Biography: YEAGER, Pat  (1922-1994)

YEAGER, Pat  (1922-1994)
Inducted: 2008

 

Pat Yeager was an individual who just wouldn’t give up. At a time when gymnastics was a budding sport, he and others in the Texas area, heard the whispers and made plans to “Build the sport and people will come.” Think Field of Dreams.  If there were a chance to recruit or influence an individual or group into taking up gymnastics, Yeager would be there to nurture it.  He was a unique, creative, persistent, and successful individual who made a distinctive mark on gymnastics in Texas and the United States. He is a Gymnastics Hall of Fame Inductee for his commitment, his endurance, and his loyalty to our sport of gymnastics for many years.

Olympic Games: Pat’s wife, Kitty, reports that he was a team official for the 1960 Woman’s Olympic Gymnastic Team, Rome, Italy; however, his status as a team official could not be confirmed. It is known that he attended the Rome Games and was privy to passes that allowed him to enter the women’s training area with some friends and watch their training regimen. He is also reported to have attended the Games in Tokyo, (1964), but no evidence could be found that he was there in an official capacity. World Gymnastics Championships: Head Coach of the Women’s Gymnastics Team, Prague, Czechoslovakia, (1962). Coach: Brian Shenk, in his book, Texas Gymnastics-The Faces-The Places writes, “After a number of years at Georgia Southern University, Pat became the gymnastics coach at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, 1964-1969 . . . He was a founder, driving force, and President of one of the early club gymnastics competition leagues-the Trans Texas Federation–in the 1970’s, and was co-founder of the Texas Summer Gymnastics Camp at Schreiner College in Kerrville, 1975-1988 . . .” Schenk also writes, “Coach Yeager’s influence on the development of gymnastics in the United states is tied to his early association and graduation from Springfield College, one of the great physical education training centers in the country. Pat Yeager was a part of the developmental schemes for the women’s gymnastics program in the country, building a distinctive recreation department gymnastics program for the City of Naples, Florida, beginning in 1952.” Service: Served as a member and Chairman of a reorganized U.S. Women’s Olympic Gymnastic Committee, (1956-1964); Participated as a member of the AAU National Gymnastics Technical Committee, (1958-1961); Served as member of the Men’s Olympic Gymnastics Committee, (1964-1969); Actively participated in the Sarasota, Florida “National Gymnastic Clinic”. Honors: Elected an Honorary Life member of the Gymnastics Association of Texas, (1975); Elected to the Helms/Citizens Savings Gymnastics Hall of Fame, (1988); Honored by a reunion of his former San Jacinto College athletes, (1993); Elected to Georgia Southern University Athletic Hall of Fame, (1993). Personal: Yeager was apparently an independent publisher first in TX and then in FL, and according to Brian Schenk, it was Pat Yeager who published his book, Texas Gymnastics-The Faces-The Places. Schenk also wrote The History of American Gymnastics that was fraught with problems concerning spelling of names and accuracy of reporting. (See Epilogue Note) Yeager also served for many years during the ‘60’s and 70’s as a “Meet Director” in the Gulf Coast Association of the AAU. He retired from San Jacinto College, (1968-1976) and, writes Schenk, recalls many details of the meets that were held at the various Gulf AAU meets including the meet held at San Jacinto, (1969). Schenk quotes Yeager as saying, “Judging was pretty informal in the 1960’s, and so the coaches would often have to judge in order to get the meet finished. That was before there were any state and national judges’ organizations. We had to train our own judges about what ‘looked good’, and to have two judges for an event was really wonderful.  It was only at nationals (AAU National Championships) that we could expect to see four judges work an event. Most of the time there was just one. It worked out OK. It was practically unheard of for a coach to argue about a score, and when somebody did, they soon got a reputation for being a sorehead.” When Yeager was asked about why all this work for a “minor” sport, since many coaches worked long and hard to get them going?” He was quoted as declaring a simple but probably accurate reason. Yeager’s simple quote was, “The reason is simple. It was a lot of fun.”  The process of educating the public about the sport of gymnastics basically began in the 1960’s when NBC television included two hours of gymnastics (unable to confirm) in its coverage of the Olympic Games in Rome. Georgia Southern coach Pat Yeager began a regimen of soliciting, recruiting, and otherwise influencing dozens of athletes, first to perform, than compete, and later to make gymnastics coaching a life-long pursuit. He was known to have a “ . . . million gimmicks . . .” to attract and train potential gymnastic performers. Yeager became a charter member of the Gymnastics Teachers’ Association when the organization was formed at a Texas Association of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation Conference, (1966). Once the gymnastics ball began to roll, the equipment manufacturers sponsored numerous clinics and workshops. These teaching episodes helped gymnastics grow in Texas according to Yeager as reported in Schenk’s early book. By 1975, Yeager began holding a Texas Summer Gymnastics Camp in Kerrville, TX. Pat Yeager at Sam Houston State and San Jacinto College, along with numerous coaching colleagues, had brought about a great change in the physical education programs in Texas. Yeager continued to support gymnastics in Texas when he put together the “Trans Texas Gymnastics Federation” that consisted of 20 or so clubs and school associates, (1974). Schenk reports that the Texas State High Gymnastics Championships, (1975), “ . . . was a two day event crowded with big and little boys and girls participating from twenty different clubs covering an area from El Paso to Lufkin.”  Schenk gives much credit to Pat Yeager and Tom Lewis for writing the book on these meets in Corpus Christi and Bryan into the early ‘80’s. Pat Yeager moved in 1968 from Sam Houston State to San Jacinto Junior College. He and his wife, Nikki, also opened several private clubs named “Olympis Gymnastics” in Deer Park, Houston, Corpus Christi, and Bryan, Texas.

Epilogue: The biographical information contained herein is a series of excerpts taken from Brian Schenk’s Texas Gymnastics-The Faces-The Places published in 1989. Schenk’s book is basically a history of gymnastics in the “Lone Star State.” Schenk also wrote A History of Gymnastics in the United States published in 1991 that has been critically reviewed by Dr. A. Bruce Frederick. Dr. Frederick found the book to have numerous inaccuracies. He thought that this problem was probably due to the fact that appropriate personnel never vetted the information contained in the book. This writer also found inaccuracies or misleading information in “Faces & Places”. With this in mind, this biographical sketch attempts to report only those parts of Pat Yeager’s gymnastics life that have a high probability of accuracy based on this writer’s experience and the input of athletes and coaches who knew Mr. Yeager. The introduction makes the most important statement about Yeager’s contributions in that he did spend many years successfully helping American gymnastics improve and eventually prevail. He contributed well to our sport primarily as a great motivator.

Sources: A. Bruce Frederick, Ph.D. supplied Schenk’s Texas Gymnastics-The Faces-The Places, and he provided the Yeager photo. Nikki Yeager, Pat’s widow, provided a copy of Pat’s Eulogy written by Brian Schenk and dated April 12, 1994. All information and quotes contained in this biographical sketch was paraphrased or quoted directly from Schenk’s book and his Eulogy. Inaccuracies that were prevalent in the book due to a lack of editing at the time of publishing were researched and corrected where possible. Introduction, research, and text formatting by Dr. Larry Banner, Web Manager.