I had the somewhat unique privilege to have Laurel as a both a club and college coach. Often in the club program we were more the responsibility of the assistant coach but Laurel was always there to over see things and make sure that everything ran smoothly. One particular memory I have of Laurel from club days was when we were all trying to learn the handstand straddle down on beam for our level 6 compulsory. She was trying to explain to us (10 & 12 year olds) that it was a handstand “press down” not a “fall down.” Despite our best efforts it seems we were not getting the idea so she kicked up to a handstand and demonstrated a controlled “press down”. This does not sound that memorable until you take into account that she was noticeably pregnant with Jory (and had probably spent at least part of the day throwing up from “morning sickness”). (this is all the more impressive to me as I was recently pregnant and counted it a victory if I could invert to tie my shoes, let alone press down from a handstand). Laurel always had a way of getting more done in a day than most people. Could dream of doing There were multiple road trips in college where Laurel would tell us something like “the gate is C4” and then she would be off leaving us all in the dust. I think she was counting steps before counting steps was a thing! At Nationals one year after a dismal first event we managed to make it to the second night of team competition after Laurel told us: “Well you dug yourselves into this hole, you better get a shovel and start digging yourselves back out.” This bit of advice proved useful that night as we dug out of the hole successfully and has repeated in my head often over the years in multiple situations. I still picture the toy shovels and buckets she made that said, “dig a hole, fill it up”. I feel that as we age we begin to see some of the scary things that can happen in the world and one thing I have learned is that I took for granted the people in my life that kept me safe when I was young. Laurel was certainly one of those people. Laurel has been a model of work ethic, tireless devotion and unwavering morals. She set an example for me and serves as an inspiration when it comes to working hard to utilize and improve on your talents as a gymnast and, more importantly, in life. Thank you for looking out for us, especially when we were too young (or ridiculous) to do it ourselves (from picking coaching staff, to getting us safely to away meets). For gentle chastising (“we do not drop out of medical school for a man”) when we needed it (and in some cases no one else would do it). For putting up with young gymnasts, like me and their growing pains. Thank you for your patience (yet again with this late letter) , your willingness to share your talents, and inspiring by your example. For all the times I should have said it, but did not: “Thank you for making me a better person."
Erin Kawasaki SPUG 2001