July 10, 2012
by Mae Margaret Davis
Auburn Media Relations
Every four years when the Olympic flame begins its journey around the globe leading up to the opening ceremonies of another Olympic Games, all eyes are on the thousands of athletes throughout the world vying for a chance to represent their countries on the grandest stage in sports.
While the athletes put in countless hours of training, there are groups of people behind the scenes putting in time of their own to help the future stars make it to the Games.
While Auburn Gymnastics assistant coach Jenny Rowland never had the opportunity to compete in the Olympics, the former USA National Team and 1989 USA World Championship Team member is doing her part to see young girls live out dreams of their own.
Rowland has served as a judge at the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials in 2008 and most recently, this summer in preparation for the London Games.
"It's a way we can give back to the sport we've been involved in for so long," Rowland said. "Recently, they've made an active push for former athletes to get involved in judging."
Rowland took her first judges' exam in 2001, looking for another way to stay involved with the sport after her career as a gymnast had ended.
Before arriving at Auburn to join head coach Jeff Graba's staff in 2010, Rowland spent the previous four years as a judge on both the international and national levels, after also serving as an assistant coach at the University of Oklahoma.
"We wanted Jenny's coaching ability, but we also really liked the fact that she was judging because judging viewpoints are different a lot of times than coaching," Graba said. "In coaching, a lot of times what you're trying to do is figure out what they're doing wrong in order to get to the next skill. Judges, that's not their concern. It's nice that she has both visions going for us. It really helped us in the last two years."
Rowland agrees that serving as a judge has helped her in her career as a collegiate coach and allows her to provide more quality instruction to her gymnasts.
"I'm able to see gymnastics from a different perspective," Rowland said. "I see it with a different eye, and I can think more critically as a coach."
In each of the last two Olympic Trials, Rowland has served as a judge for vault and balance beam, but has spent time as a judge on each of the four events at some point during her career.
Rowland acknowledged that earning her certification to become a Brevet judge was "probably the most stressful thing I've ever done," but she has also been afforded the opportunity to reap the benefits of her hard work, especially at this year's Olympic Trials.
"It was probably the most rewarding experience I've ever been through," Rowland said. "I don't know why this Olympic Trials was more meaningful than my first one. I think at the first one, I was so overwhelmed with the whole process, but this one I could really appreciate. I knew the athletes a little bit better. I've gotten to know the coaches a little bit better. On an emotional level, it was very rewarding."
Having done her part, the Olympic committee went on to select the eight-member team that would represent the U.S. in London.
As Rowland returned to Auburn and looks ahead to another successful season with the Tigers, she will watch the Games this summer with pride, knowing the hard work and dedication she put in will hopefully allow the red, white and blue return home with gold, as well.
For the latest on Auburn gymnastics, follow @AUGymnastics on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AUGymnastics. Find the latest on all things Auburn and the London Olympics at www.AuburnTigers.com/Olympics.