GYMNASTICS: Schmidts forge father-daughter connection as coach and athlete

·3 min read

Jan. 28—BEMIDJI — Danny Schmidt is a girl dad.

"I have three daughters of my own, so learning the girls' sports has just been a part of my life," Schmidt said. "It's been a blessing, and I love it."

Because of that attitude, Schmidt didn't need much convincing when one of his daughters told him to apply for an open spotting coach position with the Bemidji High School gymnastics team.

"Mady came home one day and was like, 'Dad, apply,'" he said. "My gymnastics background is what I have seen and learned from her."

Despite a lack of previous experience, Danny has grown in the sport alongside Mady. After three years as a spotter, he's spent the past two as an assistant coach. And on Thursday, both Danny and Mady were central to the Lumberjacks' 141.4-137.375 victory over Detroit Lakes at the Gym Bin.

"We're over-the-moon excited," Mady said of the win. "It was a really great night. We saw some really great things."

Mady claimed first place on the beam at 9.25 and was also third in the all-around at 36.05. On an evening that doubled as her Senior Night, she was reminded of all that she has left to do

before diving with the University of South Dakota next year

.

"This season, I've definitely been trying to take advantage of (the opportunity)," she said. "It's my last year, so go out with a bang. I'm trying to do absolutely everything I can."

Danny is right alongside her, but he's convinced that Mady's successes are fully her own.

"Mady doesn't need me. That's what I always say," Danny said. "Really, I end up being here for most of the other girls. I primarily do a lot of my coaching with the beginning girls and the JV girls. We don't spend a lot of time together at practice."

The dynamic is an interesting one to balance, but it's one they've perfected since Danny first joined the program in Mady's eighth-grade year.

"In the gym, we try to keep things strictly coach-athlete," Mady said. "But as soon as we're home, it's the dad-daughter connection. ... Our dynamic as father/coach and daughter/athlete, I think it's really good."

The Schmidts weren't the only highlights of Thursday's meet, however. Lauren Berg claimed the all-around title for BHS with a 36.3, which featured wins on the vault (9.65) and the floor (9.55). Tatum Offerdahl's 9.1 on the uneven bars gave Bemidji wins in all four events.

Aubrey DeWitt also placed second on bars with an 8.825 and third on floor with a 9.175. Yet Mady Schmidt had the Lumberjacks' most top-three marks, placing second on floor (9.45) and third on vault (9.15) in addition to her triumph on beam.

"The big thing with us being shut down last week was that we didn't know if we were going to get this week," Danny said of the recent Bemidji Area Schools shutdown. "We came into tonight on another short practice, and these girls just keep getting better."

BHS currently sits sixth in the Class AA rankings and is the top-ranked team within Section 8AA. The calendar next features a 6 p.m. showdown with Perham on Monday, Jan. 31, at the Gym Bin, but soon after the team will try for its first-ever section championship come mid-February.

For the Schmidt family, any accomplishments will count as double.

"It's awesome to not just watch your kid, but to stand on the sidelines and actually be a little bit more involved," Danny said. "It's beyond words."

"It means a lot to me," Mady added. "I feel like I've definitely grown a stronger bond with him since he joined the team."