Megan Williams was born in Fayetteville, NC. Part of a military family, they moved to Anchorage, Alaska and then Tallahassee, FL where she graduated from Godby High School. She moved to Athens to attend the University of Georgia, where she earned a degree in Exercise Science (now called Kinesiology). Megan is the Program Leader for Gymnastics at Athens Clarke County Leisure Services. She also teaches trapeze classes at Canopy Studio and she is an active member of their Repertory Performance Group. She lives on the westside with her husband, Rhuben and their sweet dog Daisy.
What led you to your current career?
I grew up competing in gymnastics my entire youth. I started classes when I was 4 years old then quickly moved up to the team and I continued competing full-speed until I graduated high school. I absolutely love the sport, and I love children. Being able to couple my two passions to coach, mentor, and help children prepare for life through gymnastics has been awesome and so rewarding. Gymnastics is a wonderful way of teaching all sorts of amazing life lessons: discipline, determination, grit, time management, learning to take criticism, body confidence, teamwork, overcoming obstacles, and so many more. I have just loved it so much that I want to represent it in a positive light. Recently gymnastics has come under attack for allowing abuse to infiltrate the sport. We must address these problems as a sport, and we have to fix it as a whole. We have to acknowledge that there is a problem, but to not lose sight of the many great things that this sport has to offer our youth. We need to embrace gymnastics as a positive tool for building strong confident adults who are ready to take on any challenges in life. Anyway, just loving the sport and loving kids is what brought me to do what I am doing right now.
When we are not in these pandemic times, what is your favorite thing to do in Athens?
I love to be upside down in any form. I love to perform at Canopy, and I also do some flying trapeze that is just a huge passion of mine. Both of those things are the closest forms of exercise I have found that are as exciting, creative and exhilarating as gymnastics. At my age, gymnastics just hurts my body now. I can still do it, I just pay for it in aches and pain. Being able to do dance trapeze, silks, lyra and flying trapeze has given me an outlet very similar to what I did growing up, but my body can recover a lot quicker and enjoy it a lot more.
What is your favorite place to eat in Athens, and what do you love there?
Oh goodness! My husband and I are foodies! So, we love all the local food here in Athens. We do our best to support as many different local businesses. I will say that this one might still be a little secret, but my favorite little lunch spot is Half Shepherd Market. I am super sad that during Covid they had to stop their lunch services. Fingers crossed they will be able to safely resume soon. There is just something about those Half Sheppard salads that are amazing- I think it is the freshness and their delicious salad dressing! Their sandwiches are great too. I haven’t had anything there that I haven’t loved. I am really missing that, but I am also a huge fan of White Tiger, Cali-n-titos, Last Resort, Viva, Hi-Lo…I could go on and on with all of the amazing restaurants in this town. We just try to support as many of our local restaurant owners as we can.
If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, and there wasn’t a global pandemic, where would you go and why?
New Zealand and here is why. Two of my best mates just moved over there a little over a year ago and it is gorgeous. The scenery just varies so much and it is so beautiful. It is also probably the safest place in the world right now. Not that we would be allowed in, but it just seems like an amazing place and plus just getting to see my best mates would be awesome.
If you could see any band or show anywhere, time travel, past or present, dead or alive, who would it be and where?
I kind of changed this question on you. I would love to go to the Olympics and watch really any sport, or multiple sports. I have always been such a fan of the Olympics, just how it brings all of these countries together, all these different cultures together and you are watching these athletes who have worked their entire lives for this moment, and watching them perform at their best. I think that would probably be the ultimate experience. I think this next one is going to be particularly exciting because people will maybe appreciate it a little bit more. Plus, Simone Biles, being a gymnast, and being a huge fan of gymnastics just getting to watch anything she does is art. The women’s US gymnastics team, they all just worked so hard, so many hours. I think this next one would be really interesting, but really any Olympics. Just feeling that energy, feeling all that culture, you know there is something about sports that just unites people as well.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Learn to laugh at yourself. It is important. Don’t take life so seriously. Being a competitive gymnast, keeping straight As in school and all of that, I was a very serious kid. I really had to learn how to get stuff done, but also enjoy life and have fun and live in the moment. You know, just letting yourself have fun and even today that is the best part of working with kids because it is a constant reminder to have fun, get down play around, none of us are getting out of this thing alive so just have some fun.
I know you are a big reader. Do you have a book that you find yourself re-reading or referencing or giving away as a gift often?
I am a huge YA [young adult] reader. I started reading YA as a way to bond with my kids. I teach a wide age range of children, but most of my kids are middle school or beginning high school age. I started doing that as a way to read together or talk about stuff, and I just love it. There is something about that first love story/ discovering yourself that I am drawn to. The coming of age and how everything is a little bit simpler, but also more complex: that is generally my jam for sure. They are just sweet.
What is something interesting about you that most people don’t know?
A lot of people didn’t know that I lived in Alaska. I don’t really remember it. I wish I did because it is such a beautiful place according to pictures. I was quite young when we were there, but it was gorgeous and I would love to go back. Another fascinating thing is that in a heartbeat, I would love to run off with the circus if possible. Like in a heartbeat I would do it.
If you could have lunch with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and where?
I would like to have lunch with my husband’s father [Chino “Fats” Williams]. I never got a chance to meet him. He passed away when my husband was in high school. My husband and I didn’t meet until years later, and from everything I’ve heard it would just be quite an experience to get to meet him and hear all of his stories. I also just would want to show him that I am in his son’s life, and I am going to take care of him and love him dearly, just to give him that reassurance. I think that would be really cool. Rhuben always says, “my dad would love you. No really my dad would love you.” And as far as where we’d go, he grew up in Louisiana so I guess I would really want to go eat somewhere he loved to eat there, that would be a fun experience.
If you could put anything on a billboard, what would you put?
I don’t know where Rhuben heard it, but he said it to me recently. I have been struggling during this pandemic and just feeling overwhelmingly sad and hopeless with everything going on with the pandemic and social injustice. It has always been around, but it is super highlighted right now. Rhuben said to me, “it is hard to feel hopeless when you are being helpful.” I think I would put that on a billboard and remind people that small acts or any act of kindness or helpfulness to your family, to your community, to your country…all those things really do add up. Don’t get bogged down in feeling you can’t do everything, just do something. If you have done something helpful you have that feeling of like okay, all is not fixed, but I have taken a step in the right direction.
What three words or phrases come to mind when you think of the word “home”?
The three words I would say are Love, Fun and Crazy. Growing up in a house full of girls- I am one of six girls- there was always an abundance of love, there was always an abundance of fun and also you never knew what was going to happen. Literally, you never knew what was going to happen. It was crazy!