When you live in the Pacific Northwest with little ones, the need for indoor fun is a necessity. This week we talked with someone who understands this need firsthand, Susan Riley, the General Manager and Head Coach of GYMagine. GYMagine, which just celebrated its 28th year, is a gymnastics facility on South Road that offers classes, playtimes, birthday parties, Kid’s Nights, and Competitive Gymnastics. Susan has been a coach for 30 years and inspires children of all ages to work hard, have fun, help others, and, most importantly, believe in themselves.
DM: How did you get started at GYMagine?
SR: I started at GYMagine in January 1996 when I was looking for a gymnastics facility to take my 18-month-old daughter. I was coaching high school gymnastics, and a few of my gymnasts worked at GYMagine. I began working at GYMagine a few years after my daughter joined the competitive team. I have now been working at GYMagine since 2006.
DM: What types of classes does GYMagine offer?
SR: GYMagine offers beginner-advanced classes for children ages 18 months to 12 years. We also provide playtimes, birthday parties, and Kid’s Nights.
DM: You’ve been coaching the girls’ team for a long time now, have any of your gymnasts gone on to compete at the college or Olympic level?
SR: Although many dream of making it to the Olympics, the reality is that only 4-6 gymnasts make the team every four years. We have had a few gymnasts compete at the college club level competitive club, and a few compete at the college level in Diving and Pole Vaulting, which they credit their years of gymnastic training to getting them to that level.
DM: GYMagine does fundraisers for different causes. Can you tell us more about them and why you chose the organizations?
SR: Each year, GYMagine runs a Back-to-School supplies drive and a Holiday Drive. We have donated to a variety of charities over the years. We strive to serve those in need in any way we can. Typically, our donations have done to support children in the foster care system in Washington.
DM: Is there an achievement or contribution you are most proud of, and why?
SR: The achievement I am most proud of would have to be when I was honored by KING-5 as the “Coach That Makes a Difference” in 2008. My goal as a coach is not just to teach gymnastics but to give my athletes the support and encouragement they need in all areas of their lives.
DM: What is your favorite place in Mukilteo to visit and why?
SR: My favorite place is the Mukilteo Lighthouse Park. It is a beautiful area to relax, read, and chat with friends.
DM: Do you have a favorite book, website, or podcast, and why?
SR: Not really. I spend my downtime with family and friends. Not opposed to a good book or podcast; just not a regular pastime for me.
DM: If you could have dinner with someone (alive or dead, real or fictional), who would it be and why?
SR: If I could have dinner with one person, I would have to pick my high school gymnastics coach, Sherry Morgan. Unfortunately, she passed away a few years ago. She had a large impact on the person I am today.
DM: What do you think surprises people about you?
SR: I think one thing that surprised people about me is that as a child, I was super shy and did not like speaking in front of groups, large or small. Today, I am very outgoing and enjoy speaking in front of groups.
DM: What are the biggest challenges you face as a coach?
SR: As a coach, the biggest challenge I face is helping my athletes see the potential I see in themselves.
DM: Is there anything else you would like to share with me?
SR: My greatest joy was being able to coach my daughter in both high school and at GYMagine in a sport we both love.
DM: Is there any question I should have asked you but did not?
SR: I have been coaching for over 30 years, and the sport has changed in so many ways. The thing that has not changed is that this sport can build a strong work ethic and self-confidence and make positive lasting memories.