Reaching for retirement

Coach Jean DeLisle drew inspiration from her gymnasts over the years

More stories from Rachel Helgeson

Ballin’ on a Budget
October 1, 2018


“The gymnasts are who have inspired me. As much as I have given them, they have given back to me ten-fold,” DeLisle said

Gymnastics Head Coach Jean DeLisle said she has been encouraging her athletes for the past 15 years to enjoy the journey as gymnasts and students. Now, DeLisle is making plans to retire.

“I struggled with the decision to walk away but after losing my dad last spring, I decided to spend more time with my mom for sure,” DeLisle said, “It (retirement) is really truly bitter-sweet.  I am excited for some free time, but I am going to miss this campus and my Blugold family and the relationships I make every year with the team.”

At the beginning of this season, the gymnastics team found out their coach would be retiring.

“It is very sad that Jean is retiring especially after all of these years; she is an amazing coach that will truly be missed,“ Maly Krajco, a senior gymnast, said, “But she has sacrificed so much of her family and personal time for her gymnasts, so I am happy for her as she will now be able to spend some quality time with her loved ones.”

DeLisle said she came to UW-Eau Claire after coaching for ten years at UW-River Falls where she became familiar with Eau Claire’s team by competing against them.  

“Tim Peterman, who I thank immensely, hired me after the previous coach decided to move on,” DeLisle said. “I was so impressed right away with the administrative staff here and super excited to be a Blugold.”

After winning awards in both high school and early in college, DeLisle’s own gymnastics career ended when she was injured in the preseason of her sophomore year in college, she said. That same year, she became an assistant coach at UW-River Falls.

Although she had been coaching children’s gymnastics since she was 15 years old, DeLisle said coaching college athletes is a passion she has not been able to quit.

“I love working with college-age athletes, the skill level keeps me motivated to continue to learn,” DeLisle said. “I love the relationships that I have with the athletes; I love that division-three athletes are competing because they love the sport,” DeLisle said.

As a coach, DeLisle said she believes winning isn’t the only thing in sports.

“If your only focus is winning, you lose sight of why you started the sport in the first place,” DeLisle said, “And through the years I have to say I have realized that the more fun we had as a team the better we performed.”

Assistant Coach Danielle Schulzetenberg, who also competed at UW-Eau Claire as a gymnast, said DeLisle places more importance on the individual, their needs and how they contribute to the team than she does on winning.

DeLisle said each season is an opportunity to learn about each new athlete and what they need. She said she wants every gymnast to have fun every day, recognize their strengths and understand which areas could be improved.

“The gymnasts are who inspire me. As much as I have given them they have given back to me ten-fold,” DeLisle said, “Their motivation, strength, perseverance, attitude, the way they balance the sport, school and most of their jobs amaze me, what an incredible group.”

Lauralynn Anderson, junior gymnast, will be spending her last college season without DeLisle and said she looks to DeLisle as if she were her “second mother.”

“Obviously I am sad she won’t be here next year and will definitely miss her presence in the gym every day, but of course I completely understand and support her decision and respect that she recognized what was best for her,” Anderson said.

DeLisle said she hopes to spend time with family during her retirement, including members who live out-of-state. She also said she’ll be picking up a new hobby in CrossFit and traveling to the beach each winter for vacation, something she hasn’t done for over 25 years.

DeLisle said she has enjoyed every season, and felt nothing less for her last season.

“I love this team, they are amazing!” DeLisle said. “We continued to improve every meet, our score went up every meet, the team culture was what I dreamt of and there isn’t a gymnast on the team that I am not going to miss.”

Four individual gymnasts will be competing in the National Collegiate Gymnastics Association national championships in Springfield, Missouri in one week.

“Jean has established a strong team with an amazing environment,” Krajco said. “It will be different without her there at the gym, but I think that the returning gymnasts will keep the same environment that Jean has created with us into the next season.”