Getting to meet former three-time Olympic gold-medal champions Svetlana Boginskaya of Belarus and American Gabby Douglas (above) was a high point for 11 lucky gymnasts from the Wilton YMCA Gymnastics program this summer. The chance to get first-hand coaching from these stars of the gymnastics world was one of several moments of progress the program continues to show as it grows steadily each year, in the number of participating gymnasts, the number of wins it notches in competition every year, and the skill level of the coaches who now lead the program.

The Wilton Y gymnasts got the chance to work with the Olympic champions at the International Gymnastics Camp held during a week in August at a state of the art gymnastics training camp in PA. The opportunity to take part was something encouraged by the coaches of the Wilton YMCA program, officially known as the Riverbrook Regional YMCA, and a member of USAG.

Officials there say they emphasize individual skill development and team building in a safe, fun and supportive environment. The main goal of the coaching team and program is to positively encourage athletes to reach their highest physical and mental gymnastics ability, while learning and strengthening youth life skills at the same time.

Over the last year, the skill level of the team has grown immensely, with team and individual title wins at competition meets across the country.

The team is led by the gymnastics director, Coach Tom Jagelka, who attributes the growing success of the team to the basics: “It’s about the dedication of the coaches in building a stronger and better program, the gymnasts for bringing effort and positive attitudes to every practice, and to the parents for supporting the gymnasts and the gym. And of course, to the YMCA for providing a safe and fun environment for youth. We’re all trying to build something great together.”

Recently awarded the Karen Strickland Employee of the Year Award, Jagelka has been the critical pillar to building the gymnastics program into what it is today. He began his own gymnastics career in high school, and was recognized as an all-around gymnastics and diving champion, earning a full gymnastics scholarship to Long Island University. With over 44 years of coaching experience, Jagelka has made a career in inspiring the joy of athleticism and self-confidence of his gymnasts.

He oversees a coaching staff that has also grown in size and talent in recent seasons.

Coach Todd Bucaro also began his gymnastics career at the high school level and earned enough accolades among 2,800 students to be named Athlete of the Week. Turning his love of the sport into coaching, he began a 20-year coaching career under Greek Olympic and National Coach, George Teazis. Along the way, he held the positions of head coach at Weston High School, Westport High School and Norwalk High School simultaneously. He joined the Wilton YMCA family in 2016 and his unique style of training has helped to create a stronger and more powerful team.

“It’s all about the girls,” Bocaro says. “Our focus is on building strong and powerful young women. Our cohesive team comes from instilling an environment where each member of the coaching staff believes in each gymnast, each parent works to support the team, and each gymnast pushes themselves and their teammates to be better. It’s working.”

Coach Kate Martinelli competed with USAG for seven years. As the lead coach for the level 3 gymnastics team, Martinelli also shares her love of gymnastics with the younger gymnastics programs.

Coach Leigh Freedman was the captain of the gymnastics team for both her junior and senior years at Westhill High School, and went on to compete for the Sacred Heart University club gymnastics team.

Coach Victoria Shea joined the Wilton YMCA gymnastics family in June 2018. A former gymnast on the Lakewood Trumbull YMCA Xcel team, she joined LT’s gymnastics coaching team in 2010. From 2014-2018, Shea was the head coach for the Xcel team, helping to develop and build both the program and the gymnasts. With USAG competition experience under her belt, Shea has in-depth knowledge of both YMCA and USAG league rules and policies. In August 2018, she attended the IGC Visiting Coaches Training program, learning new coaching techniques and methods which she implements in her positive role as coach.

Coach Nikki Croutch holds a BA in Dance with a concentration in teaching and choreography, and brings a level of artistic expression the team has long waited for. A former professional dancer, she taught ballet at a private boarding school in New Hampshire, and when her eldest child became a gymnast, Croutch got her feet in the gymnastics door by teaching ballet at the gymnastics center. In a desire to educate herself on the world of gymnastics, she decided to get her judge’s rating and is currently qualified as a level 10 judge. With a focus on choreographing floor and beam routines, Croutch choreographs for four gyms, judges at meets, teaches ballet, and represented the state of NY at Regionals in 2018 as a member of the New York State Xcel committee.

Families with children interested in gymnastics, movement, tumbling, or just having fun are invited to check out the program at the Wilton Y Gymnastics training center, located at the Wilton Sports and Fitness Center (644 Danbury Rd.). Registration is now open for the 2018-2019 season. For more information, visit the Wilton YMCA Gymnastics website.

Pictured above:  Wilton gymnasts at IGC with Svetlana Boginskaia and Gabby Douglas (L-R):  Back row–Ellie Fahey, Teagan Stengrim, Nina Ferrucci, Ella Arghirescu, Boginskaia, Douglas, Abby Schmitt, Lauren Condon, Lauren Buchanan and Victoria Shea; Front row–Ella Mancuso, Kaelyn Talisse, Taylor Archambeau, and Cailyn Cruickshank.