Former Rhode Island standout gymnast and Warwick native Shannon Cornicelli has always had a passion for the sport of gymnastics.
Cornicelli won state championships at the high school level and would later go on to complete for Rhode Island College. Cornicelli would then become the RIC head coach, and eventually go on to open three of her own gyms in the area, including Dream Big in Cranston.
Cornicelli will add another title onto her resume, as she was recently named the Executive Director of Youth Protection Advocates in Gymnastics.
YPAG is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to keeping young gymnasts healthy and safe while promoting self-esteem and helping young athletes feel empowered. YPAG was recently launched by creator Leslie Scott, who also created Youth Protection Advocates in Dance several years ago.
Cornicelli was excited to be named to her new role and feels that it fits her personality well.
“I’m really proud to be in a protector role. I’ve always felt that it was part of my nature, I have always felt compelled to protect,” said Cornicelli. “I feel that it is a natural spot for me and feel that gymnastics is what I’m all about. It’s so integral in my everyday life. Having the executive director position will give me more excitement about what it is we’re doing and will push me to broadcast what it is and to get more people on board.”
Cornicelli, who is also the National Sales Manager of Alpha Factor, hopes to spread the word and message of YPAG in its early going. National Congress will be making a trip to Providence this summer, and YPAG will have an opportunity to present itself on the national stage.
“Right now, it’s spreading awareness for the program as we develop the curriculum and our certification process. Right now, it’s about gaining momentum and letting people know that we’re here and what we’re about,” said Cornicelli. “We’re taking a lot of what YPAD does and translating it to the gymnastics world. Once that gets going I’d like to hold clinics where children can learn gymnastics while also having some motivational speaking, self-esteem (speaking), talking about social issues that are going on. Teaching these kids about loving themselves and believing in themselves and being a great teammate.”
Cornicelli also hopes to recruit high-profile gymnasts to help grow the YPAG community. The ultimate goal for YPAG is to help gyms learn ways to teach their athletes while also ensuring a safe and healthy atmosphere.
“I feel that gym owners need to be a crucial aspect in making sure that their coaches are coaching correctly, saying the right things to impressionable young athletes,” said Cornicelli. “Using positive ways of coaching to create happy gymnasts. Healthy mind, body and soul is how to create a champion. Not so good ways of coaching have happened in the past and we want to make sure that children are always protected and these gym owners and coaches know there’s a way to do it.”