Gymnastics is in Biggin’s blood


Matthew Vern Bliss

The Kent State Golden Flashes Gymnastics Team competes in the semifinals of the 2011 NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championship on April 15th, 2011 at the Wolstein Center in Cleveland, OH. Photo by Matthew Vern Bliss.

Erica Mucci

Gymnastics coach Brice Biggin began his storied career with Kent State more than 30 years ago as a student–athlete.

Growing up in Howland, Ohio, with three brothers very close in age, sports were a big part of Biggin’s childhood. He was brought up a multi-sport athlete and spent time playing football, track and field and baseball. Biggin said he didn’t expect gymnastics to be where he would ultimately land.

“Back then, sports were much different,” Biggin said. “You could do everything. But now, everything is so individualized. Kids pick one sport and stick with it year round.”

All the Biggin boys took gymnastics at a local YMCA throughout their upbringing. That Warren, Ohio, location happened to be a site from which numerous gymnasts went on to pursue collegiate careers at Kent State. Biggin said it was his mother’s encouragement that made him want to see where the sport could take him.

“She really encouraged me to keep going with it,” Biggin said. “It was probably the sport I was most successful at, and she always said it would look great on my resume.”

But Biggin still wasn’t sure. He arrived at Kent State to pursue a physical education degree. In the early weeks of his freshman year, he wasn’t even involved with the team. Biggin said he eventually realized the men’s team was growing and thought it might be a good opportunity to get on board.

“I looked to my mom for guidance again,” Biggin said. “Then I talked to the coaches, and they basically said, ‘We’d love to have you.’”

He went on to become four-year letterwinner and two-year team captain for the Flashes. Biggin has been a critical part of the program since. Before being named head coach, Biggin served as the women’s associate coach for five seasons under his former coaches Rudy and Janet Bachna. After the men’s program dissolved, Biggin was Kent State’s first-ever graduate assistant coach for the women’s gymnastics program.

Now 21 years as the program’s head coach, one thing is certain: Biggin has found a way to create winning gymnastics teams.

He said his most difficult challenge has been helping his gymnasts transition from competing at the private clubs of their youth to a team-oriented collegiate career.

Biggin said it’s his goal to teach the girls to be responsible for themselves, but work for the overall goal of the team.

“It’s important for them to understand they are not the most important,” Biggin said. “We can’t be successful as individuals or even a group of individuals. If we want to be a successful team, we have to do it together.”

Senior exercise science major Brianna Skiffington said Biggin’s combination of discipline and light-heartedness is what she admires most about him.

“He wants to make it so we enjoy being here,” Skiffington said. “He jokes around with me a lot about how much I smile and laugh, but you know he’s there to get things done.”

Senior communication studies major Jaimee Caldwell said his ability to achieve that balance is what sticks out to her.

“He’s taught me there’s a time for work and a time for play,” Caldwell said.

Skiffington said his lessons have extended far beyond the reaches of the gym.

“He’s taught me you always have to attack everything you want,” Skiffington said. “And never back down to anything or anyone.”

The lessons learned from gymnastics are ones Biggin hopes his three young children will take with them someday.

“I don’t want to push them into gymnastics,” Biggin said. “I want them to get involved in whatever they want. But there are a lot of positive values to be gained from this sport.”

This week, Biggin signed a contract extension that will allow him to keep building his winning program through the 2015-16 academic year.

Biggin will lead his team Saturday to face one of the best teams in the Mid-American Conference this season as the 2-1 Flashes travel to take on Central Michigan Saturday. Biggin said this match against the 2-1 Chippewas will be one of the Flashes’ most challenging matches.

Contact Erica Mucci at [email protected].