Grace McCallum, Utah Red Rocks beat Arizona Wildcats

The coach’s efforts to motivate her team have apparently worked: Utah bounced back Friday with a comfortable win at Arizona.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Coach Carly Dockendorf as Utah hosts Boise State, NCAA gymnastics in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024.

Carly Dockendorf wishes social media didn’t exist.

But once she took the job as coach of the Utah Red Rocks gymnastics program, she knew she needed to be more visible online. She knew her gymnasts and recruits used social media to connect and build relationships.

So Dockendorf decided to be more active. One of the ways she’s done that, she said this week, is by commenting on her gymnasts’ posts and offering words of support.

“I think I’ve just kind of used that as another way to build those relationships and remind them of how amazing that they’re doing and continue to build up their confidence anywhere I can,” Dockendorf said.

If Dockendorf were to comment about her gymnasts’ performance Friday against Arizona, there’d be plenty of words of support she could share with not just her athletes, but the whole internet.

Utah won the meet comfortably, 197.875-195.725, and improved their National Qualifying Score in the process. Grace McCallum scored a perfect 10.0 on bars, while Maile O’Keefe earned a 9.975 on beam.

Utah’s score was a new season high on the road, and it came at a time when Dockendorf has said the staff needs to raise expectations on the gymnasts for the final stretch of the season.

“I think we did a pretty good job rising to the occasion and really putting in the work this week,” McCallum said. “It is exhausting and it does take more out of you. But in the end, I think it’s going to be so worth it. It’s going to set us up so much better at the end of the season.”

Utah’s last event is a tri-meet against Utah State and Stanford next Friday.

Until then, Dockendorf will be motivating her gymnasts on the mat and online.

Dockendorf wrote, “Following our compass,” on one of Jaedyn Rucker’s posts from last month. More recently, she said to O’Keefe: “Passion and determination behind every routine you perform. So proud of you always.”

It’s an example of how Dockendorf has taken a different approach with the Red Rocks since her tenure began in December. Her consistent refrain is that her gymnasts are people over athletes, a mentality individuals have said makes her a mother figure.

Even on Friday, she echoed her season-long refrain of progression over perfection. While she meant on vault specifically that day, she’s been talking about that idea for all Utah’s event performances.

Lately, Utah has put together two meets in the last three weeks that have garnered season highs in scoring. McCallum, who now has two perfect 10s this season, said the Red Rocks are just getting started.

“I think the team has a lot more in them,” McCallum said. “I think we’re just slowly getting more confident, really getting those details, fine tuning things, and it’s just coming out more and more. I think the more we practice those things that you’ll see it in our competition more.”

Dockendorf echoed that sentiment.

“The whole culture and dynamic of our program, it’s different this year, and it’s taking a while for all of us to start binding together and making it work together,” Dockendorf said. “Week after week, we’re believing in each other more and more. And I think you’re just seeing that come out now and it’s going to continue to escalate from here.”

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