A true master of his craft
The moment he saw the look of intensity in his eye, Jack Discher knew John Geddert was destined to be successful.
“He had an intensity that was really pretty good and he became focused on gymnastics,” Discher, a former Alpena High School gymnastics coach, said. “It’s obviously paid dividends.”
The intensity Discher saw stuck with Geddert as he graduated from Alpena and later began a coaching career that has seen him become one of the most decorated U.S. gymnastics coaches ever.
His scores of accomplishments have earned him a spot in the 2012 class of the Alpena Sports Hall of Fame along with Mike Kollien, Andy Rohn and Dick Behning. The quartet will be inducted on May 4 at the APlex.
“It’s humbling. I went up to Alpena (recently) and saw some of those plaques. I’m humbled to be a part of that group,” Geddert said of his upcoming induction.
Geddert’s long, successful career has taken him everywhere from from Mt. Pleasant High School to Maryland to more than 15 countries for international competition, including the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, where he was the U.S. women’s gymnastics coach.
That Olympic squad, which included Geddert’s student Jordyn Wieber, won the second-ever team gold medal for the U.S. and collected four individual medals.
“It was like winning the lottery. It’s something you hope to do and all the numbers lined up. The people that picked the coach felt I was the right person for the job,” Geddert said. “It’s a culmination of a lot of things: international experience, individual athlete experience and national experience.”
Long before he coached in the Olympics, Geddert was a gymnast with the Wildcats, earning three letters and serving as co-captain as a senior in 1976. Individually, Geddert took fourth in the state on the horizontal bars as a senior and finished fifth in the high bar as a junior.
Though the Wildcats didn’t win a state title in his time at Alpena, he helped lay the foundation for the Wildcats’ later success. Alpena won its first gymnastics title in 1977 and won two more before the program was discontinued a few years later.
Competing for Alpena helped fuel Geddert’s passion for gymnastics, but it also helped him discover he had a passion for coaching as he taught an after school gymnastics program for elementary school kids.
“I try to point kids in the right direction. I’m not just teaching gymnastics, I’m teaching life skills and how to be a better person,” Geddert said of coaching.
After graduating he took a gymnastics scholarship to Central Michigan University and studied physical education. During his senior year, he coached the Mt. Pleasant High School gymnastics team. Once he finished school, he went to Maryland, accepting a job under then national team coach Gary Anderson for four years.
Geddert came back to Michigan in 1984 and took over as head coach of Great Lakes Gymnastics in Lansing, turning the struggling club into a national powerhouse. In 1996, Geddert found himself at odds with a partner in the club and formed his own club, Twistars USA Gymnastics Club, which has grown into one of the top clubs in the country. In 24 years, Twistars gymnasts have earned more than $3 million in scholarships and have sent many gymnasts to the Junior Olympic and Elite levels of competition.
In 25 years, Geddert’s success in Michigan gymnastics is unparalleled and he has become the most decorated gymnastics coach in the state’s history. His teams are 1,998-58 in state championship competition and have won 112 state titles, more than all other Michigan teams combined.
His success on the national front has afforded him the chance to coach U.S. gymnasts in international competition and he has represented the U.S. in more than a dozen countries, coaching his gymnasts to dozens of awards.
His coaching success has yielded more than 20 members of the U.S. national team, but perhaps none bigger than Wieber, a native of DeWitt, who has been a student of Geddert’s since she was four years old. In 2011, Geddert was named the U.S. World Team head coach and coached Wieber to an all-around world title. In 2012, Wieber qualified for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.
Shortly after that, Geddert found out he would not only be coaching Wieber in London, he’d be coaching the entire U.S. women’s gymnastics team.
“We showed the world what the U.S. could do in a sport that’s been dominated by the Russians and Romanians,” Geddert said.
Wieber’s success in international competition is an accomplishment that Geddert considers one of his biggest as a coach.
“She’s always had the talent and a willingness to use it on a daily basis,” Geddert said. “The way she handled adversity, she handed it with class.”
Outside of coaching, Geddert has served on the USA Gymnastics Junior Olympic Program Committee for the past 22 years and has been involved in shaping rules and policy that govern U.S. gymnastics along with many other charitable endeavors.
Long after Geddert graduated from Alpena, Discher still sees the same intensity and passion that drove him as a member of the Wildcats and it makes him proud to see what Geddert has accomplished.
“When I watched the Olympics and World Cup, the intensity and focus he showed in the seventh grade, was still there,” Discher said. “It’s great that he’s been able to channel that into something positive.”