Former Lady Flames gymnast Lowe thrilled to take the helm of the program this fall
Former Liberty University gymnast (2013-17) and assistant coach (2017-20) Jessie (Hogue) Lowe will move into the head coaching role this fall, replacing Tim Kappel, who completed his seventh season at the helm by guiding the Lady Flames to a fifth-place finish at NAIGC National Championships in April.
Lowe served as Kappel’s assistant coach from 2017-20 after competing for the Lady Flames from 2013-17 and graduating from Liberty with a B.S. in Sport Management.
“I fell in love with the team as an athlete and through my years at Liberty and getting to move into an assistant coaching role,” she said. “I love the program, what it stands for, and how Club Sports pours into the program. Competing for Liberty, I really understood the intersection of my sport with my faith, and what it looks like to live it out. It was a really impactful time in my life.”
Lowe has spent the past two years as a team coach working with USA Gymnastics Club Levels 3 through 7 at Balance Gymnastics & Fitness in nearby Concord, Va., after coaching USA Gymnastics Junior Olympic-level athletes for the previous four years through Kappel’s Pure Gymnastics in Lynchburg.
She said her senior season, when the Lady Flames qualified for the NAIGC team finals for the first time and finished fourth overall in Columbus, Ohio, was an incredible memory that she would love to see other Liberty student-athletes experience.
“That was probably the highlight of my college career,” said Lowe, who is enthusiastic about leading the Lady Flames’ program as of July 1.
“Absolutely, I am really grateful that they chose me to lead the program and couldn’t be more excited for what’s ahead,” she said. “I am ready to get the season rolling. Coaching gymnastics is definitely my passion. Seeing kids at any level growing and gaining new skills is an incredible job to have. Honestly, it is a position I have always wanted. I prayed about it and it is really cool for the opportunity to come up and to have the right people believe in me to take on the position.”
She hopes to foster an environment where student-athletes can thrive athletically, academically, socially and, most importantly, spiritually.
“I’m really looking to build a culture of energy and engagement with the athletes in the program, setting personal and competitive goals for how we run practices and operate as a team,” Lowe said. “I really want to create opportunities for girls to share their faith with one another and grow as athletes and Christ-followers.”
She has nurtured young gymnasts through the club in Concord, Va., with a similar mindset.
“Balance (Gymnastics & Fitness) is not overtly a Christian gym, but the owners, Brandy Knabb and her husband, Matthew, are a Christian couple,” Lowe said. “Brandy and I talk about our faith together and how it impacts how we coach kids in a non-Christian environment. They really wanted to build a culture where kids could grow as athletes, be listened to as human beings, and gain an understanding of how a positive mindset affects your whole ability to grow in the sport and function as athletes. I would love to incorporate that (approach) into the Liberty program because I see how well it works.”
She said the transition from coaching up to Level 7 gymnasts to leading a team of mostly Level 8 and 9 athletes should be a natural progression for her.
“It’s not a huge jump, because I was an athlete at these levels and know what it’s like to compete collegiately, and I have three seasons of experience as an assistant with the team,” Lowe said.
She will face the challenge of building the program back up on a firm foundation left by Kappel, with only a handful of gymnasts expected to return from last season’s team.
“There are at least a couple of seniors coming back, which will be good to have that foundation of trust with those team members,” Lowe said, including Audrie Pack, who has coached with her at Balance. “A few of the girls got burned out over the last two years, by training without having meets to go to (due to COVID-19). They went to nationals this past season and did very well with short notice, and we are hoping that we can build off of some of that energy with an actual full season ahead of us.”
She will have a solid class of rising juniors, including Sophia Boone, who joined Pack in the All-Around finals at nationals and finished fifth individually in the floor exercise.
“I am excited to see all the returning team members as I know there are talented girls on the roster who I haven’t met yet, as well as the newcomers,” Lowe said. “I have already talked to a couple recruits who are excited about the program so it will be fun to start building the culture with them and make something sustainable for the next several years.”
She plans to hold open tryouts in late August in the team’s gym at the Club Sports Training Complex.
“We’ll mostly be looking for prospective athletes who have some competitive skills, as well as the right personalities, and are willing to commit to the goals and the expectations we have for the team,” Lowe said.
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer