By Yeifri Ramirez
WHEN I was 6, my parents asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. “Gym- nastics coach,” I replied.
When asked why, I didn’t have an explanation.
Sometimes I said “because it’s a happy job” or
“it’s fun to teach to flips.” The only connection
I had with the sport was my favorite videotape
of the Barcelona Olympics.
A gymnastics coach is also a rare choice of a
dream job when you live in a Latin and
I was born in the Dominican Republic, a
country which saw gymnastics only when the
2003 Pan American Games were held in Santo
Domingo. And until this day I have never heard
of a popular Dominican gymnast.
My mother, older brother Johnny and I
moved to the U.S. when I was 5. My mother
wanted us to have a better education. Little did
we know that we had moved into one of the
most dangerous neighborhoods in Brooklyn.
My mother knew that sports and a healthy
lifestyle would keep my brother and me out of
trouble. Nothing really interested me, but my
brother got involved in martial arts. With no
specific interests, I watched a lot of television in
my spare time. One day, while flipping chan-
nels, I came across the most bizarre and excit-
ing sporting event I’ve ever seen: gymnastics. I
believe it was the 1992 Olympic trials.
At school I was making
up routines on every
event and writing them
on the backs of my
Ramirez with Wendy Hilliard
For almost nine years now, I have been
around gyms looking for my perfect fit, but the
foundation is the only one I never left. The
combination of coaching and introducing a new
sport to the community and recognizing talent
was awesome. To have that feeling of accomplishment is amazing, and I was grateful and
lucky enough to be given a chance in a sport
that is only offered to those who can’t afford it.
I knew I was destined to coach when a co-
worker sent me a text message for Father’s
Day. I am a 25-year-old single man with no
children, so I didn’t think that message was
meant for me. It read, “You are more of a
father to all of our girls. Happy Father’s Day!”
Immediately, I thought of those coaches I
idolized as a child and why I was so drawn to
them. They were not just coaches, they were
Today, I still coach artistic gymnastics and
choreograph routines in gyms around the city.
Gymnastics has really become my life, and
hopefully, as a coach and through the sport, I
can lead kids in a great direction the way gymnastics did for me. IG
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“My Story” is how readers can share their personal gymnastics stories. Email your story (500-
1,000 words), along with high resolution JPEGs,
to firstname.lastname@example.org. Subject line: My Story.