Three weeks after the position opened, UCLA has already found a new leader for its decorated gymnastics program.
Former Cal assistant coach Janelle McDonald, who has over two decades of coaching experience, has been named the Bruins’ new head coach.
“Janelle has been exemplary in connecting with and developing youth at every level of her coaching career,” Martin Germond, UCLA’s athletic director, said in a statement. “Her enthusiasm and energy is infectious. She understands and respects the Bruin heritage and her commitment to excellence qualifies the program as one of the best in the country. I love Janelle’s ability to lead the Bruins. Trusted and thrilled to welcome him to Westwood.
McDonald replaced Chris Waller, who resigned on April 19 after three years as head coach and 20 years with the program. Last season, UCLA failed to qualify for the NCAA championship as a team for only the fifth time in the program’s history (two years in a row) and dealt with additional turmoil. According to several reports, a gymnast used a racial slur that caused discomfort among some teammates, and eventually, a gymnast was kicked out of the program.
McDonald’s will inherit a talented group — Jordan Chills and Emma Malabuyo have just completed their new seasons — and are looking forward to working.
“I am honored and extremely grateful to have joined the UCLA Athletics family! From the moment I stepped onto campus, I could feel the Bruins’ pride and tradition of excellence in every corner,” McDonald said in a statement. “I would like to thank Martin Germond and Dr. Cristina Rivera for handing over my vision and passion to lead this program into its next chapter.”
McDonald helped coach Cal to unprecedented success during his four seasons at Berkeley (2019–22), as the Golden Bears won their first Pac-12 regular-season title in 2022 and the NCAA’s seventh in 2021, that matched. Best ending in the history of the program.
Serving as head coach of the team’s uneven bars, McDonald coached Maya Bordas to Cal’s first NCAA individual title in 2021, while the uneven bars squad finished the regular season at No. 1 in the nation and broke the NCAA record. Team tied with score. 49.825. During her tenure, the Cal gymnast earned a total of 17 All-America honors, including six on the uneven bars.
McDonald was honored as the Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association (WCGA) Regional Assistant Coach of the Year in 2020 and 2021.
“My experience with student-athletes at Berkeley and on the Cal gymnastics team has inspired me to be a better version of myself and prepared me to take on this new opportunity,” McDonald said. “I can’t wait to get started with my team and build a culture with them that honors and continues the great history of this program.”
UCLA has won 21 NCAA regional titles and seven national championships, all national titles coming from 1997–2018 under legendary coach Valori Kondos Field.
McDonald, who began his coaching career in 1999 while still in high school, has extensive coaching experience at the club level, including a six-year (2012–18) stint at WOGA, where he coached elite, elective and compulsory Coached in all four events. Level.
Prior to WOGA, McDonald coached the TOPS team in Legacy Elite Gymnastics and also coached Level 3-10 team gymnasts. She also spent eight years coaching at Desert Lights Gymnastics, where she coached all levels of competitive gymnastics. Since 2020, McDonald has served as head coach on the vault and uneven bars for Level 7-10 athletes at East Bay Gymnastics, coaching several state and regional champions.
“Janelle’s passion and love for the sport spread all around her,” said two-time Olympic medalist and former UCLA All-American and NCAA champion Madison Kosian, who McDonald helped coach and support at WOGA. “He has the qualities that would make him an incredible head coach, mentor and leader for this program.”
McDonald graduated from Arizona State in 2011 with a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies. While at ASU, she interned for the Sun Devil Gymnastics program.