Born: Kane, Pennsylvania
Lyle Welser has been named as one of the founding fathers of American gymnastics. In an editorial on his website*, Bruce Davis provides an explanation of why changing governing bodies for gymnastics in America takes so much time. In his article, he provides an interesting analogy between the long fight for fairness in gymnastics with elements of the American Revolution. He notes “ . . . the Constitution was signed in 1776, but we did not have a constitution with the correct powers until 1787 and we have been debating and adjusting ever since in a democratic process.” He asks a question about how our “founding fathers” would perceive the turmoil that was to follow the 1776 signing. Davis suggests that we ask the same question as it pertains to the sport of gymnastics; namely, the transitions from AAU to USGF, to USAG and the FIG. What would the founding fathers of the USGF think of all this. He listed Lyle Welser among gymnastics’ founding fathers; in other words, the reader should understand that Welser was a founding father of American gymnastics and is listed among the best coaches our country has had.
Lyle Welser graduated from Springfield College in 1933. While at Springfield he was coached by Dr. Leslie Judd and served as Captain of the gymnastics team during his junior year and Co-captained the team during his senior year. Competitor: New England AAU: Gold-HB & TU. Coaching: Welser coached at the Bridgeport, CT YMCA from 1934 to 1942. He also served as an unofficial temporary gymnastic coach at the U. of Illinois, (1942 to 1946). He went to Georgia Tech University, (1946-’70), and started a gymnastics program. He became Head Gymnastics Coach at Georgia Tech and coached their gymnastic teams to a Georgia Gymnastics Association AAU championship and 3 Southern Intercollegiate Gymnastics League runner-ups. Honors/Contributions: Welser was voted SIGL Coach of the year, (1965); Organized the first collegiate meet and the first AAU meet in the South and was the founder of the GGA; He was twice President of the National Association of College Gymnastics Coaches and while in office originated several award categories; e.g., a Special Service Award, an Honorary Lifetime Member Award, et al. He was named honorary life president of the National Gymnastics Clinic that he also founded, in Sarasota, Fl. He helped to develop the SIGL and served as President for many years. One of his most outstanding accomplishments was the founding of the Open Gymnastics Clinic at Daytona that eventually became the National Gymnastics Clinic at Sarasota, FL, one of the most outstanding gymnastics events in the history of the sport, and one in which this writer participated on several occasions. He also devised a scoring system which was 50 years ahead of its time and closely resembled the scoring system in use today with A juries and B juries; Welser served 2 terms on the NCAA Rules committee and on the U.S. Olympic Committee 2 terms; He was on the first USGF formulation committee. Welser was also responsible for bringing about the first televised sports (any sport) event below the Mason Dixon line. Mr. Welser is also an Inductee of the Georgia Tech Sports Hall of Fame, (1968).
Welser’s Ten Feats Remembered
Charley Kohlhase, a 1957 Georgia Tech graduate, writing for Tech Topics, Spring 1999 asked about a list of 10 tough athletic feats that were challenges for Georgia Tech students in the 1950’s. Research identified the “Lyle Welser List”, and it provided one answer. Between 1957 & ’60, Welser had a number of his students try to quality for what was described as the “National Athletic Fraternity List” (NAFT). According to Coach Welser, many people could perform some or most of 10 tests to the minimum standard, but few could qualify in all 10. A student, Dan Morris, IE, ‘62 did attempt to qualify, with Coach Welser recording the results, and to the best of his memory, the 10 requirements were:
- Run 100 yards-11.6 seconds.
- Run mile in six min. or less.
- Throw baseball 85 yds. or more.
- Punt football at least 45 yds.
- Climb 20-foot rope-10 seconds.
- Hold handstand for 10 sec.
- High jump five ft. or higher.
- Run 110 yds. of low hurdles in a time Morris no longer remembers.
- Swim 100 yards in a time Morris has forgotten, but was 1:45 sec.
- Morris has completely forgotten the 10th event, but it was to broad-jump, now long-jump, a minimum of 17 ft.
Coach Welser said I (Morris) “ . . . was allowed to substitute a varsity letter for one of the 10 challenges. After that substitution, I ran the 100 yards five or six times, finally getting it down to 11.65 seconds, so I never met the standard for admission into the fraternity.” Actually, the NAFT originated at Indiana U. in 1912 and was officially known as the Signa Delta Psi test, and the rules were that an individual could substitute one varsity letter or one intramural championship for one of the requirements. Maximum substitutions allowed were three different varsity letters or two varsity letters in the same sport or one intramural championship in tennis, golf, handball, boxing, or wrestling. Anyone who completed all ten events successfully received a nice certificate and a gold pin (See Insert). This writer suggests that it would be interesting to see how many elite gymnasts could join the National Athletic Fraternity-in their prime, of course. I believe about 80% or more and I include women as well as the men in that prediction. In fact, one individual who vetted this Welser biography has informed me that he passed the test and received the certificate and pin. I’m one for one in my prediction. Family: (m) Emmajean Louise Brashear. Children: Melvin Lyle and 2 grandchildren.
Sources: Jerry Wright, author of Gymnastics Who’s Who, 2005 provided a major portion of Welser’s coaching experiences and photo with additional information acquired from www.gatech.edu/, www.citadel.edu/, and *www.letstalkgymnastics.com/. We suggest you browse these web sites for additional information. Introduction, commentary, and formatting by Dr. Larry Banner, Web Manager.