Townsquare Media Tuscaloosa and the Glow Up Leadership and Mentoring Nonprofit Organization are celebrating Women’s History Month by honoring the Phenomenal Women of West Alabama.

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92.9 WTUG, Praise 93.3, 95.3 The Bear, ME-TV 97.5, Catfish 100.1, Tide 100.9, ALT 101.7, 105.1 The Block and our free digital news outlet the Tuscaloosa Thread is excited to recognize the empowered women of  Bibb, Fayette, Greene, Hale, Lamar, Perry, Pickens, Sumter, Tuscaloosa, and Walker counties. 

Erin Holdefer-Kightlinger is a Phenomenal Woman of West Alabama

“Women's history month is a special month to celebrate all the amazing women who have paved the way for our generation. The big and small accomplishments that came before us have impacted all of us (women and men) today and the future generations. It makes me proud to be a woman, and I hope to impact as many people in my lifetime as many of the women who have come before me.”

 

Erin Holdefer- Kightlinger is a Northport native who has a passion for coaching and mentoring girls from the ages of 3 well into adulthood.

At a young age, her mom enrolled her and her twin sister, Lauren, into gymnastics class so that the girls could get some of their energy out. The sisters continued to do gymnastics and were recruited across the country as a part of the Bama Bounders Gymnastics Team. They both decided to stay in their hometown and compete for the Crimson Tide. 

“As a gymnast, I learned the value of hard work, discipline, sacrifice, and responsibility.”, Erin says.  As a club gymnast, she scored a perfect score on Vault. As a gymnast for Alabama, she competed on vault for every meet in her career. In 2002, she was a part of the National Championship in front of her home crowd in Tuscaloosa. “It was such an amazing experience, especially to see the little girls, who were just like me when I was little, watching and cheering. The night was so magical,” she recalls.

After the 2002 season, she had several injuries that led her to retire from competing. She knew as she transitioned into a new part of her life, that gymnastics still needed to be included. She asked David Patterson, former owner of the Bama Bounders if she could coach for him while she finished college. She was later promoted as Head Coach of the competitive team. Years later, she and her husband purchased the Bama Bounders Gymnastics program. 

“Some people thought we were crazy. I mean, sometimes I even thought we were crazy, but this is my passion! The ability to pour into as many kids as possible and make a positive impact on them has been my main goal throughout my coaching career. You always hear the saying, ‘Love what you do, and do what you love’ This rings true to me.” Kightlinger says. 

Aside from being a dedicated coach, she has two sons of her own, Austin who is 13, and Alex who is 10. She says it was a challenge finding a balance between being a coach and a mom. Raising her own children and being there for their baseball games was a priority to her. She stepped back from coaching competitive teams as much and found a new passion for coaching preschoolers. She enjoyed making a difference in the lives of the little ones. She discusses how they smile all the time, they are just learning to share, to listen, to stand in line, and to become coordinated.

She says her greatest accomplishment as a coach has changed over the years. When she was younger she would think of the accolades of the gymnast that she coached. After coaching for over 20 years, she realizes that the accolades never really meant anything. That means the most as a coach is the relationships that have been built over the many years. “My heart melts every single time I get a text message or phone call from my grown-up babies asking for advice, letting me know they are pregnant, inviting me to a huge life event. That to me is what mentoring and coaching young women is about. Not the plaque or trophy that collects dust, but the heart-filling relationships that will last forever! The smile, the hugs, the tears, the prayers, those are what means the world to me!” Erin exclaims. 

West Alabama is a thriving area of the Yellowhammer State with women creating history at every step. If you know of a woman that deserved to be highlighted for her accomplishments please emailmaryk@townsquaremedia.com

LOOK: Milestones in women's history from the year you were born

Women have left marks on everything from entertainment and music to space exploration, athletics, and technology. Each passing year and new milestone makes it clear both how recent this history-making is in relation to the rest of the country, as well as how far we still need to go. The resulting timeline shows that women are constantly making history worthy of best-selling biographies and classroom textbooks; someone just needs to write about them.

Scroll through to find out when women in the U.S. and around the world won rights, the names of women who shattered the glass ceiling, and which country's women banded together to end a civil war.