Influenced by their mother, Jennifer Fobes, coaching has always been near and dear to Austyn and Bayleigh Fobes.
“Our mom coached us until college, and as soon as we graduated, we went right into coaching,” said Austyn. “We always talked about coaching high school [gymnastics].”
The Fobes sisters were state gymnastics champions, competing for Howell High School. Austyn (class of ’09) won the all-around state championship during her senior year at Howell, and Bayleigh (class of ’13) captured the state championship on the vault her senior year. Both went on to college careers, Austyn at the University of New Hampshire and Bayleigh to Towson.
Following college, the sisters followed their mother and became coaches at Premier Gymnastics in Marlboro. Then, last year came the opportunity to coach at the high school level, at Colts Neck. However, it wasn’t easy for them to take the job. If they were going to coach high school gymnastics, it would have to be at Howell.
“Colts Neck was our rival,” recalled Austyn.
However, the Fobeses knew the Cougars’ head coach, Nicole Hope, who was stepping down, and with the position at Howell not open, the sisters decided to take the leap.
“We said, ‘Let’s do it,’ but only if we can do it together.”
As co-head coaches, the Fobeses led Colts Neck to a 10-2 dual meet season and a third-place finish at the Central Jersey state sectional.
Another influence on the Fobes sisters was their high school coach, Jen Hier.
“I wanted to take from her what she did for the team,” said Bayleigh. “She always made us feel we were competitive and encouraged us to be our best.”
Austyn added that Hier was a big reason she is coaching high school gymnastics.
“I was so close to her,” she remarked.
Since they were starring and winning championships at Howell, the Fobeses said that many of the skills, tricks and scoring criteria are similar to when they competed with the same goal of having clean routines. And another thing hasn’t changed: how competitive the Shore Conference is.
Because of their backgrounds in the sport, it gives them edge because they can directly relate to their gymnasts and what they are going through.
“It easy to put ourselves in their shoes. We’ve been there,” said Bayleigh.
The sisters take a good-cop-bad-cop approach toward their coaching, Bayleigh noted, as she takes on more of the taskmaster role and Austyn more a cheerleader.
As much as gymnastics is an individual sport, it is also a team effort, and the coaches set out to merge the two.
“Coming from college, we loved competing as a team,” Austyn explained. “We wanted to stress team.”
Bayleigh said they have found the Cougars accepting the team concept.
“We’re lucky, we have a team that is very coachable,” she said.
The Cougars were a young squad in 2021 and return their core led by all-arounder Madison Marinaccio (So.) and Katelyn Glick (Jr.), who qualified for the state individual championships on the floor exercise. Also back are Megan Doherty (Jr.), Ava Krongold (Jr.), Kaleigh Lukowitz (Sr.) and Clare Walsh (So.)
“We have expectations for the girls because of what we saw last year,” said Austyn.