I had the good fortune to run into Benko a couple of years ago at a wedding party in Elko. At that time he was just putting the final touches on his book and the thing that interested me was the fact that he had been a member of the United States Gymnastic Team that was denied a shot at “The Gold” when then- President Jimmy Carter decided to boycott the Summer games that were being held in Russia.
When I asked him how that had effected his outlook on life, he simply shrugged his shoulders and said, “You can’t win them all!” or words to that effect. It was obvious that the early trauma of missing out on the Olympics had not stifled his spirit or the outgoing enthusiasm of his personality. As he capsulized the theory behind, and the reason for writing, his book I began to understand a lot about his concept. He had continued his love of gymnastics following his own career and had turned to coaching. He said that during the years of working with young athletes he began to understand much of their psychological and emotional makeup and that he had developed a method of teaching that enabled his students to be self expressive in their own words and thought process'.
As a former high school and university athlete, I can remember the various coaches that I had and the fact that when one is engaged in sports there is a far different respect and rapport that one has with his mentor than that which he has with his parents. Of course, a coach really is only dealing with a single aspect of your life as opposed to the myriad of problems that a parent faces with his or her offspring. But, in essence, maybe that is the best way to reach and understand young minds –– to take things one step at a time.
Benko’s book is a hardbound publication that was put out by the ABC’s Press at P.O. Box 19632 in Huston, Texas, 77224-9632. Bookstores carrying the tome can be accessed online. To access Benko’s Web site go to www.CoachBruceBenko.com.
Another interesting thing about the author is the fact that he grew up in nearby Truckee, Calif. In 1987 he decided to devote his professional life to a career in teaching gymnastics. At that time he moved to Houston, Texas. He found people whom he considered the best in the fields of education and gymnastics and made their work his own classroom.
In 1992 he started a mobile gymnasium called “Texas Tumblers” which at its core is a noncompetitive, age appraise, gross motor development program. Because his programs were designed to be located at the child’s school, he was able to observe and interact with parents, teachers and administrators where he learned from many different education systems. His “Fly on the wall” approach allowed him to observe what did and did not work with the children and gave him an insight that very few people ever get.
Following the publication of his book, he plans to travel the country giving lectures and seminars and sharing firsthand how he gains the trust and respect of children and parents alike.
Most of the athletes and coaches that this writer has interfaced with over the years consider gymnastics one of the most difficult of sports disciplines. Just watch the top practitioners. Mostly during the Olympics Games, one has to marvel at the combination of strength and grace that is necessary to rise to the top. We have also always agreed that gymnastics does develop every muscle group in the body to is full capacity. You have only to look at the physiques of the male competitors to see how perfectly “cut” the various parts of the body have become. Most of them have figures that would be the envy of the Greek sculptures of old. Another element that is strong in their performances is the sense of timing, particularly on the parallel bars. A good local example of strong and keen coordination was on display in Reno for a long time when the University of Nevada, Reno's Art Broten ran the gymnastics program at the campus. Teaching by example, the late Broten did a strenuous daily workout along with his students. Following his retirement, he formed a group of other senior citizens that liked to stay in shape and when I interviewed him shortly before his passing, at more than 90 years old, he smiled and said he could still do the giant swing, “probably due to my good Norwegian genes!”
Benko’s book has been widely endorsed by experts in the field of child psychology, most notably by Kay Albrecht, Ph.D. who wrote the foreword to “The Gymnastics of Love and Discipline.” In addition to the well-researched and documented theories in “Gymnastics” the work also offers a handy guideline and check list for parents to use when interfacing with their own children. Its subtitle tells it all, “A parental template for giving children a voice.”
A worthwhile read for anyone engaged in the process of raising a child.
Harry Spencer is a freelance writer in Reno. His column about the past and present of northern Nevada appears weekly in the Tribune.
Editor’s note: Opinions expressed in Harry Spencer’s column are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Tribune.