Diaz’s award-winning program makes a comeback

Alex Para, Sectional Editor

For Elk Grove girls gymnastics coach Abi Diaz, it’s all about the first week of the season.

“I could never coach someone I don’t know,” Diaz said. “So my first week of coaching is always to learn more about the athletes. That way I can approach them with the proper training and develop the trust between the athlete and the coach.”

Diaz, who was named the Mid-Suburban League’s coach of the year, sought to get to know his squad early. And after hosting several open gyms to start the year, his strategy paid off. 

During the open gym sessions in the fall, Elk Grove girls gymnastics coach Diaz started to see signs that the days of low gymnastics participation were in the rear-view mirror.

“Last season, because of the pandemic, we had a tough time practicing and competing,” Diaz said. “But because of the community we built despite that, that sense of community spread and word got around about how much fun the girls gymnastics team had.”

Diaz said it’s the sense of community and fun that gave the program a membership boost going into the winter season.

“A majority of the open gym girls were freshman and sophomores,” Diaz said. “Even though some of them were beginners, we welcome them and we will try to teach them as much as we can.”

And did the 2021 Olympics influence a greater influx of girls trying out for the sport at Elk Grove? Diaz thinks yes. 

“I myself was inspired by Olympic gymnastics as a kid, and I haven’t stopped being interested ever since,” Diaz said.

Diaz said he is always seeking feedback from more experienced coaches to set program goals and expectations.

“I’m not saying I’m the best coach, but I feel like I ask a lot of questions to keep developing professionally,” Diaz said. “I also want to set high standards and keep those standards.”

Gymnast Sara Casillas echoed that notion, saying that her older sister and friends who competed in gymnastics at Elk Grove lauded the camaraderie past teams have displayed.

“It’s a hard sport, but I like the challenge of it,” said

Casillas said that the Olympics, more specifically the US Team, especially Suni Lee and Simone Biles, also inspired her to come out for Gymnastics.

Unfortunately, due to a typical gymnastics team size, Diaz had to cut 35 female gymnasts among all teams.

The girls gymnastics team finished the season with a last place showing at the MSL Conference Meet at Schaumburg High School on January 22, 2022.