A question-and-answer session with the state's boys and girls gymnastics coaches
By Mike Considine
GETTING TO KNOW: Glen Reimers, Naperville Central boys and girls head coach
SGS: I recently discovered that you spent a year as an assistant coach at the University of Illinois in the 1980s. How did that come about and what did you learn from the experience?
Reimers: To answer this question I will have to go back a couple of years before 1980.
I was finishing up my senior year at Mundelein High School,’76-’77, and had an unbelievable successful year. I was asked by my head coach, Bob Bohl, if I wanted to help out in his evening acrotot program. I accepted, but told him I really didn’t know much. I was paired up with another instructor whom I can’t remember the name. I did that until the summer where I went off to Wyoming Technical Institute in Laramie, Wyoming to become a diesel mechanic. The schooling was 8 hours a day 5 days a week. While there I continued to miss gymnastics, so I went over to Wyoming School of Gymnastics and asked the owner, Raleigh Wilson, if I could work out. He said I could, if I would help out with the boys who would come in the morning. So I did that on Monday’s and Wednesday’s from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. and then went to my classes. I graduated a diesel mechanic 6 months later.
After I graduated I went back to Mundelein and found a job at International Harvester and worked there roughly 2 months. While working there I went back to Mundelein High School and again worked for Coach Bohl in the developmental program. Needless to say I wasn’t cut out to be a diesel mechanic. I left that job and started looking for another, and went to the high school and asked if they needed any help with the high school program. So I volunteered my time to help with the girls team under the direction of Barb Adornetto (who is now Barb Hartwig). Barb also introduced me to The Fighting Illini summer gymnastics camp where I was an instructor from ’78-’95. I will have to say I learned how to teach and spot from two of the best in the state at that time: Frank Freeman and Don Carney. There are others who helped forward my career; Gail Anna Jensen, Alana “Dez” Dezris, Bev Mackes and Peter and Mary Jansson … just to name a few. Bev Mackes was the head of Illinois program during that time.
I came back from that first camp in ’78 excited and carrying a wealth of knowledge. At Mundelein in ‘79, girls season was switched from spring to winter. We made it to state with some individuals and, unfortunately, I was not allowed to be on the state floor which devastated me. It was then that Barb Adornetto asked if this is what I wanted to do and I said yes. She then told me that I needed to go back to school to become a teacher. So that spring I enrolled at a junior college. I went to the Illini Summer Camp and continued to work with Bev Mackes and others. She approached me and asked if I wanted to be an assistant the following year and finish my education there. Of course I jumped at the opportunity and that’s how I was an assistant coach at the University of Illinois.
SGS: If I remember correctly, the first high school job you had was as an assistant at Hinsdale Central. If so, what did you take away from being involved in the state's most successful boys program? Did it become a model for what you wanted to achieve as a head coach?
Reimers: I actually did my student teaching there under Neil Krupicka and volunteered during the boys' season. I actually was an assistant at Wheaton Central under Dianne Gallione (now Dianne Douville). At that point in time Neil taught me different drills and techniques for working with the boys that I hadn’t learned from Bob Bohl or my still rings coach Jim “Jet” Jackson. Neil taught me more on the other events…P-bars, H-bar, and Pommel Horse. Unfortunately, my brained turned “off” when it came to pommel horse and it still is a thorn in my side today. What Neil taught me was that everything has a positive side. He was always positive on what the outcome was. That wasn’t any more evident than at the ’96 girls state meet where he beat us by tenths of a point. It was a true competitive battle between the student and teacher. He had nothing but praise for our team. While he stated he was nervous he was glad it was between us and not some other team. This was indeed sportsmanship at its best.
SGS: What was your background as a gymnast and how did your experiences as both a gymnast and as an assistant shape the type of coach you became when you took over at Naperville Central?
Reimers: You can go back to the answer in question No. 1 and add that I didn’t start gymnastics until my junior year in high school. I stunk at basketball and didn’t want to get a job so I went with the advice of two of my friends and joined gymnastics. Little did I know that when I showed up to the meeting did I find out they were kidding. One of those friends is Jeff Martin, a standout gymnast that competed at Oklahoma with Bart Conner. Needless to say, I took that as a challenge which kept me going through the sometimes severe pain I encountered performing on the rings, specifically the ripped hands. There weren’t any dowel grips back then, unless you made your own with a wooden dowel and fishing line.
I was the only one in my family ever to try gymnastics. My twin brother tried for… I think 2 weeks and then quit. My parents had no idea what the sport entailed, but supported me through my whole life …whatever I decided to do with it.
I started at Naperville Central January 6,, 1986. I volunteered under the guidance of Dottie Rizutto and John Lies. Fall of ’86 I became the head coach when Dottie left teaching and coaching to be a full-time mom. I was an assistant boys coach from spring of ’86 until the spring of ’94 when Tom Temple retired. In ’95 I became the head coach of the boys team.
