Meet Susan Nardi, our new Program Director from our Help Group Culver City, one of our school-based programs.
“I’ve worked with the hearing and visually impaired before and autism is a space I haven’t worked in before but I’ve been wanting to do it,” the PTR professional, PTA elite pro, PTA and PTR wheelchair trained coach explained. “I want to make sure that I’m good at any scenario that’s put in front of me and that it’s a good experience for everyone, and thanks to ACEing Autism, I can now adapt,” Susan, who has been playing for 56 years, continued.
Describing herself as the fun aunt, her coaching style has been shaped by a lot of women she admired, one of them she’s met several times, Billie Jean King. “Her advice: athletes don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care, has been the crust of everything I do,” she tells me. As we continue our discussion on what women’s history month means to her, she recalls some of these women such as Dawn Staley, Pat Summit, Becky Harmon, and of course Billie Jean King or Rosie Casals, who have molded the way she approaches her job.
“For these women, it’s all about the culture, how much they care and what they can bring and how they inspire their athletes,” she recalls. “Billie Jean King got us in the room, my generation got us a seat, might not be the best seat, but we got a seat and I tell my girls, I don’t want you to just get a seat at the table, I want you to build your own table,” she laughs. But as you hear her story, as you see everything she has accomplished and continues to do for her community, you can’t help but believe that this will happen for her athletes. An example is her 2021 Double-Goal Coach Award from the Positive Coaching Alliance, whose goal is to change culture and behavior throughout youth sports in the following ways.
The woman who was told that she couldn’t teach “high performance” athletes because she wasn’t strong enough, proves everyday what dedication, heart, and care can achieve. As she explained all the jobs that she holds, I almost got lost in all of them. “I can be on a court with a 3 to 6 year old doing a mummy and me class, or a 10 and under class, then I can be with someone who has a UTR of 11, or I can be with a group of beginner adults in a day,” she jokes. “But it keeps me moving, it fits my personality, otherwise I get bored.”
To better understand that statement, here is a sample of her involvement. She runs an after school black program where 75% of the population are minorities, through her own company, Rhino Crash Sports Group, Inc., she is the Vice president in Charge of Operations for LA Tennis Inc, she is highly involved with the WTCA (Women’s Tennis Coach Association), in the Adaptive space with the USTA, PTA, and PTR, and now runs ACEing Autism.
As we came to speak about ACEing Autism, one of the first sentences that she said was that “I always strive to be better, and it makes me better.” As I asked what’s one of her favorite things so far about the program, she quickly responded, “It’s interesting to learn about their personality, that’s the fun part, we get to know them.” She then gives an example of improvements she’s already seen in just a month. “Some athletes were shy, but they’re warming up now, and I want them to have that experience that they can play something for the rest of their life.”
The fun, outspoken, and cheery mentor wraps up the conversation by simply saying: “I like to make it a party.”