Emil J. Milan
Born in Fort Worth in 1929, Emil Milan began gymnastics at age 12, at the Fort Worth SOKOL, a branch of the international social and gymnastics organization that began in Czechoslovakia in the 19th century. Milan was such a standout gymnast on the SOKOL team that he became the Physical Director of the Fort Worth SOKOL while just 17, in 1946. Over the next several years, Milan served in the Air Force; became Physical Director of the Southern District of American SOKOL from 1952‐54; coached gymnastics at the Fort Worth Recreation Department in 1953, and worked for the Fort Worth YMCA in 1954‐55, all without a college degree. In 1955, he and his young family moved to Austin where he worked at Bill Crenshaw’s Gymnastics Club while working on his bachelor’s degree in Physical Education; he graduated from the University of Texas in 1960.
Milan’s advocacy for, and love of gymnastics pervaded the rest of his professional life. Following graduation, he returned to Fort Worth where he taught physical education for Eagle Mountain Saginaw Independent School District and introduced tumbling into the district’s curriculum. In 1965, he joined the faculty at newly built Bell High School and began implementing full‐scale gymnastics in his physical education classes and establishing first a boys’ and then, a girls’ gymnastics teams. In 1967, he organized the first annual Texas State High School Gymnastics Meet, which his Bell High School teams dominated in subsequent years. He coached 12 consecutive boys’ All American teams, and more than 120 of his gymnasts received college scholarships.
In 1970, he founded the Texas High School Gymnastics Coaches Association, served as president of that organization from 1970‐1979, and then became Executive Director of the Association from 1979 to 1990 when he retired. Although known for his advocacy of gymnastics within the state of Texas, Milan also contributed to the growth of gymnastics at the national level and organized the first National High School Gymnastics Championships, in Fort Worth, in 1988. He also served as a member of the Olympic Jr Nationals AAU Committee and helped stage both the gymnastics competition at the Pan American Games in 1987 and the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1984.
When he passed away in 2016, at age 86, following complications from surgery, the Gymnastics Association of Texas wrote on their website: “If there is high school gymnastics in Texas, it is because Emil spent his professional career working to uplift the sport in the public schools.
More than any other one person, Emil Milan gets the credit for public school competition in gymnastics. He … served as a leader throughout his professional life, lobbied for adding the sport to the state public school athletic program, and produced dozens of individual champions and more State Championships than any other coach. He was truly ‘incomparable.’”
No wonder nearly 700 people attended the retirement party that honored the contributions of “The Father of Texas High School Gymnastics,” at the Fort Worth SOKOL in 1990.