Britton Native Honored
Britton native Kelsi Heer has been in love with gymnastics for as long as she can remember, and now she has been recognized for giving back to her sport.
The South Dakota Gymnastics Coaches Association recognized Heer with the Judges Leadership Award at the state meet a week ago Saturday in Aberdeen. She has served as a gymnastics judge in the state for the past 19 years.
The award honors a judge who is highly respected by athletes, fans, and coaches, communicates well with athletes and coaches, and provides input that will help to improve routines throughout the season. The honoree must also show leadership by being a mentor to both veteran and new officials, and is willing to do whatever is necessary to better the sport of gymnastics. Heer can never remember not loving the sport.
“I remember loving gymnastics from the time I was a little, little girl. Mary Lou Retton is probably my first memory (1984 Olympics), watching her in the Olympics and the older girls on the Britton gymnastics team. And grandpa (Britton Athletic Director Bill Amacher) let me hang on the bars and play on the equipment.”
She also had her own equipment at home.
“Mom and Dad had a mini-tramp and a couch in the hallway. I would run down the hallway, hit the mini-tramp, and vault over the side of the couch.”
Heer went on to compete six years for the Britton High School gymnastics team. During the time the Lady Braves won multiple region and Northeast Conference titles and finished as runner-up in the state twice.
Her first taste of judging came when the varsity squad would judge the junior high gymnastics meets. During her second year at Northern State University she became a certified gymnastics official, coached with the Aberdeen Gymnastics Association, and was a junior high coach for the Aberdeen Central School District.
Judging was Heer’s way of staying connected with the sport.
“It’s just a really good way to stay with the sport and doesn’t require the amount of time that coaching does.”
Her experiences as a coach and gymnast have certainly field.
“My goal as a judge is first of all to be fair. I remember being a gymnast and the feeling when I or someone else got an unfair score. I also try and smile and make gymnasts feel comfortable because I also had judges that terrified me. If I can judge fairly and correctly, and the girls have fun while they are performing, then I’ve done my job.”
Heer is also proud of her role in helping gymnastics to continue to thrive in the state. South Dakota is one of just seven states that still have high school gymnastics programs.
“I think we’ve been able to continue our program in South Dakota due to some judges, coaches, and athletic directors who put in a lot of time and energy to make sure we keep the program here. All of it has been a good all-around experience for me.”
One of the most difficult things for Heer will come next Dece“It takes time to get the
kids tomber when the gymnastics season rolls around once again. She has decided to retire from judging to spend more time with her kids, and she knows she will miss it.
“It takes time to get the kids to things, and it was just time to be done. But it will be tough when the season comes around because I really do love it. It’s hard to step away from something I’ve been a part of since I was a seventh grader in 1991-92. I could see myself popping in every once in a while to help at Britton-Hecla.”
It also appears that a daughter could very well follow in her footsteps. Ten-year-old McKenna has inherited her mother’s love for the sport. In fact, all on her own, she came up with a way to develop her skills. She places a mat over some cushions, runs down the kitchen floor, and vaults over the couch.