We know that Inductee Wilderoter was a gymnast, a coach, an administrator, and a judge; however, to date, we have not been able to document his contributions more thoroughly. It appears that he is best remembered as being a strong supporter of the development of women’s gymnastics and probably knew some of the best women gymnasts of his time. He obviously had a passion for our sport and was able to make many appreciated contributions.
General: Don Wilderoter has been named by some as “ . . . the father of Long Island, New York gymnastics.” He was an important part of the start of women’s gymnastics. In his words, “I was the AAU Chairman for metropolitan area gymnastics at the time (women’s gymnastics came to town), and the schools sensed that gymnastics could give the girls a sport all their own instead of a watered-down version of a male sport” Keep in mind that the women used men’s parallel bars in the beginning. Wilderoter held weekly training sessions for interested physical education teachers. He taught them simple gymnastic routines and had them observe how he taught and coached their students. Together with their colleagues who learned the sport in college, they began gymnastics activities on Long Island. “High school girls loved it,” Mr. Wilderoter recalls. “We took them out of those funny gym bloomers and put them into leotards. All of a sudden they (the girls) saw gymnastics as a way to unqualified physical excellence and achievement that would enhance their femininity. The fact that the boys started whistling didn’t hurt.”
Sources: Interview with Mr. Wilderoter and information courteously shared by Jerry Wright, author of Gymnastics Who’s Who, 2005, who also provided the Wilderoter photo. Introduction and formatting by Dr. Larry Banner, Web Manager.