The shape I took was a combination of coaches I worked with through my entire career, and all are great coaches and I am so very grateful to have had the opportunity to be able to work with them, however, the one I will have to give credit to as directing me to where I am today is Barb Hartwig, my first coaching mentor and friend. She is a positive encouraging coach not only to the gymnast but her coaches as well. An attitude of “you never know what you can do unless you try.” She was a great teacher of positive, constructive reinforcement. She was organized and a straight-forward-don’t beat around the bush type of coach that put her soul into all she did for her coaches and gymnasts. She allowed me to grow as a coach and allowed me to fail and learn from it. She taught me to laugh at myself at times and teach others that you can learn, be successful and have a great time doing it. She knew when to be serious and when it was time to “clown” around. I just can’t say enough about her. She is the one that introduced me to Bev Mackes and the Fighting Illini Gymnastics program and encouraged me to follow my dream. She continually gave of herself and steered me in a life-changing positive direction. I will forever love her for allowing me the opportunity to be part of a program.
SGS: I've always seen you as an outstanding coach particularly in floor exercise and vaulting. Were these your best events as a gymnast or events that you got particularly good training in?
Reimers: The only event I ever competed on was the still rings. I dabbled on the p-bars and trampoline, but nothing ever seriously. We didn’t have vaulting for boys that I remember. I was always fascinated by tumbling and tramp, and I learned how to spot a tremendous amount of “tricks” on both. The difference is strength for the other events. That puts a damper on “tricks” for rings and p-bars and pommel horse. The same is true for uneven bars. If you can’t hold yourself up, it’s hard to learn things. The other thing is handstands. Once you master the handstand, other “tricks” start to fall into place.
SGS: Your communication skills with regard to your athletes are among the best I've encountered in the coaches I'm familiar with, and that's not necessarily limited to the gymnastics coaches I've known. How much of that do you see as being a reflection of your personality and how much is due to the techniques of coaching you've learned?
Reimers: I would probably have to say that it started with my parents, especially my father. He worked as a medical technologist for Condell Memorial Hospital in Libertyville. He knew a lot of people and I was able to shadow him a couple of times at an early age. Just seeing how he interacted with people and how he calmed people down was a gift. He was very personable. I tried, as most sons do, to model him. He ended up knowing a lot of people and tried to know a little something about all he met. It made people feel good about them and that someone actually cared. That’s what I try to do show them I do care.
SGS: How important is communication to building a successful team?
Reimers: Communication is a make-or-break building block of a team. There isn’t any success without it. I find myself, at times, taking for granted that the athletes know what I’m talking about. I am quickly reminded, sometimes in a positive way and sometimes in a not so positive way, that I lacked good communication. In the latter case it’s OK to let them know that you are human and you make mistakes. Be honest and have enough integrity to 'fess up when you’ve done something wrong. They will respect you for that. I try to make sure through immediate feedback that they understand what’s going on and why.
SGS: You've had such outstanding success with your girls teams. With Naperville Central's boys teams, with the exception of an occasional Keith Lage, you haven't often had the same caliber of individual on the boys side. In your mind, have you had to define different goals for the two programs and/or how do you handle the discrepancy? Is it ever frustrating?
Reimers: You are coming into it with two completely different mindsets. Most of the girls coming into the program have had gymnastics before. Most of my guys have not. They are starting “new” their freshman year. Some even wait until their sophomore year to decide. Some of the guys got cut from baseball and some from volleyball. It’s also a worthy note that quite a few are multi-sport athletes coming from diving and wrestling and some from football. I know that we probably won’t be a state contender anytime soon and that’s all right. It’s still a great goal to shoot for. As you already know, we make little goals and develop them into larger ones. It’s the same with the girls. The girls just reach them faster. It is frustrating at times, but then I look back at how much they have improved and realize that they are developing not only into gymnast but fine young men as well. They have gained a positive experience that they wouldn’t have in any other sport and that’s something they will take with them for the rest of their lives.
SGS: How did you meet your wife, Chris? What are the kids up to nowadays?
Reimers: Chris and I went to Mundelein High School and that’s how we met. She and I were at U of I at the same time and I actually coached her for awhile. I wasn’t a paid assistant at the time just a volunteer. Chris has become my biggest fan and keeps me going when I sometimes want to give up. We all go through it now and then, and she seems to say the right words at the right time to inspire me.
Our kids are all doing well. Chris and I became grandparents on April 29 this past year. His name is Thomas Jones or T.J. for short. Ashley has re-enlisted in the Navy along with her husband. They are both contemplating making a career of it. Alyssa is a senior at West Aurora where she has just finished swimming and is starting her offseason training for softball. She would like to go to San Diego State and get into the NROTC program and become a pilot. Kyle is a sophomore at West Aurora and is learning how to drive. He starts swimming next week. Luke is in 5th grade and just had his tonsils and adenoids removed. He just started playing the coronet.