Kris Merlo Robinson is beginning her first season as an assistant coach for the Air Force women's gymnastics team. A former head coach for the Southeast Missouri State gymnastics team, Robinson brings a wealth of knowledge to the Falcons' program, having spent over 16 years on coaching staffs throughout the collegiate ranks.
Robinson began her coaching career as an assistant coach and choreographer at her alma mater, the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1986.
During her 11-year tenure, she oversaw the floor exercise and balance beam choreography for the Tigers. In addition to coaching Julie Dorn, a 1990 All-American that finished fourth on the floor exercise at the 1990 NCAA Championships, Robinson also coached four Big 8 Conference champions on the floor exercise and balance beam champions, as well as three Cat Classic floor exercise champions. Her career would be highlighted by a 1992 Big 8 Championship team win over Nebraska, Oklahoma and Iowa State.
During her time at Missouri, Robinson gained national recognition for work in the development of posture and muscle balance programs for collegiate gymnasts, was guest instructor in MU's Physical Therapy Program, founded an Adapted Gymnastics program where PT and OT students receive "Service Learning" credit, conceptualized and promoted the "Artistic Challenge," one of Missouri's four major gymnastics events contributing to its "Top 10" national season attendance rank (10,000 spectator count), and spoke nationally, addressing coaches on fundraising for collegiate gymnastics programs.
She moved to Southeast Missouri State in 1997, where she had a 14-8 record in her first season and a 12-12 mark in her second season, which included home and road wins over the University of Missouri. "Coach Buck", as she was known at SEMO, coached 21 Scholastic All-Americans over the two seasons, achieved an average attendance over 1100 at home meets, and spearheaded successful fundraising. She also acted as lead instructor for undergraduate courses: Fitness and Conditioning and Motor Learning and Behavior; guest instructor, Kinesiology Program, Physical Therapy Assistant School, Early Childhood and Elementary Program, Dance Education Program, and Fitness and Sports Medicine Program.
Robinson spent the 2000 season as an assistant coach and choreographer at the University of Iowa, where she helped with a recruiting class that was recognized as one of the top squads in the nation. She also assisted with the marketing of the Hawkeyes' gymnastics team and worked as an injury prevention consultant for both the men's and women's teams. Following her stint at Iowa, Robinson served as the associate head coach and choreographer at Northern Illinois University during the 2001 and 2002 seasons. In addition to serving as the event coach for the balance beam and floor exercise, she also worked with the NIU marketing department.
A Level-10 judge, Robinson has spent 24 years as a consultant, contributor, presenter and national/international-level choreographer for USA Gymnastics, while also serving as a monthly contributor to the United State Elite Coaches Association Journal and a clinician at the Olympic Training Center.
Known throughout the gymnastics community as "The Posture Lady", Robinson has designed posture and muscle fitness programs to prevent injuries and rehabilitate artistic athletes and performers. She has worked with athletes at all stages of their careers, from beginners to Olympians. She also served as the Medical Director for the practice facility at the 2003 World Gymnastics Championships
Robinson's background also includes designing over 1400 floor routines and hundreds of beam routines for multiple national champions. Her four-year experience as a Level 10 gymnastics judge, along with her extensive dance background and years of high level tumbling, have boosted her to national prominence with choreography. As a physical therapist, Robinson works with USA Gymnastics Junior Men's National Team Program and has been on the floor at multiple USA Championship events. Robinson has penned over 150 articles for the United States Elite Coaches Association, USA Gymnastics, and International Gymnastics Magazine and has given over 175 posture-related presentations to date across the nation.
A native of St. Louis, Mo., Robinson competed as an elite level gymnast in the 1981 Elite Gymnastics Championships and the 1982 American Classic. An ACL injury put an end to her elite career and dashed her hopes of competing in any gymnastics competition at University of Missouri-Columbia in 1983-84. She became a spring board diver her sophomore year at MIZZOU, where she won her first three-meter board competition, but was forced to retire due to a long-time back injury. Merlo, as she was known at MIZZOU, went on to become a volunteer choreographer, then assistant coach her senior year, while completing a degree in physical therapy.
She and her husband Jeff, an assistant coach for the Air Force men's gymnastics team, have a blended family with seven children - Jessica (24), Danielle (21), Megan (20), Mason (19), Christopher (9), Dallas (6) and Garrett (6).