If ever there was a resume perfect for Special Olympics gymnastics coaching, it would be from Susanne Yip Molnar. A competitive gymnast growing up, Susanne spent years coaching junior level gymnasts before getting into the world of gymnastics officiating. In a decision unrelated to Special Olympics at the time, Susanne pursued a career in special education.
Nine years after earning her special education degree, Susanne was presented with an opportunity to combine her experience working with individuals with intellectual disabilities and immense technical knowledge of gymnastics. A local junior gymnast named Sami Defabrizio wanted to start a developmental gymnastics program through Special Olympics New Jersey. Despite her reservations and nerves, Susanne took the jump and came alongside Sami to kick start the program. After judging competition during the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games held in New Jersey, Susanne felt inspired and more confident in her coaching, saying, “I realized I could do it after all!” Bringing fun and relentless drive to the program, Susanne is excited by the program’s growth and looks forward to coaching ten gymnasts in 2017.
In two years, the Scotch Plains All Stars have doubled in size with athletes on a waiting list. The program’s popularity comes in part from Susanne’s energetic coaching style. Susanne will do anything to see her athletes succeed and give them the most positive experience possible. Crediting judging clinics to providing her the technical sport knowledge to coach, she has relied on veteran programs to get help her navigate those first few weeks coaching. Susanne traveled across the state to meet the coaches at Schafer Gymnastics and Will-Moor, simply so she could absorb as much as possible and ask questions.
In addition to the mentorship of veteran programs, Susanne is committed to being a student of gymnastics. Even though she has a wealth of experience at the competing, coaching and officiating levels, she pours over articles and online videos of new coaching strategies for gymnastics. With a young team, Susanne has to be very creative in how she teaches certain disciplines, but she takes it on with positivity and excitement.
Susanne never questions the amount of work she needs to do to make her athletes successful. She welcomes the challenge and will go the mile to see her team happy and improving their skills. She takes athletes to the International Gymnastics Camp in the summer so they can build their foundation in the off-season. Although the intensity of camp doesn’t scare Susanne, she understands that “fun” is a major part of her team dynamic. Winning is not what drives her. Rather, it is the personality of her spunky team. Susanne embraces what athletics provides her team. In her words, her girls “get to have the experience just like everybody else. They can’t always do what everybody else does but this gives them the opportunity to do so.”
For her commitment in coaching, training and affecting change in the lives of the young girls in her community through gymnastics, Special Olympics New Jersey is most proud to honor Susanne Yip Molnar at the 2016 Summer Sports Coach of the Season.