Your Town Stevens Point: Russell Gymnastics’ family dynamic creates coaching legacy

Members of the Russell family have each had their own prestigious gymnastics career. Now, they’re sharing their expertise with the next generation.
Published: Jun. 19, 2022 at 10:57 PM CDT
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STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW) - Dave and Debbie Russell met as gymnastic athletes while at UW-Oshkosh. Each had their own stellar career. Debbie, a national champion and all-american. Dave, a three-time national champion and named one of the top 12 gymnasts in Wisconsin in the last 100 years. After their days of competition were behind them, they wanted to pass their knowledge along, naturally, to their kids.

“We had our first right away and it was great because we could just go in the gym and play and see what we could do to get them strong,” said Debbie. “Thankfully, they all really took to gymnastics and did well.”

The Russells had four children. All of them had their own great career in the sport. Their oldest, Rehana, won a Big Ten title while at Minnesota. Randi Jo, went to Arizona and was a captain on the team. Dusti, also won a conference title at Minnesota. Their lone son, Cody, went a different path. He went on to work for companies showcasing his abilities, including Cirque du Soleil.

“Gymnastics kind of pushed me hard,” said Cody. I” liked the push and I liked to be in the air on the trampoline, I was self-taught, so it just ended up being really good.”

Cody’s journeys internationally helped further expand the family. While in Cirque du Soleil, he met his wife, Katarzyna, a competitive acrobat from Poland. Her induction into the family was an easy one.

“I just love it,” said Katarzyna. “They are great people. Here there is such positive energy. It just feels like our happy place here.”

With an entire family’s worth of expertise in the sport, it was only natural to continue to share it. That’s when, ten years ago, Dave and Debbie settled in Stevens Point, and Russell Gymnastics was born.

“The whole sport, we just enjoy teaching all the children here,” said Dave. “That’s fulfilling to see, not just our kids, but all our kids really enjoying being happy and being successful.”

“We didn’t know if we’d get five kids or ten kids, we weren’t sure but we just wanted to follow our dream and with faith, we just can do it,” said Debbie.

Over time, their space and recognition have only grown, becoming a hub for competitive gymnasts across central Wisconsin. From first-time tumblers to national competitors, Russell Gymnastics has become home for the sport in Stevens Point.

”I get as excited as watching great gymnastics here, watching the girls doing really great gymnastics, and then I also get just a kick out of the young kids getting so excited about learning something new,” said Dave. and “It’s really basically about caring and wanting to do a good job with the kids.”

As their coaching sphere has grown, so has their literal family.

“We have a daughter together and she is four years old,” said Katarzyna. “She loves being here. She loves gymnastics. We love that we don’t need to push her. She always asks us if we could spot here or show her something or just coach her so we love that about her.”

The coaching world isn’t exclusive to just the Russells. Ian Schiessl is a coach at Russell Gymnastics. He knows the place, and the people, are special.

“Some of the best gymnastics in the state or I’ve ever seen,” said Schiessl. “They’re just some of the nicest people on the planet too. They treat you like family, even if you’re not.”

There’s no end in sight for what Russell Gymnastics might be. However, Dave and Debbie, continue to relish the opportunities they get with their family in and out of the gym.

“A lot of parents will ask us like, ‘How did it happen that all your four kids did so well?’ and really it’s just having the belief they can do it and the faith they can do it,” said Debbie.

Russell Gymnastics is located at 5717 E M Copps Dr, Stevens Point, WI 54481.

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