Former Pilgrim gymnast has big dreams for new training center
Aug 21, 2008
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By ED OWENS
Rhode Island College
women's gymnastics head coach Shannon Cornicelli encourages all of her
athletes to dream big. Now Cornicelli is following her own advice.
her second season as the Anchorwomen's head coach, Cornicelli is taking
on a new project and opening her own gymnastics training center Dream
Big Gymnastics, in Cranston . In the past year Cornicelli has run a
smaller-scale operation out of the North Providence Recreation Center
and split time at a gym in Warwick , but this latest move finally gives
Dream Big Gymnastics a space to call its own.
"It has always
been my dream to own my own gym," Cornicelli said. "I had a baby in
November and tried to go back to my regular full-time job and that's
when I realized that it wasn't for me. I realized that I absolutely
love the sport of gymnastics, especially coaching, and that I wasn't
getting the fulfillment that I wanted out of my other career. So I
developed my business plan and kept trying to find ways to help make my
dreams happen. Now they are."
Cornicelli isn't new to the area.
She competed as an individual at Pilgrim High School where,
participating under her maiden name of Shannon Hughey, she was a
two-time state champion on the bars as well as a two-time all-state
She went on to earn a spot on the Rhode Island
College gymnastics team, where she lettered from 1999-2003, and
competed on bars and floor. Cornicelli won the ECAC championship on
bars as a senior and was ranked No. 1 in the nation during that time.
She still owns the top three scores on bars in RIC history.
turned her success as an athlete into an assistant coaching position
with the Anchorwomen, where she served for two years before taking the
reigns of the RIC program last season.
"My passion is coaching,"
Cornicelli said. "Teaching is so important to me. For the kids to focus
on a sport and to see them loving it as much as I did is a gift. You
don't find that everywhere."
And Cornicelli is finding that her extensive background in the sport is one of her most valuable teaching tools.
can demonstrate a lot of things for the kids, but I am learning how to
teach them the other way too because, sooner or later, I won't be able
to do those things anymore," Cornicelli said. "But my coaching
technique is to make sure that the kids are happy first. They need to
learn everything correctly, but they also need to have fun. It is my
job to help them find that balance."
Cornicelli started the
Dream Big program at the North Providence location with just three
different classes and immediately saw a positive reaction. Now, Dream
Big Gymnastics has more than 10 different classes ranging from Baby
Dream Catchers, geared toward moms and babies up to 18 months, up to a
USA Gymnastics Level 7 team that competes in meets throughout the
season. Cornicelli also offers tumbling classes designed to help
cheerleaders and dance teams work on their floor routines.
offer classes all the way from baby up to advanced classes," Cornicelli
said. "I wanted to have something for everyone because gymnastics is a
great to help give kids focus. I know it was wonderful for me. It kept
me out of trouble and kept me determined to work at something. I
learned a lot of important life lessons because of this sport."
And, Cornicelli believes, it's best to start young.
is good to start your kids in gymnastics at preschool age because it
helps build a foundation for every other sport like baseball,
basketball and soccer," Cornicelli said. "Gymnastics is great for
speed, power, agility and flexibility; it covers everything."
She would know.
has always played a central role in Cornicelli's life from a very early
age. She took up the sport as a preschooler and used it to find
stability in an ever-changing environment.
"I moved around a lot
when I was younger because my dad was in the military," Cornicelli
said. "I started gymnastics when we were living in California and I was
3, I loved it right away and stuck with it after that. It was a great
focus for me while we were traveling across the country. I went to new
schools and made new friends but gymnastics was the one constant that I
Dream Big Gymnastics is set to open its Cranston
site, located at 41 Comstock Parkway, this week and will host an open
gym and registration on Thursday, Aug. 28 from 4-7 p.m.
is eager to pass her experiences on to the next generation of gymnasts
and, with the 2008 Olympics in Beijing in full swing, she believes a
fresh crop of talent is ready to be introduced to the sport.
Olympics have definitely created more interest," Cornicelli said. "And
that makes it a wonderful time to sign a kid up for gymnastics. People
have been calling and asking when classes are starting, which makes me
think that this is going to be a great season. There are going to be a
lot of kids running around the gym ready to get started on becoming the
next Shawn Johnson or Nastia Liukin. I am looking forward to it."
For more information on Dream Big Gymnastics, visit dreambiggym.com or call 451-0505.