With success comes clutter

Doug Gulasy

Brice Biggin is running out of room for his trophies

The contents of Brice Biggin’s office tell the story of his success as Kent State’s gymnastics coach.

Trophies and plaques clutter his office. Several “Coach of the Year” awards – he’s won the Mid-American Conference award five times and regional awards three times – act as wallpaper.

It begs the question: Where would he put the plaque if he won the award again this year?

“I’ve got a bunch of drawers that are empty,” Biggin said, gesturing to a file cabinet in the corner of his office. “But hopefully, the thing that we want to find room for is another MAC Championship (trophy).”

Kent State has won five in his career, giving Biggin memories he looks upon “very fondly.”

“There’s not much of a better feeling I’ve ever had than watching the girls celebrate and seeing the joy on their faces,” he said. “The thing that I’m proudest about is we’ve never had a kid since I’ve been here come through that hasn’t been part of a MAC- championship team.”

It’s easy to see that the Flashes have been successful since Biggin took over in 1992. The team is 129-79 overall – a winning percentage of .620.

Biggin has been involved with the program since 1980, when he was a gymnast. After that, he was an assistant coach for the men’s team. He was then a graduate assistant before becoming associate coach for the women’s team under Rudy and the late Janet Bachna.

The Bachnas are legends in Kent State gymnastics history, developing the gymnastics program in 1959 and winning 262 meets in their tenure. Biggin credits them for teaching him the philosophy he now emphasizes.

“You can have one or two super-talented kids, but that’s not going to make for a good team,” Biggin said. “(The Bachnas’) whole philosophy with that was you nurture everyone along, and everyone’s important to the overall success.”

However, Biggin doesn’t see himself staying around as long as the Bachnas. They coached Kent State gymnastics for 32 years.

“I still marvel when I think about how many years they put in and the longevity that they had,” he said. “I’m at 16 years, and there’s just no way I could ever see myself doing that.

“It’s mentally tough – any coaching job is mentally tough. I enjoy what I do, but boy, I just know I’ll never make 32 years.”

Still, Biggin, who describes himself as “passionate,” made sure to note that he isn’t ready for retirement just yet.

Senior tri-captain Julie Huynh said Biggin’s wealth of experience makes him a very knowledgeable coach.

“He’s coached so many girls, gone through so many cycles,” Huynh said. “He knows what you’re thinking before you’re going to say it.”

Junior tri-captain Kristin Peters talked about how caring Biggin is and how that distinguishes him from other coaches.

“I’ve heard horror stories about other coaches, not necessarily here, but other schools, and they really are there just to coach; but he’s here to get to know us as people, too,” Peters said.

Junior tri-captain Jill Kowalski describes Biggin as “patient.”

“He can always hold his cool and not explode at people if he’s frustrated with them,” Kowalski said. “He knows how to calmly and rationally talk and just keep everybody else calm.”

Biggin said he only yells when he thinks the team isn’t giving enough effort, especially in practice.

“It may be more difficult to (give 100 percent in practice) all the time,” he said. “But if you want to be successful, that’s the only way I know how to be successful.”

Kowalski said his ability to maintain his cool helps the team.

“He doesn’t yell too often,” she said. “I think that’s better with a bunch of girls, too, because girls don’t take yelling very well sometimes.”

Though Biggin emphasizes hard work, he also has a lighter side. Huynh said he can be a “silly guy.”

“He’ll pretend that he wants us on a nice day to hurry up and finish practice so he can go golfing with Kurt (Hettinger), our assistant coach,” she said. “But he’s definitely in it for gymnastics.”

One look at his office confirms that.

Contact gymnastics reporter Doug Gulasy at [email protected].