Biography: CRILEY, Richard A.

CRILEY, Richard A.

Inducted – U.S.A. Gymnastics Hall of Fame: 1985 Inducted Original Honoree into the Sports Acrobatics Hall of Fame
Born: Nyack, New York December 19, 1940

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Richard Criley never stood on an Olympic or World Championship medal stand, but those who have in recent years hopefully understand that they might not be there if it weren’t for the numerous behind the scenes, off the gym floor, and out of uniform individuals who helped American gymnastics become the popular sport it is today.  Dr. Criley was just such a man.  Whether he was intrigued by the complex worlds of artistic, rhythmic, or acrobatic gymnastics, we may never know, but his contributions in distributing gymnastic information, coaching and judging artistic and acrobatic gymnastics, and representing the U.S. in foreign environments in an extremely professional and knowledgeable manner helped create a fertile ground for those who now stand atop the podium. We are indebted to anyone who contributes with little fanfare and no expectation of reward to the U.S. gymnastics programs.  We are indebted to Dr. Richard Criley better known as Dick Criley to his friends in the sport.

The Early Years: Richard Criley was introduced to tumbling and the rudiments of gymnastics as an eight year old when his sister was taken to tap dance lessons and his mother needed some activities to occupy his time. These early experiences morphed into a true interest in gymnastics when he enrolled at Penn State University and joined the freshman team that included future Olympian Greg Weiss. He learned to tumble well enough to compete and finished 7th in the EIGL Championships during his junior year. His senior year debuted with a torn Achilles tendon, so future Hall of Fame Head Coach Gene Wettstone had Richard keeping scores for the dual meet season.  During this period, he became aware of a gymnastics magazine, The Modern Gymnast (MG), being published on the West Coast by another future Hall of Fame Inductee, Glenn Sundby. He continued to stay near gymnastics and helped with Penn State’s gymnastic program at competitions and driving athletes and coaches to away gymnastic meets. Education: B.S. and M.S. at Penn State University. After finishing his studies at Penn State, Criley was awarded an assistantship in UCLA’s horticulture program.  This gave him the opportunity to continue training with the UCLA team under the direction of Hall of Fame Inductee, Head Coach Art Shurlock. His tumbling improved to the point of another torn Achilles tendon, and he learned some rudimentary skills on other apparatus. He met Glenn Sundby and offered his services as a proofreader. Glen had returned from the ’64 Tokyo Olympics with a massive amount of photos and competition results. So began a lengthy association with The Modern Gymnast that evolved into the top information dissemination publication in its field as new writers and features were added. Criley writes that he was honored to contribute more than 200 competition reports, opinion columns, interpretive pieces, and a few instructional articles. On The Road:  During the time Criley was associated with the MG/IG, he traveled to 20 NCAA Championships, 3 Olympics, 3 World Championships, and a World Cup event as a journalist and sometimes photographer. The middle ‘70’s were a great era for West Coast gymnastics, and Criley met many fine gymnasts through his UCLA, Santa Monica’s Muscle Beach, and his MG/IG connections. Coaching: Criley acquired his PhD in 1968 and accepted a position in the Horticulture Department at the University of Hawaii (UH). Surprisingly, there was a budding gymnastics program at the UH, and he became the gymnastics coach after the heart breaking loss of Jack Bonham in a plane crash.  He was co-founder for the Hawaii Gymnastics Association (1969) that conducted competitions in Hawaii for many ears until the USGF put Hawaii into a region with California. The women’s program laer withdrew to the region that embraces Washington & Oregon while the men’s program still is in the region that includes California. The UH was an independent team that had occasional competitions with schools like the Air Force Academy and Portland State University. Gymnastics was discontinued at the UH in 1976. Continuing To Contribute: Criley continued to be associated with artistic gymnastics and sports acrobatics through his affiliation with the MG and subsequently the International Gymnastic magazine. He wrote the first Constitution for the U.S. Sports Acrobatics Federation (USSAF) that was accepted by the International Federation for Sports Acrobatics (IFSA). He was part of the original organizing committee for the USSAF and remained active, fulfilling all leadership positions at one time or another. Richard Criley has also written instructional articles on sports acrobatics for the magazine Acrosport (a Sundby Sports publication) and has reported on World Championships and World Cups to the International Gymnast. He was also asked to contribute articles to the publication of the IFSA magazine World Sports Acrobatics. Judging: Criley judged sports acrobatics internationally for the U.S.A. at the World Championships, Rennes, France, (1986 & 1992), Antwerp, Belgium, (1988), Augsburg, Germany, (1990), the World Cup, Beijing, China, (1985), Baton Rouge, Louisiana, (1987), Riga, Latvia, (1989), Tokyo, Japan, (1991), and at the first FIG Sports Acrobatics World Championships, Ghent, Belgium, (1999), where he served both as a panel judge and as Head of the panel that judged the Women’s Trio event. At the last IFSA World Championships in Belarus, (1998), he was presented an honorary award for his service to the IFSA. He also judged at the Jr. World Championships, Moscow, Russia, (1993). Criley became the U.S. delegate to the IFSA Technical Committee, (1985); IFSA Chairperson, (1993), and was awarded VIO recognition by the IFSA, (1998). During his tenure as Chairman of the IFSA Technical Committee, he conducted technical courses in France, South Africa, Japan, and England and served on the Jury of Appeals at the China, (1994), Poland, (1995), Germany, (1996), England, (1997), and Belarus, (1998) international events. Criley remained the Chairperson until the IFSA was subsumed into the Federation Internationale Gymnastic (FIG), (1999). He achieved the highest judging ratings in the USSAF/USSA and has judged at the USSAF National Championships, Santa Monica, California, (1979); Oxford, Ohio, (1980); Tempe, Arizona, (1981); Hayward, California, (1983); Honolulu, Hawaii, (1984 & 1987); New Orleans, Louisiana, (1985); Mobile, Alabama, (1986); Riverside, California, (1988); Winter Haven, Florida, (1900); Davis, California, (1991); Baltimore, Maryland, (1993); Rockford, Illinois, (1995); and Houston, Texas, (1997). He participated in presenting international judging courses in France, South Africa, England, China, Japan, Belarus, and the USA and judged local competitions and brought Les Sasvary to Hawaii to run a judge’s course. Dick was the safety certification instructor in Hawaii for the short-lived USGSA until the USGF safety program came into widespread adoption. He held a FIG brevet for judging sports acrobatics until 2004. The  USSAF dropped the “F” becoming the USSA and joining USA-Gymnastics. In 2000, Richard Criley was inducted into the first class of the USSA Sports Acrobatics Hall of Fame that merged into the U.S. Gymnastics Hall of Fame thus making him a double member of the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame as a contributor for both gymnastics and sports acrobatics. Family: Richard is single. His parents have passed, his mother in 1973 and his father in 1990. His sister, Mary Frost, is married and lives in Somis, California.

Sources: Criley’s resume was graciously shared by Jerry Wright, author of Gymnastics Who’s Who, 2005. Thanks are also due A. Bruce Frederick, author of Who’s Who in American Gymnastics, Hall of Fame Honoree, Abie Grossfeld, and Bruce Davis who helped review Richard Criley’s biography. Introduction, commentary, and formatting by Dr. Larry Banner, web manager.

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