ATHENS — Suzanne Yoculan was babysitting her 2-year-old granddaughter Evie Tuesday afternoon, and there wasn’t anywhere else on Earth she wanted to be.
She could’ve been at the gym. But the Georgia Bulldogs’ Hall of Fame gymnastics coach has retired again.
Yoculan quietly stepped away after two years as a volunteer assistant coach for head coach Courtney Kupets Carter. Yoculan came out of retirement to assist Kupets Carter when the Bulldogs’ former star gymnast took over the program that Yoculan once led to 10 national championships, including five in a row.
“That was the plan when Courtney first asked me to help out,” said Yoculan, now the grandmother to three with another on the way. “We talked about it then, when we were laying out a road map for the program and what we needed to do to get back. I said at the time that I thought it’d take about two years and that’s what I committed to.”
It would appear that the Gym Dogs are back on track. In a season that began with the team recording its highest score in an opening meet in 13 years, Georgia achieved a score of 198 for the first time since 2009 in the NCAA regionals and finished the year in the semifinals of the NCAA Championships.
The program is still not quite where Yoculan left it 10 years and two other head coaches ago. Under her leadership, the Bulldogs not only won 10 national titles, but they also finished Top 3 in the nation in 23 of her 27 seasons.
Yoculan is confident now that Kupets Carter will get it back there.
“Courtney’s way ahead of the game for someone who’s been a collegiate coach for only two years at one of the top programs in the country,” Yoculan said. “She’s truly blossoming. She totally gets it. She has a great relationship with the girls and knows what she’s wants to do and how she wants to do it.”
Yoculan has played a big part in that maturation. When she first rejoined the team, Kupets Carter had no college coaching experience and the Gym Dogs’ staff was new and somewhat unsettled. In January of that first season, they lost one full-time assistant and Yoculan had to fill in.
This past season, Kupets Carter added assistant Jason Vonk to a staff that already included veteran Josh Overton, hired Heather McCormick as lead administrator and became more confident and determined about her vision for the program.
“It was full time that first year,” Yoculan said. “It certainly wasn’t the hours a normal volunteer coach would have where you’re coaching a couple of days a week. This year, Courtney was ready to take charge and make all the decisions herself. She did a great job.”
Yoculan is not going to disappear from the scene. She has agreed to serve as co-president of the Ten-0 booster club alongside Dee Matthews and will remain active in the Legacy Club, which is the gymnastics team’s alumni organization.
But all that will take a back seat to her family commitments, like babysitting Evie.
“I missed so much family time when I was the head coach,” Yoculan said. “That’s the hardest part about coaching. I really believe that’s why there are so few women who remain in the field. It’s just really hard to find the balance. But I told Courtney I can do anything she wants me to do and I know she’s going to get the program back to the top.”