Head Coach- Barbie Kass

Why Do I Coach?  I love gymnastics!  That is the simple answer, but when I think about it a little more, I realize that I love gymnastics because of all it has given me. I have been involved in this sport in one way or another for over 35 years.  I competed in high school gymnastics at Lakeville where I was a part of the 1993 and 1995 State Championship Teams.  I coached a community education program in Burnsville for almost 10 years, I coached a Junior High team in St. Cloud for 4 years, I was an assistant coach at Eagan for 1 year, and this is my eleventh year as head coach here at Prior Lake. I want the gymnasts that I coach to get as much out of the sport as I have. 

Obviously, I want my gymnasts to experience some of the same successes I did  (there is nothing like winning State as a team in the sport that you love), but I believe there are other more important gifts that involvement with gymnastics can give these girls that will help them throughout the rest of their lives.  Some of the “gifts” I was given by my favorite sport include: Perseverance, persistence, commitment, dedication, determination, self-confidence, goal-setting, the ability to perform under pressure, fitness, sportsmanship, time-management, life-long friendships, and most of all, the realization that nothing is impossible with the right attitude.  These are the attributes I want for the gymnasts I coach.

Why Do I Coach the Way I Do?  Sometimes I coach the way I do because it is the way I was coached and sometimes because it is the opposite of the way I was coached.  I want to be a transformational coach who defines success by the process and path the gymnasts and I have experienced together rather than by the scoreboard.  I want the gymnasts to feel at comfortable in the gym.  I want the girls to return to the gym to visit after they graduate and feel a sense of returning home. 

What does it Feel Like to be Coached by Me?  I would like the gymnasts to feel challenged by me, but also very supported.  My goal is to help them reach theirs, end of story. 

How Do I Define Success?   As long as the gymnasts continue to improve, we are successful.  This requires a commitment by both the gymnasts and the coaches.  The gymnasts must continue to set-goals and work hard to achieve them.  The coaches must continue to push the gymnasts out of their comfort zones.  Success on the scoreboard is secondary to successful improvement.

I feel very fortunate to have 5 wonderful assistant coaches working with me this year:  Bill Blazek, Jake Stock, Tiffany Harsted, Joe McWilliams, and Vanessa Zahratka.

Assistant Coach – Bill Blazek

Bill has quite an extensive coaching resume, so here is a brief summary of his experience:

Head Coach for USGF Boys program and Assistant Coach and

          Spotter for USGF Girls program.

Head Coach Girls High School Summer Workshop program

Spotter for winter High School Gymnastics programs

Assistant High School Gymnastics Coach

Roofing Crew Supervisor, Coty Construction

Assistant/Head Gymnastics Coach, Eagan High School

2002-2011 Eagan High School PSA, Special Education department

2007-Present – Assistant Coach at Prior Lake

Current Bill Blazek Roofing, Owner Licensed Contractor

Assistant Coach- Jake Stock

As the son of a lifelong gymnastics coach I have been around the sport for many years. After graduating from Prior Lake High School, I received my B.S in Art Education from Mankato State University. I'm currently substitute teaching in the Prior Lake and Apple Valley school districts. This is my third year as an assistant coach but I'm excited to learn even more and help the gymnasts reach their goals.

Vanessa Zahratka

I was a gymnast for 18 years; competing for Gleason's Eagan, Lakeville South High School, and UW-Stout. I have been coaching gymnastics for 10 years and love being in the gym. I enjoy working with the gymnasts and watching their joy and confidence grow with each new skill or stuck routine.

Joe McWilliams

For the past 25 years, Joe has been involved with gymnastics and acrobats through coaching and competition. Joe has coached for all levels of gymnastics and competed internationally in Freestyle Skiing. Joe was ranked in the Top 10 nationally for inverted aerials when he retired from competition. Joe looks forward to sharing his experience of competition, knowledge of gymnastics and the work ethic necessary to be successful with the Lakers.

Tiffany Harsted

At 8 years old, I begged my mom to start me in gymnastics and that was when I fell in love with the sport. I was part of club gymnastics for 5 years before heading to the Prior Lake High School team. I began coaching at 15 and have enjoyed doing so over the past 6 years. As I am finishing up my bachelor's degree, I am working towards a minor in coaching and look forward to learning more from the other experienced coaches.