With an average of 15 athletes on the UAA gymnastics team and now 33 years of coaching, head coach Paul Stoklos has overseen the collegiate career of over 100 different gymnasts at UAA alone.
Stoklos is the only gymnastics coach that UAA has ever had, an impressive comparison that no other sport at UAA can boast.
Gymnastics has always been a part of Stoklos’ life. From out of high school until now, he has been coaching.
Stoklos originally started off as an assistant coach at the University of Arizona. First he began as a volunteer assistant coach, until moving his way up to paid assistant coach. The seven years he spent there prepared him for the opportunity to start the collegiate program in Alaska and build it from scratch.
“When I came to UAA for the job interview in 1984, I knew that this was where I wanted to stay… why still at UAA? I like to say I married UAA when I came here. This campus and athletes have been my family for 33 years,” Stoklos said.
In the time Stoklos has spent at UAA, he has made many tremendous accomplishments with the athletes he has coached.
Originally the program started out as Division II, but nearly 15 years ago it transitioned into a Division I program that made the largest difference in the progress of the gymnasts.
Since then, Stoklos’ athletes have been able to reach 31 program records. He’s been able to qualify 15 gymnasts for the NCAA West Regional all-around competition, as well as securing 10 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation event titles.
With many accomplishments, Stoklos has admitted that it isn’t as easy as it may seem.
“The most challenging part — two [actually], is keeping the student athletes from being distracted by all that is going on around them. The other is to get student athletes to want to come to Alaska when there used to be so much disinformation about this place we call home, he said.
Despite the difficulties Stoklos may run into, his gymnasts have preformed exceptionally well in academics. After becoming a part of the MPSF in 2003, the team has managed to average nearly six all-academic honors per season.
The fact that the gymnasts can excel in both athletics and academics is what makes coaching worth it for Stoklos.
“The most rewarding part of coaching is the see young athletes mature into adults as they purse a greater education while training and competing in a sport that we all love,” Stoklos said.
With the commencement of the 2017 season, Stoklos oversaw six of his athletes make it onto the all-academic list, meeting the yearly average.
After the 2016 and 2017 seasons ended, Stoklos saw the departure of many of his most talented athletes. With that, he hopes to see some positive changes in store for the 2018 season.
“Next season, I see an increased squad size. We needed more numbers to survive some of the loses of team members. I think the increased depth and strength will allow us to have a more successful season,” Stoklos said.
Regardless of size, Stoklos ultimately wants to have healthy athletes.
“We had two injuries that ended the season for two of our athletes. Like all coaches, I would like to see a season with no injures,” he said.
Stoklos only wants the best for his athletes, whether it’s seeing them excel at the sport he’s coaching, their academics or their health.