A call back to his coaching days in Louisiana and Florida allowed Randy Fox to take a walk down memory lane.
The founder and co-owner of the Vancouver Elite Gymnastics Academy, in Camas, will be inducted into the USA Gymnastics Region 8 Hall of Fame Saturday, in Tampa, Fla.
“Coaching is the first job I ever had,” Fox said. “My father always said, ‘if you find something you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.’ So I’ve been playing in the gym for the last 39 years.”
Fox got the opportunity to be an assistant coach for the Louisiana State University women’s gymnastics team between 1978 and 1980.
Fox coached Region 8 gymnasts for the next five years. He had the privilege of working with Olympians Shannon Miller and Kristie Phillips during their formative years.
Fox spent the next 10 years molding sculptures out of clay. His most famous piece was the Wade Schalles Award, which he completed in 1999.
“I had no training for this,” Fox said. “I was just picking up clay and going for it.”
Schalles set an NCAA record with 106 pins during his career at Clarion University. He is also a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Since 2000, the Schalles Award has been given to the college wrestler with the most pins in the United States.
Fox returned to coaching gymnastics full-time in the Bahamas. He got the opportunity to mentor a shy gymnast named Alex Sturrup.
“I didn’t have a father figure in my life. He filled that role,” Sturrup said. “I started calling him my father, and I have ever since.”
Sturrup took the newfound confidence and taught himself how to dance. The 28-year-old has been performing on stage during Royal Caribbean cruises for the past seven years. He visits Fox whenever he gets a vacation.
“He’s changed my life a lot. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be where I am right now,” Sturrup said. “I get to travel, dance and perform all because of his encouragement and determination to push me.”
The brief time in the Bahamas also changed Fox’s life. He met his wife Linda there in 2000. They got married in 2001 and moved to Vancouver in 2002.
“I thought I would retire in the Bahamas before I found the Northwest,” Fox said. “I’ve got my roots planted deep right here.”
Over the next decade, Fox and Zdravko Stoianov realized their dream of running a gym together. They brought VEGA into the former Camas Armory building in 2004. Since then, it has become a thriving facility for gymnastics, dance and performing arts.
“It’s been great watching this grow from its infancy. We knew we had the recipe for running a successful gym,” Fox said. “VEGA teaches lots of life lessons. The families are great and the people are great. They make us who we are.”
Fox has been head coach of the XCEL team at VEGA for the past five years. During that time, the team has earned four state championships and one second place finish.
The 55-year-old looks forward to re-connecting with old friends at the USA Gymnastics Region 8 Hall of Fame ceremony. He still cannot believe he is the one getting inducted.
“I couldn’t have done it without all the mentors who have helped me out in my career. They taught me the true value of coaching was not how successful your kids were, but how you treated everybody,” Fox said. “You have to be a compassionate person and you have to treat people with respect. What you put into it, you get back. I’ve been getting back a lot of great stuff.”