Editor's note: "For the Record" is a weekly series featuring former stand-out Ball State athletes and their lives after college.
An old photo of Sarah Mikrut Doyle sits in her parents house, a reminder of her days as a Ball State gymnast.
She was visiting with her four kids when her oldest son, Jack, found it.
“Mom, you did a lot of stuff and have a lot of trophies,” the nine-year-old said.
Sarah Mikrut Doyle
Doyle is one of the Ball State's most decorated gymnasts. She was the first Cardinal to compete in the NCAA Championships, making it as an individual in 1996 and 1997 and won two individual Mid-American Conference championships. Her maiden name, Sarah Mikrut, appears in the Ball State record book 18 times, including the only perfect 10, scored on the vault, in program history.
“But you guys are the best thing I have ever done,” Doyle said to Jack, his seven-year old brother J.J. and six-year-old twin sisters Madeline and Brooklyn.
Before college, Doyle won two Illinois state championships at Carmel Catholic High School, located about 10 miles East of Wauconda, Illinois, her hometown. She left Ball State with only one regret.
“It’s hard to weave all these personalities into one team in a short period of time," Doyle said. "My biggest regret from Ball State is not being able to get that team championship.”
Doyle’s team, led by then-head coach Mary Roth, was plagued by injuries.
“By the time I walked out of Ball State that senior year it was hard because we didn’t win,” Doyle said. “But the way we went out despite all the obstacles that year, I was able to leave with a good feeling of I think I accomplished all I could.”
But her love of gymnastics will always come second to being a mom.
“I have two awesome, athletic, crazy, talented, fun boys and then my little mini-mes,” Doyle said.
Doyle always knew she wanted to be a mom, and she kept it in mind when it came time to choosing a career path.
After working in the Ball State and Northwestern athletic departments throughout college and earning a masters degree in sports management, Doyle assumed she would end up working—and possibly coaching—at some college.
“But at the same time I wanted a family and I wanted to raise my family and be there all the time,” Doyle said. “So I went into teaching.”
Instead of taking a job at a college, she began teaching science at Carmel Catholic. The high school's gymnastics team had gone a little down hill since she left for Ball State, so she decided to take over as head coach.
"I came back in and with that same passion I had as a gymnast," Doyle said. "I'm like I want to build this back up and were going to win a state championship, again. I had it in my head that that was what is going to happen.”
Sure enough, Doyle and her team made that happen—three years in a row from 2010-2012.
“It was honestly better than winning as a gymnast," Doyle said. "Helping those girls get that for themselves.”
Doyle was the head coach for 12 seasons, but when Jack was born she stopped teaching. She still coached for three more years, but after J.J., Madeline and Brooklyn arrived she decided to swap roles with her assistant coach.
“I went from teaching and coaching to being a mom of four in three and a half years,” Doyle said.
The 20-year veteran coach can't get away from the sport she loves, though. It seems her former players can't either. All of the coaches on the staff, including the current head coach and two junior varsity coaches, were on her team while she was the head coach.
"It’s so neat to see these girls want to come back, Doyle said. "I tortured them through hard workouts and expected a lot of them, but we accomplished a lot."
Doyle's daughters have assumed the role as team mascots. Madeline and Brooklyn gave each of "the gymnastics teamers" the name of a different Disney princess.
While the busy mom and coach only gets busier, Doyle says the greatest part is being around the sport she has always loved.
"It's past the accomplishments and trophies and medals," Doyle said. "It's gaining that self confidence through accomplishing something that’s so hard, and so taxing on them that when they accomplish that it, just changes the way they see themselves as a person. I feel lucky to be able to do that.”