By KEVIN ROBERTS
Cassidy Chamberland performed on gymnastics mats in Southington, and she has coached gymnastics in town. Now she will be taking over the Southington High School program.
Chamberland has coached gymnasts ranging in age from 5-18 at the Southington YMCA over the last five years. Chamberland, a first-year physical education teacher at SHS, has always wanted to coach. The former Lady Knight turned to coaching when an ankle injury sidelined her before her senior season.
“Once I stopped competing, I’m like ‘I’ve got to do something,’” Chamberland said. “I’m a teacher, so I just love working with youths. Right away I had that bug. As soon as I was done competing, I’m like ‘I’ve got to figure out how to get back into it.’”
Chamberland added: “It’s something that I’ve always kind of dreamed of doing. I feel like I’m really in my dream spot right now, teaching here and being able to coach for this school as well. It’s something that I’ve always thought about along the way, and now just watching it all come to life, it’s exciting and a little bit nerve-wracking, but I’m just excited to be doing it.”
The coach was a volunteer assistant for Kim Vaillancourt last season, and the two are switching positions this winter. Chamberland, a graduate of the SHS Class of 2012, did gymnastics for the Knights until her senior season. She was part of the 2010 Class L state championship team, which also finished as the State Open runner-up.
“Cassidy is a tremendous educator who has a great gymnastics pedigree having been a key contributor on our championship Blue Knight squads of the past,” said athletic director Greg Ferry. “She brings a thorough knowledge and passion for the sport, and we’re excited to see her lead the program with her positive attitude and growth mindset.”
Chamberland competed for high school and club gymnastics teams, and she sees the good in both. Her preference is for girls to participate in high school gymnastics. The coach said that she sees the value of the team atmosphere and the camaraderie that the gymnasts share with each other.
“You get to cheer way more for all of your teammates, and your guys are going to team bondings together,” Chamberland said. “It’s just a huge support system, whereas club gymnastics is a little bit more individualized. You’re really competing for yourself. In high school gymnastics, the team is just erupting for you on every event, and you’re really just trying to build as a team.”
Chamberland will be coaching eight Knight gymnasts and an individual competitor from Sacred Heart Academy in Hamden. Chamberland hopes that more girls will come out for the team.
“I would just tell them that the experience that they’re going to have with the high school team is going to be different from their club gymnastics team,” she said. “It’s going to be beneficial in different ways. Club gymnastics is still very beneficial, but the high school team is just going to give them an experience that they’re never going to forget. They’re going to build really strong relationships with their teammates and be able to represent their school.”
Chamberland, a former SHS team captain, will lead her Alma mater for the first time as head coach on Saturday when the Knights face Farmington at 5 p.m. at Farmington Valley Gymnastics in Plainville.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com