Fred Zitta was known as a “Renaissance Man”. He believed in modern dance as a tool for physical development. What better discipline to coach artistic gymnasts to be fluid in motion, punctuate each movement or series of movements with grace and finality, and create the personification of beauty with movement. Although his is not a gymnastic household name, his coaching career in the Turner Organization was worthy of his induction into the Gymnastics Hall of Fame, and the gymnastic world is grateful for his dedication and contributions
Sports Beginnings: Fred Zitta loved his career as a teacher of sports and gymnastics in particular. He was not only an accomplished gymnast; he was also an exceptional track and field athlete. This combination of sports was not uncommon in his day. One of his career sports highlights was when he was challenged to a race against Yale University’s champion sprinter. Three thousand spectators comprised the audience, and Fred Zitta won the race “pulling away.” Coaching/Teaching: Zitta began teaching in Turnvereins at the age of 21 at the Turn Hall on Bridge St. in Holyoke, MA and remained there for 12 years. He moved on in 1914. He also coached at the Rochester Turners for five years, the Holstein Turners in Iowa for three years, the Sheboygan, Wis. Turners for four years, the Lincoln, Chicago Turners for six years, the Social in Chicago for two years, Eiche, Chicago for five years, and in Springfield, MA for eight years. He taught and coached in the Turner Organization a total of 50+ years. During this time he coached Richard Aaronson, Richard Beckner, Erna Wachtel, Meta-Newman Elste, John Brodder, Jeff Cardinali, Ray Chin, Ray Emery, Emil Priess, Ragina Sonnenleiter, Ruth Grulkowski, Joyce Raycik, and Jackie Klein-Fie, many of whom went on to become Hall of Fame Honorees. Honors: Fred served as President of the Holyoke Turners and Custodian/Manager of the Jahn-Holyoke Turners Camp, received the “Turner Key,” the highest honor available in the Turner Organization, was elected to the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame (known then as the Helms Hall of Fame) only six years after the lofty honor’s inception, and Fred was awarded an Honorary Diploma of Teacher of Physical Education from Normal College in 1935 (Normal College was nationally famous as a training ground for physical education teachers and is now part of Indiana University). Family: m. Marion Risley. Children: Fred Jr. and Allan, plus three daughters, Marion, Alice, and Erline. Fred had two brothers, William and Frank and one sister, Elizabeth.
Source: Thanks are due Mr. Jerry Wright, author of Gymnastics Who’s Who, 2005, for his courteous sharing of Zitta information. Introduction and formatting by Larry Banner, Web Manager.