Returning To Her Roots - Gymnastics Coach Jill Gamble

Jill Gambale, a gymnastics coach at the Oscar Lasko YMCA, poses next to a bulletin board showcasing many years of gymnastics team images

Jill Gambale is a gymnastics coach at the Oscar Lasko YMCA in West Chester, where she has been for the last four years, but she is not new to gymnastics, or this area. 

Jill started gymnastics at a young age, joining the gymnastics program at the Brandywine YMCA. “I have been involved with gymnastics in one way or another almost my entire life,” Jill admits. “I remember around the age of five my mom made me choose between dance and gymnastics; I chose gymnastics and it has been such a huge part of my life since.” 

She was a member of Donna Watters’ (recently retired Director of Gymnastics at the Oscar Lasko YMCA) first competitive gymnastics team and competed until she was about 15 years old, then Jill moved into coaching, first young kids, then at the competitive level, continuing until she was 21 and heading to Penn State University’s Main Campus. 

Photo of Donna Watters’ first competitive gymnastics team at the Brandywine YMCA. Jill is in the front row, right end.
Photo of Donna Watters’ first competitive gymnastics team at the Brandywine YMCA. Jill is in the front row, right end.

“While growing up, gymnastics gave me structure, taught me discipline and gave me confidence,” says Jill. “It also made me feel a sense of belonging. I made great relationships through gymnastics, with teammates and coaches, which continue on into my life today.”

Living in New Jersey

After about a seven year break from gymnastics, Jill got the bug to coach again.

While living and working in New Jersey, she took part-time coaching positions, first at C.S. Gymnastics, then at Giant Gymnastics.

“I love staying involved with gymnastics, no matter where I am!” Jill says. “It is pretty cool to see the kids growing up and improving in the sport. As a coach, I love teaching new skills and helping to build kids’ self-esteem and confidence,” she adds. “Hearing the excitement from a gymnast when they’ve accomplished a skill they worked so hard on is amazing!” 

Jill carried her passion into a full-time management position at Giant Gymnastics, overseeing all the competitive aspects of the sport. She quickly learned how all-encompassing the sport can be outside of the YMCA. 

Returning Home

Eight years later, Jill returned to Chester County, contacted Donna and returned to coaching at the YMCA.

“This place is very family-like,” says Jill. “You can see how close the girls are. It gives them a sense of belonging, the same way I felt when growing up at the Y.”

A New Challenge

Jill has been at the Oscar Lasko YMCA for four years now and has a new challenge … this is the first year, since high school, that she is not coaching at the competitive, Gymcats level, instead she is teaching preschool gymnastics. 

“It is more important to be home with my sons,” Jill confesses. “I miss the competitive levels, but this is so much fun!” she adds. “And I do help out with the Gymcats when they need me.” 

Believing in the Y

Jill returned to the Y because she believes in the program. “I really like the Y gymnastics program,” she says. “I believe kids should be able to do other things in their lives. Other gyms - and I have seen them first hand - require kids to be in the gym a lot more than the YMCA does and the money it requires can be overwhelming.”

“The Y offers a well-rounded life,” she continues. “We expect 8-11 hours of training from the young gymnasts, but there is flexibility. We want the kids here, but we know more involvement in their life outside of gymnastics will keep them happy and interested.”

Category: Sports Gymnastics