A Perfect 10

Shelby Stear '17 coached young gymnasts during her Bradley years. (Photo by Matt Hawkins)

Matt Hawkins
June 8, 2017

Shelby Stear’s collegiate return to childhood pursuits set the stage for unexpected opportunities to impact youth. Along the way, the 2017 advertising graduate also found her career direction.

Stear, a Dunlap native and daughter of former Bradley teacher education professor Susie Stear, spent her youth in Peoria dance studios and tumbling gyms. She found new interests during high school, but decided to coach tumbling and gymnastics during college. As she returned to the gym, Stear applied her first love to a new sport, developed mentoring relationships and built professional networks that launched her advertising career.

“I thought I’d just be teaching tumbling on the side,” she said. “Opportunities came and I ran with them. I never expected the kids to change my life the way they did.”

A coaching position at Peoria’s Clubs at River City introduced the then-Bradley freshman to gymnastics. She transitioned to Peoria-based Jump Start Gymnastics two years later to take on programming coordination duties.

Long hours in the gym introduced Stear to youth who gave up childhood fun to pursue Olympic dreams. Over time, she became a close friend, role model and cheerleader to many students and families.

Those bonds gave the coach newfound appreciation of families’ sacrifices on the difficult road to Olympic glory.

“Coaching brought me to tears many times because I saw kids doing things they’re so passionate about,” Stear said. “They gave up so much to be here that it’s amazing to see what they’re capable of.”

The gyms also strengthened Stear’s professional resume. She doubled as a marketing intern while at Clubs at River City, where she gained knowledge in digital marketing tools and techniques. Later, parents of a Jump Start athlete connected her to an advertising internship at a local business.

These experiences, in addition to Bradley’s academic challenges, brought professional settings to life.

“Relationships really helped my career,” she said. “Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to practice things we discussed in class right away. I’m fortunate I did things I’ll be doing in the near future in the real world.”

Stear’s next steps will focus on career development, but she doesn’t expect a long break from the gym. With teaching and tumbling deep in her blood, she won’t rest her passion longer than necessary.

“The gym is a fun, safe place for me no matter what’s going on in life,” she said. “I may not be able to impact everyone, but I may be able to help one person, and in turn be changed by that same one.”