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Steve Heasley’s children extend his legacy of serving the community

Steve Heasley and his daughter, Michelle, coach a gymnast June 7, 2023, at Butler Gymnastics Club on Evans City Road in Butler. Justin Guido/Butler Eagle

BUTLER TWP — Athletics proved more than just fun to Steve Heasley.

They shaped his life — and he made sure his children used a similar tool to shape theirs.

Heasley was a gymnast at Butler High School who went on to compete in the sport at Slippery Rock University. He quickly got into coaching young gymnasts and joined a high school friend, former University of Pittsburgh gymnast Rich Pribis, in opening a gymnastics gym in Butler.

A father’s framework

BUTLER TWP — Athletics proved more than just fun to Steve Heasley.

They shaped his life — and he made sure his children used a similar tool to shape theirs.

Heasley was a gymnast at Butler High School who went on to compete in the sport at Slippery Rock University. He quickly got into coaching young gymnasts and joined a high school friend, former University of Pittsburgh gymnast Rich Pribis, in opening a gymnastics gym in Butler.

“My experience in the sport, everything I learned from coaches, were always positive experiences for me,” Heasley said. “It didn’t take me long to realize I wanted to give back.

“I wanted to coach, teach kids, give them the same positive experiences I received.”

When he got married and had children of his own, he wanted his kids to experience the benefit of athletics as well.

Steve Heasley, second from left, shares a moment with his children, from left, Phil, Michelle and Stephen. Submitted photo

“It didn’t have to be gymnastics,” he emphasized. “I never pushed them that way. But I wanted them involved in athletics in some way.”

All three of his children — Stephen, Michelle and Phil — started out as youth gymnasts. Stephen, now 45, wound up playing soccer and became a diver at Butler High School. He then became the No. 1 diver for Duke University.

Michelle, now 43, also became a diver for Butler. She was an accomplished gymnast as well — becoming the state champion on bars in Level 6 at age 15 — and she was a cheerleader.

Phil, now 32, wound up playing football and did track and field.

Steve Heasley, center, and his children, from left, Phil and Michelle, work at Butler Gymnastics Club on Evans City Road in Butler. Justin Guido/Butler Eagle

Their adult lives have taken them in different directions. They’ve taken common elements with them — characteristics and traits of their father.

Stephen recently returned from Australia, where he spent several years working in publishing. He’s moved around a bit, working as a publisher in heath sciences, developing product strategies for education.

Steve Heasley’s gym first opened in 1974 with 60 kids. Now known as the Butler Gymnastics Club — in the same location since 1994 — it houses about 430 kids.

“I come from a family of teachers and coaches, especially my father,” Stephen said. “That instilled in me the desire to work in education. I worked at the (Butler Gymnastics) Club for a while. I helped build the rock-climbing wall that’s in there.

Steve Heasley, center, and his children, from left, Phil and Michelle, work at Butler Gymnastics Club on Evans City Road in Butler. Justin Guido/Butler Eagle

“My philosophical fundamentals in life, I got from my father,” Stephen said. I got his self-discipline, too.”

“Stephen went down a different path,” Heasley said. “I’m proud he had the courage to do that.”

Heasley’s daughter went down the same path as her father. Heasley was a longtime schoolteacher in Butler. He’d teach during the day, come over to the gym after school and work with the children there during evenings.

Michelle has been working at the gym since she was 15. She oversees all of the coaches there now. She’s been a teacher in the Butler Area School District for 16 years now, and she is also the mother of three small children, including twins.

“Dad has done so much for kids here,” Michelle said of the gym. “We’ve sent 20 gymnasts on to college with scholarships, and that’s a lot for this sport. It was important to me to continue his legacy. I grew up seeing how dedicated he was. Now I’m doing the same.

“I teach. I come here … just like he did. I love working with kids. No doubt, I got that from him. Also having three kids under the age of 5, it’s exhausting. Exhausting, but well worth it.”

Heasley emphasized his children did not have to carry on any legacy or feel any need to do so, “but I’m thrilled that they are.”

Phil also works at the gym, doing administrative work behind a desk. He’s also a school board member and is interested in building a career in public service.

“That came from my father, definitely,” Phil said. “He’s a selfless person who gave hours and hours of his time to serving the community through teaching and coaching. Though in a different element, I want to serve the community as well.

“My father has spent most of his life helping others. I want to do the same. We all do. The work ethic he instilled in us will last our lifetimes.”

Heasley was always involved in his children’s lives when they were young. He was assistant scoutmaster when his sons were in the Boy Scouts. He coached his daughter in gymnastics. He helped coach his kids in other youth sports.

“There was a time in high school when my father was my homeroom teacher, my history teacher, then my dad,” Stephen said. “He knew how to separate all of those things. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

“He’s been a role model for so many kids beyond his own.”

When done talking about her father at the gym, Michelle had to hurry out.

She had to get her children to T-ball.

“The cycle goes on and on,” she said, smiling.

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