by Sylvie Corwin
After 37 years of coaching and 22 years of teaching, Hale’s gymnastics coach and physical education teacher Colleen Davis retired. She left a legacy of kindness and inclusion, her name on the former upper north gym, and an unfilled job opportunity.
Alexis Stevens is stepping into the position this winter as Hale’s new gymnastics coach. Stevens did gymnastics when she was young at Emerald City Gymnastics Academy. She quit gymnastics to play soccer, but returned to the sport in high school following an injury. After high school, Stevens worked for a publishing company.
“It was great, I loved doing it, but I kinda hit a point where I was sitting at my desk one day…and was just not happy,” Stevens said. “I need to do something active.”
This was when Stevens decided to coach. She took two jobs, one at Emerald City and one at Eastlake High School, her former school. After a few years, Stevens moved to Seattle to attend the University of Washington and took a coaching job at Seattle Gymnastics Academy, SGA, where she coached the recreational program for about a year. When Stevens stopped working at SGA, the job at Hale opened up.
“When she stopped working there, I reached out to her and asked her if she was interested in coaching here,” senior gymnastics captain Lily Hatzenbeler said. Hatzenbeler has done gymnastics at the SGA since she was two and has trained with Stevens.
Stevens got the job and started coaching on November 7. She’s glad to be coaching high school again.
“I like the fact that this is a choice of [the students], something they haven’t been spending years and years and years, spending thousands of dollars doing, so the pressure to perform perfectly isn’t there,” Stevens said. “[You have] the opportunity to laugh and have fun and if you fail at something, to brush it off and laugh about it.”
Stevens is excited to meet the team, let them try new things, and help build their self-confidence.
“Gymnastics is such a weird sport, you prance around in a tiny, tiny, little leotard that shows every flaw that you look at every day, even though no one else notices those flaws, you do…. So this needs to be a healthy, safe, respectful environment for them,” Stevens said, “and from there you can only build skill-wise.”
The team is also excited to have Stevens as their coach.
“We wanted to implement a little more structure,” Hatzenbeler said, “and I think she’ll have a lot of good ideas and new ways to do that.”
Stevens plans to address this with more structured practices that allow girls to get what they want out of each practice. She also wants to make sure there aren’t any social divides in the team.
Hatzenbeler is eager to see the new ideas Stevens will bring to the team.
“Her gymnastics knowledge is very recent so I think it will be a different perspective that will be good for the team.” Hatzenbeler said.
When not coaching, Stevens studies medical anthropology and nutrition at the UW. She also has two years of pre-med education and hopes this knowledge will come in handy as a gymnastics coach.
“I know if someone gets hurt what to do and what not to do… along with, I think nutrition plays a big role in athletics and a lot of people don’t really connect the two.”
While the gymnastics program will continue to fondly remember Davis, this winter promises to be a positive new start under Stevens’ coaching.