NEW PALESTINE — Jenny Musselman was just what the New Palestine Dragons needed.
An undying love for the program mixed with a burning desire to succeed, Musselman, who was once a New Palestine gymnast herself, was the missing piece for a team itching to thrive. And although she was handed the keys to a program in “shambles,” Musselman delivered.
But for once, it’s time for the married mother of three to think about herself.
After nearly a decade of service to the Dragons gymnastics program — a program she resurrected nine seasons ago — Musselman has decided to step down as head coach after leading the team to its seventh straight regional appearance this past season.
Story continues below gallery
Musselman will take the extra time to spend with her family.
“She really made our gymnastics program one of the tops in the state,” Dragons athletics director Al Cooper said. “When you look at the dominance of some of the northern schools, Jenny was able to do it with local talent. We are going to miss her.
“To bring that type of caring atmosphere and to bring the best out in our kids, it takes a special coach to do that.”
However, Musselman will remain connected to the school. She will continue her duties as coach of the cheerleading squad at New Palestine in the fall, as well as her regular full-time job as a teacher at Celebrations.
“I want to enjoy my three young boys,” Musselman said. “They are starting to get into new things. They are my world and are only little once.”
Hired by former New Palestine athletics director Mike Huey, Musselman said the program, which was taking a turn for the worse, became her baby. Even when she had an infant of her own on the way, Musselman’s dedication never wavered.
During the team’s state finals run last season, Musselman, who was pregnant with her third child at the time, still was seen cheering up and down the sidelines.
“I was determined to build it back up into a well-respected program,” she said. “I was welcomed with open arms and was provided great support.”
She did just that.
The Dragons advanced past sectional action in eight of the nine seasons with Musselman at the helm. The only year they did not was in her second season overall, 2008-09, when they finished fourth to just miss the final spot.
In her first year with the team, the Dragons advanced past the Connersville Sectional with a third place finish. One season prior, the Dragons finished 10th overall, barely managing to score 30 total points.
Musselman also coached New Palestine to two sectional championships, including one last season at Connersville. The Dragons went on to earn their best state finals finish under Musselman — sixth overall — after placing second at the Columbus East Regional.
The team’s first showing at state under Musselman was during the 2012-13 season. New Palestine finished first at its own sectional and placed second at the Lafayette Jeff Regional before eventually earning seventh overall at the state finals.
She also played a hand in the success of 2015 New Palestine graduate Kate Fee, who recently won a national title with the Indiana University cheerleading team.
But for Musselman, it became about more than just gymnastics. In the end, it became a family.
“Being able to come back and coach at New Palestine has been an honor,” she said. “We have had an amazing journey together. I became a mentor for many of them, and I learned as much from them as they learned from me.”
And although no timetable has been set for a replacement, Cooper said his goal is to find someone who reflects what Musselman already has built — a winning tradition.
“We are excited about our gymnastics future,” he said. “We are going to take some time here and decide what direction to go. I know there is a lot of interest.”
Jenny Musselman, New Palestine Gymnastics
Former Dragons gymnast
Regional appearance in 8 of 9 seasons as head coach
Sectional title in 2013, seventh place finish at state finals
Sectional title in 2015, sixth place finish at state finals