Biography: SZYPULA, George


Inducted: 1970
Born: June 24, 1921, Philadelphia, PA

George’s epithet as “Mr. Durable” comes from fifty years of coaching, and he’s still counting.

Four years after George Szypula won the last of his four national AAU tumbling titles (1940-43), he accepted a coaching position at Michigan State University (MSU). In forty-two years as Head Coach, his teams garnering 250 dual meet victories. He coached several more years at MSU as an assistant and coached at East Lansing HS after his “Retirement” in 1992. He is America’s most durable coach producing quality teams and individual champions at all levels. His team tied with Illinois for the NCAA title in 1958 and he coached Dave Thor, our top Olympian in 1968. One of his high school gymnasts, Clint Trial, was noticed by Sports Illustrated ’s “Faces in the Crowd” for winning all twelve events at the Michigan State High School Championship meet in 1992.  George got his start in gymnastics at Herrmann’s Gym in Philadelphia.  (Herman also had a son who competed in the 1932 Olympics, winning a silver medal in tumbling and was a gymnast for Emil Preiss at the U. of Pennsylvania whose tumblers won nine consecutive national titles for women between 1938 and 1946). Although George will be recalled as a tumbler, he was also an excellent all-around gymnast at Temple University winning the Eastern Intercollegiate Gymnastics League (EIGL) AA title in 1942 and 1943 besting Lou Bordo, 1948 Olympian, and Sol Small, a serious contender for the Olympic team. Both Bordo and Small were Penn State gymnasts and chief rivals for Temple during those years.  Szypula’s book, Tumbling and Balancing for All remains one of the best on the topic ever written in English. Later, he wrote two other books with his wife, June. The Szypulas established one of the premier summer gymnastics clinics at MSU known as the National Summer Gymnastics Clinic attracting some of the leading clinicians in the country.  Szypula was the sixth President of the National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches (NACGC – 1957-58).  1957 was a significant year for American gymnastics marked by the death of Roy E. Moore often called the “Father of American Gymnastics”. George wrote to the Helms Athletic Foundation in Los Angeles to see how he might nominate Mr. Moore for their Hall of Fame. Bill Schroeder, then curator of the Helms program, related there was no Hall of Fame for gymnastics and challenged Szypula to create one. This he did, arranging for the first twenty honorees to be inducted at the occasion of the Pan Am Games in Chicago in 1959. George chaired the selection committee until the early nineties. (The program is presently under the supervision of the national governing body for gymnastics, U.S.A. Gymnastics) Honors: George was designated a “Centurion” by noted gymnastic historian, A. B. Frederick, Ph.D. Frederick described a “Centurion” as “ . . . those who command our attention”; Szypula was inducted into the Hall of Fame he founded in 1970 and was inducted into the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame in 1985. He is an “Honor Coach” of the NACGC and was honored by the national governing body in 1978 as a “Master of Sport”, given for a lifetime of service to the sport of gymnastics. Twenty years later George and his wife are still going strong working with youth as volunteers at the local High School in East Lansing where they have lived for half a Century. Lyle Welser’s  analysis is telling,  “ . . . undoubtedly the most magnetic, effervescent person I have ever encountered. Those who know George would agree.” (Welser, Lyle, “NACGC Past Presidents,” The Modern Gymnast, March, 1968 pp. 10-13)

Sources: Szypula’s personal resume, interviews, plus the courtesy of A. Bruce Frederick, author of Who’s Who and Was Who in American Gymnastics, and Abie Grossfeld’s private archives of gymnastic history. Introduction, commentary, and formatting by Larry Banner, Web Manager.

Leave a Comment