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Viking History -
Charlie Friedman began gymnastics at age eight and quickly fell in love with the sport. What her mother thought would be a weekly activity, quickly became a passion resulting in a six day a week commitment. Her gymnastics training consisted not only of the traditional gymnastics events, but also included ballet and acrobatic dance.
After competing both club and high school gymnastics, Charlie was hired by Niles North High Schools Girls’ Gymnastics team as a choreographer and assistant coach. There her mentor and former coach Susan Fosco, encouraged Charlie to begin a feeder program for their high school team. This original program was the foundation of what is now Viking Gymnastics & Dance.
The early 2000’s Viking’s off-season program was geared towards the high school students and their younger sibling who would one day compete for Niles North’s team. It quickly grew to include cousins, neighbors, and friends. The young gymnasts improved quickly and were ready to compete long before high school. Charlie had the boys and girls’ registered through AAU/GIJO and then USA Gymnastics to compete at the compulsory levels.
With budding competitive teams, which require numerous hours of practice, and a recreational program that numbered over 250, Viking needed to find a home outside of the high school’s second floor gym. In 2012, Viking opened a bright 15,500 square foot gym in Niles, Illinois. Before the first class took place, their enrollment had already doubled and continued to grow.
In 2017, Viking increased their space to 37,000 square feet and added the dance program Charlie had always felt was missing. In addition to traditional ballet, Viking Dance has Jazz, Tap, Lyrical, Hip Hop, and a variety of toddler classes.
Charlie’s and the rest of the Viking Staff undoubtedly believe that every child can benefit from gymnastics & dance. They are committed to providing a positive and enriching experience to everyone who walks in Viking’s doors.
Charlie Friedman Bio -
Charlie Friedman began competitive gymnastics at age eight. Gymnastics was such a principal part of her childhood and such great experience that she created Viking Gymnastics. Charlie’s mission was to create a place where any child could participate in the sport and benefit from it’s life-long lesson. Throughout college, Charlie performed for an acrobatic dance company. The expanded Viking Gymnastics & Dance offers a synergy between the two disciplines that has been a dream of hers for some time.
Charlie is a Certified Elementary Teacher and is a Safety Certified Professional Member of USA Gymnastics Federation. She was the Head Girls’ Gymnastics Coach at Niles North High School from 2008 until the Spring of 2013, when she decided to completely focus on Viking Gymnastics. She has taught students with varying levels of ability, as well as individuals with disabilities. Charlie continues to be thoroughly involved in the gymnastics community, and was a former president of the Illinois High School Girls’ Gymnastics Coaches Association.
Charlie and Coach Mendel have two young daughters who are lucky enough to grow surrounded by their extended Viking family.
Susan Fosco Bio –
Susan has been involved in gymnastics her entire life: she started tumbling at age three, received a full scholarship for Gymnastics at Northeastern Illinois University in 1974, coached at Indiana University while acquiring a master’s degree in Physical Education, and has coached both high school and club teams ever since.
Susan coached at Resurrection High School for ten years where her teams placed 3rd in State three times, won many sectional and regional championships, and ten conference championships. Susan continued with her team and individual successes at Hersey high School, Elgin High School, Addison Trail High School, Lane Tech High School, Niles North High School and Elk Grove Gymnastics School. Susan recently retired from teaching Physical Education and Adventure Education at Niles North High School. Sue’s achievements include: Induction into Resurrections Athletic Hall of Fame 2012, Induction into the Girls Catholic Athletic Conference Hall of Fame 2006, Illinois High School Girls Gymnastics Coaches Association- Coach of the Year 2006, Who’s Who Among American Teachers 1996, GCAC Coach the Year 1986-1990, Scholastic Magazine Coach of the Year 1986, 1990. Susan believes it is important to give back to the gymnastic community and has volunteered in the gymnastic community as: Vice President and President IHSGGCA 2002-2005, Prairie State Games Coach 1985-1990, Served on the IHSA Gymnastics Advisory Committee 1989-1992, and hosted Special Olympics Chicago Park District Gymnastics Camps.
Susan has loved gymnastics her whole life and is very grateful to have the opportunity to be an Assistant Director and work with the wonderful coaching staff at Viking Gymnastics. She enjoys reconnecting with many of her former gymnasts whose children now attend classes at Viking.
April Sawyer Bio -
Coach April began her gymnastics career in Indiana where her favorite event was the balance beam, but she feels her true impact on the sport has been during her 30+ years of coaching. April is a jack-of-all trades in that she has helped run a gym, directed and coached numerous programs, judged, and created many special needs programs including the first Special Olympics Gymnastics team in Houston. In 2013 she was presented with the Distinguished Service Award which is given to persons who have given outstanding service to the development of gymnastics and gymnastics programs in the state of Texas. April planned and ran the State Special Olympics gymnastics competition in Arlington, TX, in 2014 and 2015. She has been a distinguished guest and presenter at the GAT conference and USAG National Conference.
April’s passion is working with tots/preschool aged gymnasts and gymnasts with special needs. She understands that everything we do or say to a child can have a profound impact. She loves coaching gymnastics because it is fun and helps children in numerous ways; it helps their development, strength, coordination, flexibility, motor skills, confidence, self-esteem, spatial awareness, and more. “I feel that every child can feel good about themselves through gymnastics and that gymnastics can be a spring-board for so many other important goals in life.
April married her high school sweetheart and has two grown children. She and her family moved to the Chicago area to do volunteer work and began coaching at Viking in 2016. Her positive energy and warmth are contagious when you are near her!