Meg Stephenson embarks on her fourth year as the sole head coach of the Golden Gopher women's gymnastics program in 2013, after sharing head coaching duties from 1999 to 2009. Meg spent those 11 years as co-head coach with her husband, Jim Stephenson, after serving as an assistant coach in her first five seasons with the Gophers.
While Minnesota entered a new era in the team's history with Meg standing solo at the helm of the Golden Gopher program, much has remained the same. The team-first attitude and focus on detail are unchanged. The coaches' care for the gymnasts and strong leadership of their athletes are the same. The family environment in the gym that draws so many athletes to the Minnesota program is consistent. The goals of contending for a Big Ten title and earning trips to the NCAA Championships are constants.
Throughout her tenure at Minnesota, Meg Stephenson has believed that the athletes on her team should continue to improve their gymnastics throughout their collegiate careers, and that the gymnasts should expect more than just maintaining their current skills. The coaches take pride in running a teaching program, and the success of their gymnasts shows that the program works. A solid example of skill improvement under the Stephenson's leadership is 2005 Big Ten Gymnast of the Year Carolyn Yernberg. Yernberg joined the team as a walk-on in 2002, and went on to become the first gymnast in Minnesota history to score a 10.0, and became a Big Ten Champion in the floor exercise.
The coaching strengths of the Stephensons were evident in their athlete's performances in 2002 when Minnesota achieved its highest national finish (9th) in the history of the program. Minnesota's tandem received Big Ten Coach of the Year honors twice (1998, 2002), as well as Regional Coach of the Year honors in 2002.
The duo led the Golden Gophers to NCAA regional competition in each of the past 17 seasons, capturing top-10 finishes at the NCAA Championships twice (1997, 2002). In their 20-year tenure at Minnesota, the Stephensons have led the Gophers to top-25 national finishes 13 times.
The Golden Gophers have won two Big Ten Championships in the Stephenson era, in 1998 and 2006. Meg owns a 206-178-2 record in her 15 years as a head coach at Minnesota.
After reaching the NCAA Championships in Gainesville, Fla., in 1997 and coaching the Golden Gophers to a 10th-place finish, the Stephensons said they had reached one of the goals they set out to accomplish at Minnesota. After beating that performance with the 9th-place national finish in 2002, Meg now looks to guide the team to a return trip to the NCAA Championships in 2013.
In her work with the balance beam and floor exercise teams, Stephenson has produced championship-caliber athletes for the Golden Gophers. She is responsible for the choreography of the team's beam and floor routines, as well as arranging the music for floor exercise. She has helped guide three Gophers to Big Ten balance beam titles (Mindy Knaeble in 1997, Cathy Keyser in 1998 and Carmelina Carabajal in 2009), and one gymnast to a Big Ten title in the floor exercise (Carolyn Yernberg in 2005). In 2002, she guided two athletes (MaryAnne Kelley and Annie Laatsch) to All-America performances on the floor exercise.
The Stephensons have worked to increase meet attendance at the Sports Pavilion and to uphold and better the University of Minnesota's gymnastics reputation both locally and nationally. Minnesota has ranked among the top 20 nationally in average home attendance in each of the last 17 seasons, ranking as high as ninth in the country in 2000. In 2010, the Gophers drew 3,472 to the Best of Minnesota meet, marking the third-biggest crowd of all time, and the best crowd at a regular-season competition. In 2008, Minnesota added two meets to the top 10 list in the school's attendance records. With 3,571 fans at the 2008 NCAA Regional Championship, Minnesota set a new Sports Pavilion attendance record. The 2008 Best of Minnesota meet drew a crowd of 2,685 to tie for the 10th-highest attendance in program history.
Prior to coming to Minnesota, Meg was a consultant for four years at the University of Utah, where she assisted in both balance beam and floor exercise.
From 1982-87, Jim and Meg Stephenson owned and coached at the Pantheon School of Gymnastics in Rancho Cordova, Calif., where they produced 98 individual state champions, two national Junior Olympic champions and seven state team champions.
Outside of Golden Gopher gymnastics, Meg has been very active in the gymnastics community on a local and national scale. She served as the president of the National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches for Women from 1995-98. After completing her third year in the position, she declined to run again in order to focus more completely on coaching and returning to school, but continues to serve on the executive board. Meg was a member of the USAG Board of Directors from 2004 to 2008. She has served as the chair of the Big Ten women's gymnastics coaches, and recently completed a four-year term as a member of the NCAA Gymnastics Championships Committee. From 1988-90, Meg served as a gymnastics official and was an executive board member of the Northern California Coaches Association from 1985-87. Stephenson was the owner, co-head coach and business manager of the Pantheon School of Gymnastics from 1982-87.
Meg was an accomplished gymnast in her collegiate days at Iowa State University from 1977-81. She served as the team captain for the Cyclones in 1980 and 1981. She was also a four-year regional competitor.
Before Stephenson attended Iowa State, she was a four-year competitor for Evanston Township High School. In 1998 Stephenson was named to the Evanston Township High School Athletic Hall of Fame. She was named the Colgate High School Woman Athlete of the Year in 1977 and the AMF Illinois Outstanding Senior Gymnast. She is also a member of the IHSGC Hall of Fame.
Stephenson earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education in 1981 from Iowa State and received her master's degree in human resource development at the University of Minnesota in 2003.
The Stephensons live in Roseville, Minn. They have two children -- son Jack and daughter Sierra. Jack attends the University of Minnesota-Duluth, while Sierra is a student at the College of Visual Arts in St. Paul, Minn.