Katie Clark grew up at the YMCA, and now she spends her evenings teaching her gymnastics students the same lessons she was taught as a kid.
Clark has lived in the city of Jamestown for the majority of her life, and gymnastics at the Lakewood YMCA has been a big part of it.
"I started taking gymnastics at the Y when I was 6, and took lessons there all the way up through high school graduation," said Clark.
Katie Clark, center, takes a break during practice with the Lakewood YMCA Starz gymnastics team.
Not content with simply taking lessons, however, Clark began coaching the Y's preschool gymnastics classes while she was still a senior in high school. Not long after, she started coaching the higher levels, as well.
"Over the years, Katie became a great gymnast and competed in the New York state and National Championships," said Tom Anderson, Lakewood YMCA branch manager. "She was an excellent junior coach, and she has gone on to become the head coach of the Y's gymnastics program."
Despite spending time away earning her degree at the University at Buffalo, Clark always ended up returning to the Y.
"I coached on and off throughout college, and I always kept coming back to the Y because it was home to me," Clark said. "And I love coaching because it's a way to keep gymnastics in my life even though I can't compete anymore."
Anderson is happy to have Clark leading the program and enjoys having one of the Y's own success stories here to guide the next generation.
"Katie has always been a hard worker in the sport and has excellent rapport with the younger kids," Anderson said.
Clark also likes knowing that she's making a difference in the lives of those she coaches.
"I grew up in gymnastics at the Y, and I want to be able to give everyone else the same great experience I had," said Clark. "It's also really rewarding seeing girls grow up and achieve their goals and know that you had some part in that."
In addition to coaching gymnastics, Clark has added strength training to her daily regimen at the Y.
"Obviously you reach a point in gymnastics where you are just too old and your body can't handle it anymore," Clark said. "I began looking into strength training, because I was already strong from gymnastics. I started training at the Y, and I was good at it."
Now Clark is looking toward competitions of another sort.
"One of my role models in the strength training world is a former gymnast in addition to being a famous figure competitor, so she has driven my interest towards competing," said Clark.
Clark recently graduated from the University at Buffalo with a degree in biology, and, in addition to her coaching at the Y, she started working at Trinity Biotech last fall.
The next gymnastics session begins the week of July 8 at the Lakewood Y. For more information regarding the YMCA's gymnastics programs and class levels, visit jamestownymca.org/gymnastics.