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Monday, November 11, 2013
What’s happening to Perham Gymnastics?

I’m sure this isn’t a secret anymore, but to those who may not be aware, legendary gymnastics coach Charlie Fleck is no longer associated with Perham gymnastics. His contract with the Lakes Area Gymnastics Academy was terminated. His contract with Perham High School was not renewed at a school board meeting last month.

The Lakes Area Gymnastics Academy is the off-season, “feeder” program for PHS. They run programs nearly year-round for kids as young as 4 years old.

There have been A LOT of rumors to why this has all happened. Some are well based and even true, some I’ve heard are kind of far-fetched. The LAGA is claiming a breach of contract. As a result, the Perham school board chose to not renew the yearly contract for Fleck. All varsity coach’s work on a 1-year contract with the school.

I have spoken with all sides involved with this…Fleck, the LAGA Board, and PHS. For a number of reasons, all have chosen to remain off the record. All have trusted me with details that I will keep to myself. In my opinion, the school’s hands were kind of tied with the actions of the LAGA, and therefore, their decision to not renew Fleck was not surprising, and it was the right move for them to make.

Those reasons for remaining off the record may change, and more details may emerge. But this won’t change, Fleck will not be running the Yellowjacket program anymore.

For what ever the reasons, this is a sad ending to a wonderful reign. Fleck came to Perham after establishing himself as one of the best, if not THE best high school gymnastics coach in North Dakota history.

I’ll never forget meeting him for the first time in 2000. He personally invited me to their fall show at a small make-shift gym located in a warehouse in the east-side industrial park in Perham. I met tiny little girls like Kayla Cordes, Ashley Brasel, Kourtney Johnston and Betsy Mann. Girls I thought were going to go flying right through the low ceilings in that old “gym”.

I’d never seen anything like it. I’d never seen girls that age doing the things they were doing. They would continue to impress me in the same way for years to come.

Within a couple of years, Charlie would start a high school gymnastics team in Perham. In that 1st varsity season, the team would finish 2nd at Sections. In 2003, they began a stretch of 10-straight Section 8A titles and State Meet appearances. In their 3rd season, they won the 1st of their 8-straight Class A State Championships.

What’s changed that has Fleck now on the out side, looking into the program he built? Only a few people know that for sure.

Has he gotten tougher? Has his toughness worn out it’s welcome? Has he let up? Has his letting up resulted in lower scores and possibly injuries?  

Are their parents and athletes who just don’t appreciate how hard it is to be a champion, especially in that sport, and who can’t handle being pushed and worked into a championship?

All could be true.  None could be true.

Without giving away any of the details i've been asked to keep to myself, I’ll just say this. I’m disappointed Charlie isn’t running the show anymore, and I’m not sure I’ve heard enough, off the record, to convince me that his removal by the LAGA is the right one.

I think the program will suffer without him. Despite what the MSHSL rules may outline, this is a 12-month a year sport. It has to be, based on the sheer difficulty attained by championship level gymnasts. Can Perham find someone like Charlie who will put everything he has into the program? I would be surprised. Coaches like him are hard to find.

I’ve had people ask me how long they think Perham will even continue to have a gymnastics team without him. I’m not sure about that. I don’t want to put that burden on the current or future teams to put a number on their destiny.

I’ve also been asked about Charlie’s future. I’m not sure about that either. All I know is he is among the most skilled, knowledgeable, hard-working coaches I have had the pleasure to work with over the past 16 years as a sports journalist. Any program in need of a coach should be lining up at his door.

As for the future of the Yellowjacket gymnastics program? Undetermined.  Any questions regarding the LAGA coaching staff can be directed to: lakesareagymnasticsacademy@outlook.com.  Perham High School is starting practice this week under a new head coach, former Yellowjacket State Champion, Jenna Schmitz.

Remember to “Like” the LakesAreaSports page on facebook, and “follow” on Twitter @lakesareasports.

 

Posted By John George
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