Acclaimed coach comes to Minden gym
BY JOEY CRANDALL
Nevada Appeal News Service
MINDEN ” Tumbleweeds Gymnastics has been steadily growing over the past several years, both in the competitive and recreational fields.
Starting last month, one of the gym’s best kept secrets came home to roost. George Hery, who among his many accolades lists himself as the first-ever world champion on the trampoline, joined the gym as coach of the new trampoline and tumbling program and assistant coach to the boys’ and girls’ competitive teams.
“Finally, after years of just pleading with him to be here, we’ve got him,” said Tumbleweeds’ owner and Hery’s daughter-in-law Nikki Warren. “He’s always been a part of Tumbleweeds. He’s always trained our coaches, he’s always come in for clinics and he’s always been there for us. We wanted him for real.”
Hery brings more than 50 years of gymnastics competition and coaching experience, along with an international notoriety as one of the pioneers in competitive trampoline and tumbling, also known as T&T.
“So many people were very excited in the community that he was coming,” Warren said. “We haven’t even really announced that he was here until now and we had 55 people at the meeting that were interested in the new team.”
Hery said his goal is simply to help continue the growth of the programs offered at Tumbleweeds.
“The goal is to take each child from where they are to as far as they can go,” Hery said. “During that process, they learn a lot more than just gymnastics. It’s fantastic to be here. I just started in November, so it’s still a brand-new thing. Still getting to know all of the children.
“I’ll be spending two days a week on T&T and then I’ll help with the girls’ competitive team one day a week and the boys’ team one day a week. My goal is to help out the coaches as well.”
Warren said Hery’s experience will be invaluable to the gym.
“He’s just a wealth of knowledge,” she said. “Just to have his type of background is really a huge asset to the gym. He’s done a lot and he’s just so great to have around.
“He’ll be doing a little of everything. We have some high goals, hoping that eventually he’ll be able to take some teams to the world championships and even develop some Olympic-caliber athletes.”
It may sound like a lofty goal for a Minden gym, but taking a glance at Hery’s life gives some added perspective.
As T&T has grown, so has Hery’s career.
He won several collegiate national championships at the University of Iowa between 1960-64 and during his time there, he was introduced to George Nissen, the inventor of the trampoline. Soon after graduation, Hery went to work for the Nissen Corporation and it wasn’t long before he was traveling the world performing clinics on the trampoline.
“I guess I was one of the early pioneers of competitive trampoline,” he said. They started having competitions in about 1948 and it continued to grow from there.
“For a while it was part of the collegiate program and I was fortunate to be coming in at just that point. I was fortunate enough to win a couple of national titles in several events, including the trampoline, and Mr. Nissen invited myself and about 16 guys to the first world professional trampoline championship, which I was also fortunate enough to win. It’s been a wonderful experience, I’ve been all over the world.”
The depth of his international acclaim has often come as a surprise to Hery himself. For example, last year while taking a group of advanced students to Belgium and Holland for the world championships, he received a call from an acrobatic sports Web site inviting him to come to Paris for a day.
What awaited him there came as a complete shock. Hery had been to France in 1966 to conduct the first T&T workshops in the country. From there, their international programs grew and one of the children in attendance at Hery’s clinic later went on to become the coach of the national team.
At the event last year, the French team had assembled every world champion it had ever produced, along with much of the country’s gymnastics community, to welcome Hery back. To cap the event, all in attendance watched a movie Hery had made during the first T&T Workshops. The video has been used since to train its gymnastics teachers.
“I was the most fantastic day of my life,” Hery said.
The growth of the sport since it was added to the Olympic program in 2000 has been tremendous, Hery said, and it has been even more noticeable regionally.
“It is really growing fast,” he said. “We now have over 15 competition teams in Northern California and Nevada. It’s like that all over the United States. Having it in the Olympics is truly a great dream.”
Hery moved to the Lake Tahoe area in 1986 and owned a small gym on Industrial Way several years back. He bought Gymnastics Nevada, a 16,000-square-foot, 850-student academy in Reno shortly thereafter. He later helped start up operations at Powerhouse Tumbling and Trampoline in Rocklin, Calif., and once that facility was on its feet, he decided to bring his work back home at Tumbleweeds.
“When Nikki started this gym in the Gardnerville Ranchos, it was just for tiny kids,” Hery said. “But those kids got older, bigger and better and they eventually moved into this nice big facility. They have had success with their competition teams and the next logical step was to add a T&T team.”
Among Hery’s top pupils, and assistant coaches, will be Douglas High School student Krysta Palmer, who was a hopeful for the Olympics this year in Beijing until a knee injury set her back from competing in the trials.
“She just got cleared to start working out her routines again, so we are really looking forward to seeing what she can do,” Hery said.
Anyone interested in getting involved in T&T (Tumbleweeds will offer group and private lessons in addition to the competition team) can visit http://www.tumbleweedsforkids.com or call (775) 782-4496.
I’m excited to be here,” Hery said. “There are some great teachers, some wonderful children. I really love this community down here. Anyone who is interested in this sport can just give the gym a call and we’ll give you a trial lesson for free to see if this is for you.”