebern about how to be a head coach...
"That's really important. I got to talk to the current team before coming in here. We had a little conference to let them know that I was the new head coach. That's one thing I actually already told them. I want to bring the love of gymnastics to them. I want to bring the passion. I said `season starts now.' At the same time, it's not going to be easy, although it's going to be fun. I think they all realize that as athletes. You realize that you have to go through those hard moments to really enjoy the success you reach. If you don't have those challenges and you don't go through those peaks and valleys, then I don't think you ever get to the top because I don't think you truly know what it takes. There will be tough times, but I think having an open relationship is going to be the key. Building the trust with the athletes, so that when you do have tough love, you know where it's coming from and it's not just being harsh."
On a trait of Yoculan Leebern and her staff that Kupets Carter wants to incorporate in her own staff...
"I think from that coaching staff what I'm going to take is how well they worked so well together, and it wasn't necessarily because they all agreed all the time. There were some differences in how they thought to go about certain situations, but I loved the fact, that as a head coach, Suzanne could listen to all the different sides, but at the end of the day, it was going to be her decision. It wasn't about `my way, all the time, I'm not listening.' It was very open, and that's what I hope to bring to this coaching staff as well."
On how to build Georgia into a national contender...
"We all have seen it's not been what it was. It's not been what it was during my time. That's something we start from day one. The intention is to make sure the program is set in place, that we build a Gymnastics program for them to help them peak at the right time, physically, and we build a mental program for them to help them feel confident in themselves but also confident in their teammates. I think that's a very important factor for athletes going up to compete. If you're going up there, and your teammates don't trust in you, how are you going to stay on that beam when you're the only one trusting yourself? That builds a lot when your team can rely on you that way. Those two points are just the start of so many things we hope to bring. It's not just about one area, it's going to be about everyone coming together."
On how collegiate gymnastics has changed since she competed...
"I think there's a lot more talent in college, and whether that talent was there and they just weren't in college, I'm not sure. It's very exciting. I think it brings more fun to the sport, whether you have a couple of teams trying to get that championship and then you have a couple teams coming up trying to beat you for it. I think that Georgia is going to be back in that contention and back on top. And that's what I can't wait to see."