LIGONIER — If there was any gymnast building a resume for becoming a high school gymnastics coach before graduating college, it was former Westview High School gymnast Karyssa Davis.
As a second-year student at Grace College, Davis has already put together routines, researched new skills to add to those routines and negotiated with West Noble athletic director Tom Schermerhorn to use West Noble’s facilities as the only Westview gymnast on the Warriors’ team.
She did all of it as a freshman in high school with her mother, Sherrie, who had no previous gymnastics experience, serving as her coach to allow Karyssa to compete officially. Now, the 19-year-old is a co-head coach at West Noble in her first season.
“It was something I always wanted to do actually,” Davis said. “I didn’t expect to do it in college.”
While at a tennis match, watching her brother Kurtis, who plays for Westview and won a Northeast Corner Conference Championship in 2018, she was approached by Schermerhorn. The two had worked together during Davis’ high school days, as the Westview-West Noble gymnastics bond began around Davis’ freshman year, Schermerhorn said.
The bond between the two programs grew so tightly that Westview currently has matching leotards with West Noble, with slight differences in color schemes, and the Warriors and Chargers compete in the same dual meets. On West Noble’s senior night in 2017, Davis was honored as a senior as well, even though she competed for Westview.
She wasn’t a phenomenal gymnast in high school, Davis said, but she won a club state title on beam as a sophomore and had been competing since she was in third grade.
Schermerhorn — partly joking, partly serious — suggested that Davis should coach the West Noble team, as the Chargers were searching for their next head coach.
“Just watching her participate in athletics at Westview the last number of years,” Schermerhorn said. “She just always handled herself way beyond her years. She’s very intelligent and thoughtful and has a really good way of establishing relationships with others. I was most impressed with her maturity.”
Davis went home after the tennis match and checked her school schedule before emailing Schermerhorn that she would be willing to coach. Understanding Davis’ personality and the coaching style of Athena Metzger, Schermerhorn decided to name them co-coaches.
With the Chargers fielding a senior and two juniors, Davis had competed and practiced with not only a few of her gymnasts in the past but also some of the competition as well.
“It’s different trying to navigate those relationships and make it to the point where we aren’t peers anymore,” Davis said. “It’s different because I did compete with them. It’s a very different dynamic than other coaches have, not knowing any of the girls going in.”
Davis, along with the help of Metzger, is a already making progress with her roster in Ligonier. The young team, filled with several first-year gymnasts, improved by 10 points from the first to the second meets of the season, and Davis said she makes all of her gymnasts compete on beam, which tends to be a weakness on many high school gymnastics teams, particularly young ones.
Kirstin Knox is the only senior on the West Noble team, while two other juniors help lead the way with the upperclassmen. But the remaining six members of the team are freshmen and sophomores. That creates quite a challenge for Davis, who is majoring in elementary education at Grace in hopes of becoming a teacher after her 3-year program is finished in Winona Lake.
“That’s exciting because there’s a lot of potential,” she said. “But it’s also difficult to manage all the different skill sets and get them where they need to be to compete.”