Amy Smith had a good thing going across the country. Previously the head gymnastics coach at Utah State, Smith most recently led the Aggies to consecutive top-25 finishes, the first time the program had accomplished that feat since 1998-99. They …
Amy Smith had a good thing going across the country.
Previously the head gymnastics coach at Utah State, Smith most recently led the Aggies to consecutive top-25 finishes, the first time the program had accomplished that feat since 1998-99. They posted their highest team score ever at an NCAA regional meet earlier this year and won the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference championship, the program’s first conference title since 2005.
But Smith said she’s always enjoyed doing things in her career that have never been done before. So a month after Utah State’s 2022 season ended in March, Smith accepted the job at Clemson, which has never competed in the sport. That will start happening during the 2023-24 academic year.
“When this opportunity presented itself and I started to look into it and saw the amazing athletic tradition, the amazing academics and then when I actually got out here and saw the area, I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’” Smith said. “This is just an incredible opportunity. So I couldn’t pass it up.”
Smith is off and running on her new job. She’s already hired her associate head coach, Erik Lewis, and recently signed six transfers as part of Clemson’s first-ever gymnastics recruiting class, though she didn’t have to look far for any of them. All either coached with or competed for Smith at Utah State this past season.
As for how Smith is trying to sell recruits she’s not so familiar with on a startup program in the future, she said her message is simple.
“You look at this rich athletic tradition, incredible academics and then this beautiful area of South Carolina. And how exciting to make history,” Smith said. “This class that just signed? They’re already making history, and to be able to pave the way and be trailblazers on this, that’s not for everybody. But I’m going to find those kids that that excites them and they want to be a part of this. I literally get chills because I just love the icdea and the concept of that.”
Yet Smith doesn’t believe it’s going to take the Tigers all that long to become competitive thanks to the transfer portal. Having those more experienced gymnasts that followed her from Utah State, she said, should help expedite that process.
“I’ve got a senior, I’ve got a junior, and I’ve got four sophomores, so that really helps my roster in terms of padding it and getting a really nice supporting cast for them to work with,” Smith said. “On top of that, too, what I’m really excited about with them coming is expediting the culture. Those six know exactly what myself and associate head coach Erik Lewis (expect) and what goes and what doesn’t go.”
Smith said she hopes other schools that don’t currently have a gymnastics program follow Clemson’s lead in changing that.
“It’s so exciting to go to a meet,” Smith said. “It’s not like the Olympics where it’s all quiet. It is loud, it is high-energy, and it is an experience. I’m so excited to bring that to Littlejohn (Coliseum), sell out and get those Clemson fans in there. It’s so different in person to watch it. And the athletes are phenomenal. What they do is just absolutely incredible.”
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