New gymnastics coach set to build on solid foundation
August 13, 2015 | Lynchburg, Va.
Tim Kappel, co-owner of Pure Gymnastics in Lynchburg with his wife, Kimberlee, plans to raise the bar for Liberty University's men's and women's gymnastics program. Kappel was named the teams' new head coach last week, succeeding former Lady Flames gymnast and third-year Head Coach Rachel Steele, who completed her graduate degree in May.
The former cheerleader at the University of Kansas is excited to start working with the team's returning gymnasts and new recruits in early September.
"He will bring in his own philosophy and his desire to see it succeed is very great," said Jeff Boettger, Liberty's director of Club Sports who hired Kappel. "What got him interested is the opportunity to continue to build on the foundation that has been laid and make it a bigger and stronger program as the years go on."
As a gymnast, Kappel has trained under national, international, and Olympic team coaches. Since 2000, when he started coaching recreational and competitive gymnastics in Kansas, he has coached 17 state championship teams and more than 40 gymnasts to All-Around individual state titles, guiding three Level 9 competitors to national championships and instructing three international elite gymnasts.
"I've coached a lot of kids who have gone on to receive full scholarships at Division I schools, so it seems like a natural fit for me to build the program at Liberty," Kappel said. "It is a very young program, so we'll see if we can take it to the next level, change the culture a little bit, to make it a little more serious. If the interest is there, I would like to see it change from a Club Sports program to an NCAA team."
He noted that Olympic sports are declining in the collegiate ranks around the country, with only 15 men's and 62 women's gymnastics teams still competing as NCAA Division I scholarship programs. Liberty is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Gymnastics Clubs (NAIGC), which encourages participation "for the love of the sport."
Boettger said Liberty's Club Sports teams strive for excellence regardless of their competitive affiliation, operating at the equivalent of an NCAA Division III or NAIA program.
"Our desire is to create elite programs at the level we're at and to provide great opportunities for athletes to be competitive and be part of a team, which becomes like a family, especially in college," he said.
An open tryout and workout will be held at a date and time to be determined in early September before the men's and women's teams hold their first practices in Liberty's recently renovated gym located in the Plaza Shopping Center, where the Flames and Lady Flames hosted their first NAIGC-sanctioned meet last spring.
"The long-term goal is to have a facility for gymnastics on campus," Boettger said. "Right now, the university has put a lot of time and finances into building a great facility downtown."
Kappel said the teams won't open their competitive schedule until late December or early January, once the athletes "feel good about what they're doing, and are ready to represent Liberty well," he said.