Drained from a long day’s work at practice, University of Oregon acrobatics and tumbling head coach Felecia Mulkey gathers her team at the front of the mat and proposes a simple question.
“Any negatives?” Mulkey questions following practice.
This daily cool down exercise — where the team rattles off a list of both positive and negative occurrences from practice — has affected the philosophies of former Oregon players who are now coaches.
Former Oregon player Jacquie Svadeba is now the first year acrobatics and tumbling head coach at Alderson-Broaddus University in Philippi, W.Va., which Oregon played on Sunday. She has integrated similar philosophies to those of Mulkey — her former coach.
“That’s something we’ve definitely taken from Oregon that is extremely important for us and it’s extremely important for our athletes,” Svadeba said. “I think it’s created a closer vibe with our athletes and definitely more of a family feel.”
Mulkey’s various philosophies are something that Svadeba was enamored with immediately.
When Mulkey made the move to Eugene, Ore., five years ago, eight girls followed her from Kennesaw State. One of those girls was Svadeba.
“What really sold me on coach Felecia, and what made me follow her from Kennesaw, was her philosophy,” Svadeba said. “After being coached by her for two years, I knew I didn’t want to be coached by anybody else.”
The willingness to move across country proved Svadeba’s passion for the sport and Mulkey noticed that right away.
“Every athlete that has been on my team, that is coaching right now, was a transfer student to Oregon,” Mulkey said. “These kids had a level of passion coming in to start the sport. They were on the ground level of figuring out what the sport was all about. They made a lot of sacrifices to get here.”
Sunday — for the first time as a head coach — Svadeba led her team against her former coach as Alderson-Broaddus competed against Oregon and Hawaii Pacific University. While from very distinct regions, all three teams are unified by the connection of their coaches.
“Our athletes, in so many ways, feel a connection to the program at Oregon,” Svadeba said. “They definitely feel that, in a way, they come from that program.”
However, Svadeba isn’t the only one of Mulkey’s former players who made a homecoming this weekend as a coach. Alderson-Broaddus’ assistant coach Hannah Foley and Hawaii Pacific head coach Keenyn Won also returned to face-off against their mentor.
For Foley, much of her inclination to becoming a acrobatics and tumbling coach can be accredited to Mulkey.
“Being an athlete under coach Mulkey is a once in a lifetime experience,” Foley said. “She’s the reason I wanted to start coaching. I saw how much of an impact she made on others and her abilities to lead the masses are unmatched. I look up to her in so many ways.”
After only a short time in the transition between her former players becoming opposing coaches, seeing Svadeba, Foley and Won on Sunday was surreal for Mulkey. But it’s not like their connectivity has been changed in any way from becoming opponents.
“We’re a family, when you get to be a part of our team, and we stay connected,” Mulkey said. “We have this bond.”
Follow Joseph Hoyt on Twitter @jhoyt42