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Janelle McDonald Hired as UCLA Gymnastics Head Coach

May 9, 2022
Janelle McDonald

Former University of California assistant coach Janelle McDonald, who holds two decades of coaching experience, has been named the new head coach of the UCLA Gymnastics team.

"Janelle has been exemplary at connecting with and developing young people at every level of her coaching career," UCLA's Alice and Nahum Lainer Director of Athletics Martin Jarmond said. "Her enthusiasm and energy is contagious. She understands and respects the Bruin legacy and the commitment to excellence this program deserves as one of the best in the country. I am extremely confident in Janelle's ability to lead the Bruins and am thrilled to welcome her to Westwood."

"I am honored and so grateful to be joining the UCLA Athletics family! From the moment I stepped onto campus, I could feel the Bruin pride and tradition of excellence around every corner," said McDonald. "I would like to thank Martin Jarmond and Dr. Christina Rivera for entrusting my vision and passion to lead this program into its next chapter."

McDonald helped coach California to unprecedented success during her four seasons in Berkeley (2019-22), as the Golden Bears won their first-ever Pac-12 regular season title in 2022 and earned a seventh-place NCAA finish in 2021, which matched their highest-ever finish. Serving as the team's uneven bars head coach, McDonald coached Maya Bordas to California's first-ever NCAA individual championship in 2021, while the uneven bars squad finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in the nation and tied a NCAA record with a team score of 49.825. In 2022, all six uneven bars performers ranked in the Top 15 in the region, with three earning All-Pac-12 honors. The Top 7 uneven bars scores in school history have come under McDonald's watch. During her tenure, California gymnasts earned a total of 17 All-America honors, including six on uneven bars.

McDonald was honored in 2020 and 2021 as the Women's Collegiate Gymnastics Association (WCGA) Regional Assistant Coach of the Year and was part of the 2021 College Gym News Coaching Staff of the Year.

"I am very grateful to Justin Howell, Liz Crandall-Howell and Cal Athletics for providing me a place to learn and grow over the past four seasons," McDonald said. "My experiences in Berkeley and with the student-athletes on the Cal gymnastics team have pushed me to become a better version of myself and have prepared me to take on this new opportunity. I cannot wait to get started with our team and build with them a culture that will honor and continue the great history of this program."

McDonald, who began her coaching career in 1999 while in high school, has extensive coaching experience at the club level, including a six-year (2012-18) tenure at WOGA, which earned USA Gymnastics Texas Junior Olympic Program of the Year honors in 2015. She coached all four events at the elite, optional and compulsory levels, mentoring USA Championship qualifiers and various athletes who earned full-ride scholarships to NCAA Division I programs.

Prior to WOGA, McDonald was the TOPS team coach at Legacy Elite Gymnastics and also coached Level 3-10 team gymnasts. She also spent eight years coaching at Desert Lights Gymnastics, where she coached all levels of competitive gymnastics, choreographed balance beam and floor exercise routines and was the TOPS Team Director and Compulsory Team Director. McDonald was named the 2005 USAG Arizona Rookie Coach of the Year and the 2006 USAG Arizona Compulsory Coach of the Year, and she was part of the staff that earned 2009-2010 USAG Arizona Coaching Staff of the Year acclaim. Since 2020, McDonald has served as the head coach on vault and uneven bars for Level 7-10 athletes at East Bay Gymnastics, coaching numerous state and regional champions.

"Janelle's passion and love for the sport radiates throughout her," said two-time Olympic medalist and former UCLA All-American and NCAA champion Madison Kocian, whom McDonald helped coach and support at WOGA. "She exudes qualities that will make an incredible head coach, mentor and leader for this program. I'm so excited to cheer her on as she upholds the UCLA Gymnastics legacy."

McDonald graduated from Arizona State University in 2011 with a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies. While at Arizona State, she interned for the Sun Devil gymnastics program in 2010. She has owned a National Association of Women's Gymnastics Judges (NAWGJ) certification since 2001.

"I'm excited to welcome Janelle McDonald into the Bruin family. In addition to being extremely accomplished in the world of coaching, she exudes both confidence and energy. More importantly, Janelle is dedicated to elevating the sport through empowering student-athletes to become the best version of themselves."
- Former UCLA Head Coach and UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame member Valorie Kondos Field

"I've known Janelle for quite some time now. It's been amazing watching her grow as a coach and seeing the way she can add to a college team. Change is always exciting, and so is a new perspective. I can't wait to see where she leads this team."
- Two-time NCAA champion Katelyn Ohashi (UCLA '19)

"I am beyond proud and excited for Janelle and the UCLA Gymnastics program! I had the honor of working alongside her for many years, and she is one of the best people and coaches I have ever met. UCLA Gymnastics is very lucky to have her. I know she will be able to bring out the best of everyone in the program."
- Cecile Landi, Girls Team Assistant Head Coach, World Champions Centre

"Janelle has made an incredible impact on our program and in the lives of our student-athletes during her time at Cal. We want to wish her the best of luck as she moves on to her new head coaching role with UCLA Gymnastics."
- California Co-Head Coach Justin Howell