“When I first came to UNH, things were just starting to build for women,” UNH gymnastics head coach Gail Goodspeed said. “Mom’s made leotards for the team my first years,” she said to put things in perspective.
After a long journey, Goodspeed came to UNH from California State University, Northridge and began her coaching career with the Wildcats in 1979-80. Over the past 37 years, the program has seen drastic changes including a new facility, coaching positions, scholarships and recruiting opportunities.
“When I first got here I looked at the facility that they [UNH] had and asked myself
‘how do they run a team here?’ I thought I would be here for three years, and then move on,” she said.
When Goodspeed first started, UNH barely had enough money in the budget to recruit and give out scholarships. Thirty-seven years later and now the team has, “twelve fully supported scholarships to offer,” she explained.
“One of the reasons that I am here is because I love to teach. The most rewarding thing for me as a coach is when an athlete learns a new skill and takes it from practice into a competition. To watch them continue to improve is what I love the most,” Goodspeed said.
Her fondest memory is when she led the team to the NCAA Championship meet in 1994 in Salt Lake City Utah. “My fondest memory is competing in the Regional meet when we qualified [for the championships] in front of stands full of UNH alumni,” she said.
It was hard for Goodspeed to pick just one fond memory, as she explained that every day she experiences memories that she will always remember.
“I like to find the diamond in the rough, the athlete who keeps getting better,” she said. It’s rewarding for her as a coach to see when one of her gymnasts finally have their hard work pay off. “I had a senior this year, who has been working her tail off for three years and finally got into the floor lineup,” she said. That highlight for someone is the reason that Goodspeed does her job, to watch these athletes improve and achieve their goals.
In a unique circumstance, Goodspeed has worked alongside her husband and associate head coach, Ed Dati for 34 years now. They both chose to make a life here at UNH and that’s Goodspeed’s favorite part about being a coach here.
“Being able to raise a family and be involved in the community and have our kids grow up here is special,” said Goodspeed. “UNH has a family feeling. The University as a whole has that feeling and that doesn’t happen at bigger institutions,” she added.
“Gail has a lot of integrity. She cares about the athletes as individuals. She has a strong knowledge base on mental training and she is dedicated to it. She wants to make this the best program possible,” Datti said. Goodspeed graduated Boston University with her doctorate degree in Sports Psychology and uses that skill in her coaching techniques. “Her strengths are my weaknesses, we compliment each other. She is great at the technical aspects of gymnastics and getting the most out of individuals,” he added.
Danielle Mulligan, a freshman gymnast for the Wildcats, agrees with Dati saying, “what the girls love most about [Goodspeed] is her calming spirit when things get rocky. She really helps you work things out instead of just ignoring them.”
Goodspeed has led the gymnastics team to the NCAA Regional championships 33 times out of the 37 years she has coached. This past season she helped the team to a second place finish at the East Atlantic Gymnastic League Championship and punched a ticket to the NCAA Ann Arbor Regional meet.
With assistant, Dati, retiring after this season (effective July 1), Goodspeed doesn’t know how much longer she is going to stay at UNH. However, one thing remains certain, she wants to continue to work with the team.
“I want to work with them when the team is successful but I also want to be here when the team isn’t doing well. I want to make an impact in either direction,” she said.