I just wanted to shoot you a note that says Thanks.
You’ll never believe where I am. I am writing to you from my office at my own gym. I opened it in 1999, I think you were coaching in California then. It has grown each year and in 2014 we even expanded the building. I get to coach the most wonderful kids I have ever seen. We do great gymnastics but, even better, we help them grow up into great people. I owe a lot of that to you.
When you were my coach, you helped me to see that Tumbling and Floor Exercise was truly the best event, must be, as gymnasts we both specialized in it. I learned that all skills are basically born of the floor, tumbling skills are foundational for beam, vault and even bars. I learned so much about the sport from you. I have been fortunate enough to have had many great mentors as a technical coach, My brother Harold, Leonard Isaacs, Eugene Shanderay, Doug Davis, Mel Leinwander, Gary Aspinlitner, and even from young guys like Matt Lea. But You Mick, you were the guy who taught me the most.
I remember you telling me that a gymnast is a leader; in school, on their own team, and in life. Gymnasts, you said, set the bar for other athletes. You always made me feel like I was special, like a 6 foot tall kid who somehow was outstanding among a world of shorter, stronger, more organically talented athletes. I felt like I had a gift. I felt like I had opportunities that other kids would never see. After my near fatal accident, you told me that I got to have a choice that others didn’t. I could retire satisfied knowing I did all I could with the frame and time I had, or I could fight my way back and be someone. I could be the guy that others talked about; the guy who didn’t let a broken neck slow him down. I could be the guy who trained twice as hard as everyone else to be able to, in the end, surpass everyone’s expectations. You made me want to be that guy. I think today, as a coach, business man, and father, I still try to be that guy. That guy who works hard, never gives up, and eventually wins.
So why am I sending this note now? Well Mick, I was standing there today, coaching, and it dawned on me that I won. I have a great life. I’m married and have 2 sons, I own a gym, and as you know I dreamed of having my own gym since I was a kid. I work with the best people on the planet, my staff earns my respect every day. My team kids work harder and smarter than any gymnast’s I have ever known, and my team families, Mickey, you won’t believe it, they have the same vision I have. They know their kids are extraordinary and they value what we can do to help their kids exceed everyone’s expectations. I owe so much of my success to you Mick. You set me on this path and helped me develop the tools I needed to make it all real. You even told me once, when I had doubts about being a teacher, that I should be the teacher who teaches from the heart, not to worry about the books and the quizzes. Do you remember that?
Mickey, it’s been over 15 years since you died. It breaks my heart that I never got the chance to show you what you helped me become. I never got the chance to say thank you. I think about you all the time, and though you probably just remember me as a gawky gymnastics wanna be, just one of among the hundreds you coached, I will never forget you. I don’t think that in this life we understand that even momentary encounters can often change a person’s whole life. I know that coaching a young person who loves the sport in both head and heart can be the deciding factor on many of that kid’s life outcomes. I don’t underestimate the gifts that gymnastics gives. I saw it in my case with you and I see it in the young women I coach. When you offered wisdom and compassion it shaped my entire life. I guess I just wanted you to know that.
I miss you Mick, even though you are with me every day. J.