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Park Center coach Bruce Smith receives honors from the Minnesota Girls Gymnastics Officials Association Jan. 4 after the MGGOA Classic meet for reaching his 50th year as a coach.

Park Center gymnastics and track and field coach Bruce Smith has been on the coaching circuit for 50 years, and the Minnesota Girls Gymnastics Officials Association made him blush a little bit on Jan. 4 at the annual MGGOA Classic meet.

“I didn’t cry at the end, but I did earlier,” Smith said. “It was pretty cool.”

The invite, which was held at the Pirates’ gym, is one of the more prestigious events in Minnesota high school gymnastics. Several ranked teams that are split into two divisions duke it out in what can be deemed a small preview of the state tournament.

Smith is a prominent figure for gymnastics in the area, and he was surprised before the meet with signs from around different communities that showed their support. The officials set up the celebration, and at the end of the meet, they gave Bruce a banner that said he is a ‘Perfect 10’ for his support of local gymnastics.

“It was fun,” Smith said. “I have had a really good time. I have had really good kids. I have really good parents and administrations – I was at Brooklyn Center and here and have been supported. It is not a terrible job. I wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t fun.”

The invite itself needs a lot of help to set up, and Smith and his assistant coaches his daughter Amanda Molden and Jerred Bradford were at the center of it as hosts. But other teams, coaches, community members, school staff and athletes help.

The equipment came from Osseo with trucks bringing over the equipment the day before. Food was donated from several area restaurants. The floor is put together, and the bars are screwed into the floor.

It is a lot of work, and all of it takes place following the holiday break.

“When they talk about that it takes a village, this is the village coming through,” Smith said. “This is small town USA. You go into the town of Osseo or go to Hopkins, they have something going on, there are a lot of people helping in town. That becomes a big deal for here too.”

When the meet is over, takedown is just as much work with several people needed to help break down the floor, pack the equipment back on trucks to go to Osseo and all the chalk needed to be cleaned up.

But the school’s custodial staff also help and don’t throw a fuss with the cleanup.

All of this is done to insure a fun meet for the athletes, and they are a big reason why Smith has coached for so long.

“You never know when you are going to make a difference in a kids life, and you hear it some of the strangest ways,” Smith said. “They talk about it. ‘You were a major influence in my life when I really needed it.’ And we got that in a restaurant on New Year’s Eve from a former gymnast.

“That is the part that is really interesting.”

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