New coach, new attitude

Mike Lang has seen his share of gymnasts over the years, and has incurred a bevy of experiences along the way.
He likes to look over the past 25 years with a sense of satisfaction at having established a good rapport with both the athletes and their parents.
For Lang, those lasting relationships–and his job of creating talented gymnasts–are the two most important things he sets out to do at every club.
And he hopes to continue that success as the new head coach at the Fort Frances Gymnastics Academy.
It may prove to be a perfect fit for the local club, which experienced an array of problems and conflicts with last year’s coach, Mohamed Somji, and now sees its third head coach in as many years.
Lang is hoping to end that revolving door of coaches. Although he only signed a one-year deal, he’s made it known this may be a two or three-year project.
“It was time for a change and I really liked the club, the girls, and the parents,” said Lang, 40, of his decision to become head coach here.
“I have my own personal philosophy when it comes to coaching–I take a lot of old skills and new ones and try to put them together,” he noted. “But the most important thing is I want to make sure that they have fun
“If they’re happy, then the skills will come. You have to have adaptability as a coach and be very approachable,” he stressed.
The gymnasts didn’t have as much fun as club president Betty Grynol had hoped under Somji, and it will be Lang’s job–along with assistant coach Joleen DeBenetti–to try to create a positive atmosphere again.
Grynol had approached Lang on several occasions in past years to become the club’s new head and finally became successful.
Although he just officially started his new position Monday, Lang said he likes the people he’s been working with so far.
“[Joleen’s] one of the reasons I came here,” he admitted. “She’s like a younger version of me. She has that exact attitude and spark, and she has that energy that the kids thrive off of.”
Lang, whose coaching career has taken him to Thunder Bay, Orillia, and Cedar, Wis., said he’s excited about the prospects of teaching new kids. But he admitted it may take some time to decipher just what certain kids can and can’t do in the sport.
From there, he’ll determine what level each is at and proceed with a certain style of coaching that’s best suited for that individual.
“I want to see what they can and can’t do,” Lang remarked. “They had a rough year last year. I would like to see the level of gymnasts here get higher and higher.”
But all this teaching will have to come in a very short time given there’s just a few short months before the gymnasts are thrust into a series of competitions.
For all the work that needs to be done, there’s very little time to prepare.
“There’s a lot of competitions that come not very far apart,” Lang noted. “We’ll have to work on some drills and training and throw some routines together.
“If I could have it my way, I would take a year off and just have training,” he added. “But you can’t do that ’cause the girls want competitions.”
He will get a good firsthand look at the talent here when the “Super Camp for Athletes,” featuring an array of top-level coaches joining local staff, runs Aug. 23-27.
Cost is $20 for the day, or $70 for the week.