Good coaching changes everything.
It maximizes talent.
It fosters camaraderie.
It calms nerves.
Coaching can lead a good team to greatness and lead the greats to transcend their craft.
But what happens when a great squad loses its coach?
It’s no secret that UF’s gymnastics team holds a place among the all-time best.
Coming off of its third national championship in as many years, the Gators have a chance to do what only two other schools have done in the 34-year history of the NCAA women’s gymnastics: four-peat.
For a program that has already attained dynastic status, 2016 is shaping up as the next step.
It could be the year in which the Gators join the 1982-1985 Utah Red Rocks and the 2005-2008 Georgia Bulldogs at the pinnacle of their sport.
The major players largely remain the same.
Bridget Sloan returns for her final year and Alex McMurtry returns to full health following a nagging back ailment that robbed her of her ability to compete in her strongest event: the floor.
But their coach? Gone.
Rhonda Faehn — former Olympian, head coach of 13 years and the architect responsible for nine top-five finishes at the NCAA tournament — is out, resigning in order to become senior vice president of USA Gymnastics.
In her stead comes Jenny Rowland.
Auburn’s associate head coach for three years, the former USA National Team member is an unproven commodity in the collegiate head coaching realm.
The Florida job will be her first such position.
To an outsider, this spells trouble.
But to the athletes?
Things couldn’t be going better.
"I think we’ve made a great transition with Jenny," McMurtry — two-time All-American and the quickest Gator to post a perfect 10.0 at a collegiate meet — said.
"Everything is smooth sailing right now. The freshmen are doing well, the new coaches are doing well. I think we’re all really excited to start."
Bridget Sloan echoed the sentiment.
"I think every single person on the team transitioned a little bit different...and Jenny’s been so understanding. She’s been just someone that we can go to and talk to (when) we’re having a bad day. It’s not like, ‘what’s wrong?’ It’s more of, like, ‘alright, we’re gonna call it quits on today. I’m not worried about it. We’re gonna figure it out and everything’s gonna be fine.’
"And that’s been, I think, the best adjustment, it being so smooth because she’s so understanding."
Undoubtedly, Rowland’s personality has done wonders in setting the team at ease.
Cheerful and warm, her presence filled the O’Connell Center’s gymnastics practice studio on Wednesday
At Wednesday’s meeting with the media, coach Rowland filed into the studio with a smile.
"This is Kennedy!" she exclaimed jokingly, hugging two-time All-American Kennedy Baker before asking permission to quickly coordinate warm-ups.
It’s been said that a loose team is a dangerous one.
Teams that can grind out a practice session and have a good time doing it are the ones to keep an eye on.
If preseason workouts are any indicator, Jenny Rowland has managed to create something special.
Or perhaps she’s kept what was already special intact.
"When they’re (the coaching staff) excited, we get excited," Sloan noted.
"When they’re nervous, we start to get nervous, so it’s nice to have an entire staff that is very uplifting, is very positive, because it really does rub off on us."
Follow Alejandro López on Twitter @ajlb95