Mary Lee Tracy – Part Time Coach To Olympic Coach

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While watching this year’s Olympic Trials on TV, I noticed that one coach would congratulate & hug gymnasts, that were not her own, as they came off the podium after their beam routines.

This got me wanting to know more about this coach, so I decided to contact her for an interview.

Fortunately for me, she accepted!

Mary Lee Tracy, coach of standout gymnasts like Amelia Hundley, Alyssa Beckerman, Ashley Priess, and former Olympians Amanda Borden and Jaycie Phelps, started her gymnastics career over 26 years ago as a part time job.  This eventually turned into a full time career when she purchased her gym in 1981.

She has grown her program, Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy, through the years to the 20,000 square foot facility it is today.  She currently has 900 athletes in her program that currently includes 3 Elites.

Amanda Borden at the '96 Olympic Games in Atlanta. Photo: cincinnatimagazine.com
Amanda Borden at the ’96 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
Photo: cincinnatimagazine.com

GBC: Who was your first elite gymnasts & when?

MLT: Amanda Borden 1991

GBC: What was it like to break through to the elite level for the first time?

MLT: Exciting, scary and an adventure into the unknown with very few resources available to help, no regrets!

GBC: What do you look for in an athlete before taking the elite route?

MLT: Work ethic and attitude. The willingness to do whatever it takes from athlete and parents!

GBC: What was the first thing you learned that you wished you knew before going into the elite level?

MLT: The amount of setbacks and perseverance required to get there! Ride the highs and lows because they all pass

GBC: How do you keep your team athletes motivated to come into the gym every day?

 MLT: Relationships, variety with consistency and unconditional love!

GBC: Do you have any up and coming Jr. and Sr. athletes?  If so, tell us about them.

Aria Brusch performs on beam at the U.S. Secret Classic. Photo: cincinnatigymnastics.com
Aria Brusch performs on beam at the U.S. Secret Classic.
Photo: cincinnatigymnastics.com

MLT: Aria Brusch (Jr.): Powerful, great work ethic, incredible perseverance!  Hannah Nam (Level 10/Elite): Another, whatever it takes athlete, good lines and all around elite attitude!  Lilly Lippeat (Hopes or Jr. International): Quick and small. Extremely determined!

GBC: What advice can you give coaches who are just starting out in the elite level in finding balance between work and family?

MLT: Work hard every minute you are in the gym then let go and enjoy family and friends. Compartmentalize your career and family!

GBC: I have seen in a documentary that you pray with your athletes.  Tell me about that.

MLT: Yes we do!  It is spiritually non-denominational.  Spiritual connection with our creator to help us become all that he created us to be!

GBC: Has this been an issue with some families in the past?

MLT: Never!

GBC: On Facebook you post pictures of your teams decorating a bulletin board.  Tell us about that.

MLT: We have monthly mental training themes and each month our levels take turns decorating the board to activate the theme. They see it everyday they train.

Jaycie Phelps in her gym, Jaycie Phelps Athletic Center (JPAC), in Greenfield, IN. Photo: region5gyminsider.com
Jaycie Phelps in her gym, Jaycie Phelps Athletic Center (JPAC), in Greenfield, IN..
Photo: region5gyminsider.com

GBC: Some of your former athletes have gone on to open their own gyms; Amanda Borden, Kim Zmeskal, Jaycie Phelps.  (BTW, will be judging at Jaycie’s gym this winter.)  How does that make you feel that they followed in your path?

MLT: So much love and joy!

GBC: TV coverage at trials seemed to only focus on a select few athletes.  What are your thoughts about coverage from Trials?

MLT: I think at this point they have all earned the right for one event coverage! I understand that the top needs more coverage!

GBC: Valeri Liukin has just been named the new Women’s National Team Coordinator.  What strengths does he bring to the table?

MLT: He is technically very sound.  He has a great international reputation and of course everyone here respects him!  I believe he will continue the excellence of USA gymnastics!

GBC: Tell us about your family (husband, kids, and grandchildren).

MLT: One child Rachael, one grandchild Leah and one more granddaughter on the way!  My whole family, five brothers and sisters and my parents, are all in Cincinnati.  Their a great support system!

GBC: How has your family dealt with you being in the gym so much due to coaching?

MLT: The maximum of support, especially Rachael!  She has traveled the world with me so we grew together!

GBC: What does the future hold for Mary Lee Tracy?

MLT: Excellent question!!!  I love gymnastics, leadership, teaching and sharing so I am open to what God has in store for me next. Currently I am coaching and doing clinics in and out of the USA. I am in the IEC and leading the coaches education courses for USAG. BEYOND THAT … Time will tell!

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