LAKEWOOD - Megan Tomassini, Haley Bator and Katie Clark were glued to their television sets for most of the last few weeks as they enjoyed watching the Summer Olympics in London, especially the gymnastics.
Gymnasts themselves, the women would regularly communicate with each other when a member of the United States team did something special, which was often.
''After a routine,'' Bator said, ''we'd text each other, 'Did you see that?' It definitely helps us get the sport out there, because of the Olympics. They help draw a crowd.''
From left, Katie Clark, Megan Tomassini and Haley Bator make up the new coaching staff for the YMCA Starz gymnastics program.
P-J photo by Scott Kindberg
The women are in hopes that they'll be able to draw a crowd to the Lakewood Family YMCA this fall, too, as the trio takes over the coaching responsibilities at the 10,000-square foot gymnastics center on Fairmount Avenue. Bator, who will serve as the head coach, is from Erie, while Tomassini and Clark, both Jamestown natives, will assist. All three have been part of the YMCA Starz program since they were kids.
''I wanted to come back and help because I know what the program and the sport did for me growing up,'' Bator said. ''It taught me time management and it taught me about myself as a person and how to overcome fears and difficult situations.''
In other words, Bator, 22, learned life lessons, even when she was in competition.
''It made me a better person and more understanding, not only about myself, but others as well,'' she said. ''I want to see these kids mature and become upstanding adults.''
So far, the women, who branch manager Tom Anderson refers to as the ''terrific trio,'' are practicing what they preach.
Bator is a graduate of Springfield (Mass.) College and is now attending Mercyhurst North East in pursuit of a respiratory therapy degree; Tomassini, 24, earned her doctorate in physical therapy from Daemen College in May and is a physical therapist at the Resource Center; and Clark, also 24, just graduated from SUNY Buffalo with a bachelor's degree in biology. She'll be entering the nursing program at Jamestown Community College later this month.
''They've always been excellent students and excellent people,'' Anderson said. ''Gymnastics always produces that kind of person, because of the dedication to the sport. And, they've always worked well with the kids.''
The women will be hosting an open house from 1-4 p.m., Sept. 1 where parents and prospective students will be introduced to the program. In addition to gymnastics - for beginners to the competitive team - the YMCA will offer tumbling classes for cheerleaders; ''tots'' classes at 5 p.m. Wednesday and 9 a.m. Saturday; and beginner and intermediate classes.
Beginner classes will be offered at 4 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday and 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. on Saturday; intermediate classes will be offered at 4 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday; and cheer/tumbling will be offered at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday or Thursday, and 6 p.m., Wednesday. Competitive team practices will be offered four days a week. More information is available by calling the YMCA at 763-0303.
Tomassini said just getting kids involved in gymnastics is a springboard to even better things.
''I remember when I started it was scary,'' she said. ''I was with five or six other kids who didn't know what they were doing either. But as you start to grow and get better skill-wise, you develop determination and a mindset to be competitive.''
From the looks of things, Bator, Tomassini and Clark have successfully adhered to that model blueprint.