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South Shore loses another good coach

Steve Yingling
George Hery spots 10-year-old Kevin Griest during a recent workout earlier this month at Tahoe Gymnastics.
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If you are a South Shore gymnast, freestyle skier or a parent of either, then George Hery Jr. has made a profound impact on your life.

Off and on for the past 15 years, Hery has helped solidify the foothold of gymnastics in a community that graviates toward alternative sports but prefers to spends its athletic time outdoors.

A patient and skill-oriented instructor, Hery became well-liked by the gymnasts and skiers who have passed through Gad Gymnastics and Tahoe Gymnastics doors. Some of his students throughout the years have risen to their sport’s pinnacle, including 2003 World Cup men’s moguls series champion Travis Cabral and World Cup winner Travis Ramos.

Along with Tahoe Gymnastics owner/coach Judi Sabo, Hery has most recently helped the boys’ program collect state team and regional individual titles.

But holding onto good coaches, whether it’s basketball, football or gymnastics, has become a struggle that South Lake Tahoe is losing. Part-time hours, Lake Tahoe’s high cost of living and family obligations, in part, contributed to Hery’s decision to relocate to Reno.

“Everyone was super supportive and they tried to do everything they could do to make it happen, but there were forces that couldn’t keep me there,” said Hery, who is coaching part-time at Gymnastics Nevada, a club he used to own with his dad and wife.

Sabo is in the process of selling the gym but will continue coaching. She’s disappointed by Hery’s decision to leave, but is confident the children will continue to have strong adult leadership.

“I’m not concerned in the least bit,” Sabo said. “We’ll get another coach in here who will follow our philosophy, which is that you don’t have to beat kids down to get them to perform. George was able to coach in a very kind manner. He’ll be missed.”

Parents and his pupils will miss Hery as well.

“Hopefully we can get a coach as good as him. He was nice and he knew what he was talking about,” said 11-year-old Ricky Braun, a state champion in floor exercise this season. “He helped me improve a lot.”

Braun’s mom, Charlene, never worried about her son at gymnastics because of Hery’s presence.

“He’s been teaching Ricky since he was 6 years old,” Charlene Braun said. “It’s been like an extended family. I’d drop him off at 5 and pick him up at 8 and know he’s gotten something out of his three hours away from home.

“I always felt we were very lucky to have come from some small town and still have best coaching in the world.”

Hery’s first love wasn’t gymnastics, it was the trampoline.

In fact, Hery rose to ninth in world on the trampoline during the 1980s.

But once his dad, George Sr. – a former owner of Gad Gymnastics – began dabbling in gymnastics clubs, Hery changed his focus.

“I started in gymnastics once I saw all that neat equipment at my dad’s place,” Hery said.

He went on to become a part of a Western Athletic Conference and regional champion at the University of New Mexico. He finished out his collegiate career at BYU and then focused on making the national team and the Olympics.

But as he was nearing a spot in the Olympic Trials, tragedy dealt Hery a setback he wasn’t able to overcome. A 1994 car wreck left him with a shattered rib, a torn latissimus muscle and micro tears in his left knee. Six months passed before he could do a handstand again.

When his Olympic dream faded away, Hery just became more absorbed with coaching the next generation of gymnastics in South Lake Tahoe.

However, Hery had a positive way of bringing out the best in his gymnasts.

“Sports are a way to teach people how to be better human beings, not just better athletes,” he said. “Staying positive all the time, setting goals and implementing a plan to achieve them, if you can do that you can be successful in everything.”

He doubts if he’ll ever coach again in South Lake Tahoe.

“I have my own business that’s exploding and that’s going to keep me in Reno. You can say I made the decision that was best for my family,” he said. “But the nice thing with my business is when it becomes the success I want it to be, I can coach for fun instead of relying on it for income. I think I will be coaching for a long time. I wish there was more I do for them (in Tahoe).”

That should make a lot of kids happy down the road.


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