New WMHS girls’ gymnastic coach seeks to rebuild program

Published in the August 31, 2016 edition


WAKEFIELD — The Warrior girls’ gymnastics team has fallen upon hard times in terms of the win-loss record and in overall numbers.

It will be up to new head coach Brianna McNeil to change all that.

McNeil takes over for long time coach Lisa Mansfield who is not returning this winter. McNeil will have the task of helping the gymnastics team to rebuild in terms of numbers and competitiveness in the Middlesex League.

McNeil is no stranger to the Middlesex League gymnastics scene. She was a former star gymnast at Woburn High School, and her mother has been the head coach at Stoneham High School for the past 18 years.

McNeil has been coaching at the Reading Gymnastics Academy for the past eight years, where she has worked with gymnasts from all around the area, including many from Wakefield. McNeil has also helped out with her alma mater Woburn High School and her mother’s Stoneham High School team during that time period as well.

“I was absolutely ecstatic when I found out that I was going to be the head coach for Wakefield’s gymnastics team. I have been in the sport of gymnastics my entire life. I competed competitively my entire adolescent life and started coaching from a young age,” said McNeil. “I love being a coach because of the satisfaction I get from making girls physically stronger while also raising their self confidence.”

That will be one of the challenges facing McNeil. Not only were the 2016 Warriors down in terms of numbers but they also had to get a waiver for seventh and eighth graders to compete just to form a team.

“This year will be a rebuilding year for the team. I would like to raise morale for the team by creating a fun and safe environment where the girls will bond as a whole, make new friends and better their skills and become physically stronger,” said McNeil. “When coaching high school kids it is important to understand how they feel on a daily basis and understand the struggles and stresses they deal with and let them know that they are there to get better but to also have fun.

“I have coached many of Wakefield’s athletes at the gym where I work, Reading Gymnastics Academy in North Reading. Once these gymnasts found out that I was going to be the coach they seemed so excited so I am hoping that my reputation will bring out more numbers than in years past,” added McNeil. “High school gymnastics was my most memorable time in high school for me and that is how I want to see these girls to be leaving the program; happy and excited and wanting to come back.”

Right now, McNeil isn’t looking at the record as much. She wants to put in the building blocks so the program can compete against M.L. powers such as Melrose and Burlington.

“Wakefield has not won in a meet in a couple of years but winning is not the most important aspect for this town. I would like to rebuild the sport and gain the numbers it had in years past before even talking about having a winning season,” said McNeil. “There is currently a lot of talent within the middle school age. So hopefully in coming years we will be able to bring a win to Wakefield gymnastics.

“This year will be a little bit of a challenge trying to rebuild the program but I know that I have the experience and the personality to make this team great again,” added the new head coach. “If I have girls leaving practice with a smile, I know I am doing my job and hopefully the girls will perform and do the best that they can. And I believe that it will be an awesome season.”

McNeil is also a recent graduate of Merrimack College, where she earned a degree in Psychology. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in mental health and aspires to be a school psychologist or school mental health professional.