GREAT FALLS – Billy Carol Smiley was a well-known gymnastics coach in Great Falls. She coached for over 50 years.
“She was a really hard coach,” Michaela Simmons said.
Simmons was a former gymnast under Smiley. She attended Smiley’s Gym when she was about 11 years old and fell in love with not only the sport, but the competition.
When Simmons graduated high school, she wanted to pursue a coaching career. The first coach she turned to was Smiley.
“She’s never really let anyone help her coach. I hear she was in a wheelchair and brought her cookies. I asked her if she wanted help coaching and she said yes,” Simmons said.
Billy Carol Smiley passed away in July and left Simmons her most proud possession: her gym.
“I said yes, there was no doubt about it,” Simmons said.
Simmons changed the name from Smiley’s to Rock N Chalk Gymnastics Academy.
“She was the rock that started it all,” Simmons said.
Simmons is 25 years old. Ironically, the same age Smiley was when she opened the gym.
Today, Simmons tries her best to instill the same concepts her former coach taught her.
“I’m still pretty hard on the kids, but I do it out of love,” Simmons said.
Her favorite part of coaching is spending time with the kids.
“My favorite part would probably be watching them learn a new trick and it’s really exciting. They jump around and scream, they are just so excited,” Simmons said.
And although some might question her age, she has the experience to back it up.
“I have a lot of experience and I tell them that. I worked in Billings. I worked for the old Smiley’s,” Simmons said.
Simmons and her team have a competition in Hamilton on Saturday.
“I’m extremely nervous but super excited,” Simmons said.
It’s her first competition since owning the gym.
If you wish to enroll your children in the Rock N Chalk Gymnastic Academy, you can find their Facebook page here.
Reporting by Elizabeth Transue for MTN News