Klara Kesmarky Miller

Chief Executive Officer, Gymnastics Saskatchewan
Hometown: Regina

"Being involved in sport has made me a better person. My children were athletes as well, and so I got the opportunity to be involved in volunteer roles with many sport organizations. I've met the most wonderful people along the way and I have the best of friends."

Some people want to become a star athlete when they're growing up. Klara Kesmarky Miller wanted to become a star coach.

At the age of 11, she joined the Leader-in-Training program at the Regina YWCA and started apprentice coaching recreational gymnastics classes. In 1968, at the age of 14, she was hired under the direction of the phys-ed staff to coach all of the YWCA's recreational classes, leading groups of 25-30 children all by herself. Back then, there were no rules against hiring a 14-year-old.

"I guess I could have been a want-to-be gymnast, but I was quite tall. I had tried my hand at doing gymnastics and knew that I certainly wasn't going to be a competitive gymnast, but I was infatuated with the sport," said Miller. "The next best thing was to help gymnasts learn how to be better. I was fairly mature and had been involved in a few sports before that. My parents encouraged me, too."

While Miller was, in a sense, giving up on the chance to be a competitive athlete at a very young age, she has never regretted the decision. After all, her early involvement with the YWCA kicked off a lengthy career for her as a coach, official and sports executive - an involvement in sports that has not stopped even into her 60s.

"I can't imagine my life without being fully immersed in sport, no matter what kind," said Miller. "It's been my whole life - professionally, personally, family-wise. Being involved in sport has made me a better person. My children were athletes as well, and so I got the opportunity to be involved in volunteer roles with many sport organizations. I've met the most wonderful people along the way and I have the best of friends."

While Miller was young when she first began coaching, she said she received a lot of mentorship from various gymnastics coaches in Regina and support from the parents of the children she was teaching.

In 1968, she truly fell in love with competitive gymnastics while watching members of the Regina Girls Gymnastic Club (RGGC) such as Wendy and Randy Johner, Monica Atchison and Joni Cushway train at the YWCA. RGGC coaches realized how passionate she was and recruited her to help with the club. The next year, she judged her first provincial championship thanks to the support of two of the club's national level judges, kick-starting her long tenure as a judge and judge educator.

In 1971, at the age of 16, Miller started her own competitive girls' gymnastics club at the YWCA: Regina YWCA Limberettes. Miller was given five hours a week of training time and she handpicked a group of around 25 gymnasts between the ages of 5-18.

Several of her athletes won provincial titles and she coached the first-ever Saskatchewan female gymnast to attain National Team Elite 3 standing. In 1978, Miller's Limberettes, along with the YMCA Men's Club, joined forces with the newly formed Queen City Kinsmen (QCK) gym club and created one of the most successful competitive programs in the country.

Miller's philosophy as a coach changed depending on the situation.

"When I was a high performance coach, I was quite concerned that my athletes worked hard and achieved their goals and did well, all the while caring for them as children and students," she said. "Then I started coaching a lower level and that's a whole different philosophy - making sure they're having fun and enjoying their program."

In 1987, with three kids at home, Miller made the decision to retire from both coaching and judging. She shifted her focus to the sports executive side of the field, becoming the CEO for Water Polo Saskatchewan. She went on to serve as the Vice-President of Water Polo Canada from 1998-2008. Since 1994, she has served as Gymnastics Saskatchewan's CEO/Executive Director.

"I have lived a life of being totally immersed and involved in sports, and have had the good fortune to have, or have had, a successful career in sports admin, in judging at the national level, coaching at a recreational as well as at a high performance level, in the sport of gymnastics that I love so much" said Miller.

"I wish for everyone to be able to do what they love for a career. It makes going to work every day seem like a gift."

Links:
Gymnastics Saskatchewan