“Father” of Brockport Gymnastics to Retire
Brockport Gymnastics Head Coach and Lecturer John Feeney ’76 will retire this summer after spending the last 22 years in the classroom and at the helm of the gymnastics program.
“It’s tough to walk away from the sport after 51 years. I’m going to miss it,” said Feeney. “I’m one of the few people in the world that can actually say I love coming to work every day. I love teaching and I love coaching.”
His success is evident in the number of awards and trophies collected in the gymnasium and it’s the cases of Tuttle South.
“We’re definitely going to miss Coach Feeney. His leadership over the course of the last 22 years has helped bring our gymnastics program to national prominence,” said Athletic Director Erick Hart. “He has helped shape the lives of countless students at Brockport and we will be forever indebted to Coach Feeney for his contributions to our campus community.”
Feeney helped produce a staggering 130 All-Americans, five all-around National Champions, three balance beam and four individual floor National Champions and led Brockport Gymnastics to winning six ECAC championships and three North East Regional Championships. Additionally, under his guidance he had three student-athletes named the Outstanding Senior at the NCGA National meet.
He retires as a NCGA three-time coach of the year, two-time NCGA National Champion and a nine-time Regional Champion, posting 212 career dual meet victories.
He also touched the lives of countless students as a lecturer in Brockport’s Department of Kinesiology, Sport Studies, and Physical Education (KSSPE). His areas of teaching specialty included strength and conditioning, coaching, and gymnastics.
“John Feeney has been a tremendous asset to the preparation of future physical education teachers through his teaching, story-telling, and dedication to the discipline. A physical education teacher by trade, he knows the ins and outs of how to get the best out of his students and athletes and help them accomplishment things they never thought possible,” said Cathy Houston-Wilson, KSSPE Chairperson. “We will miss John, his jokes, his stories, but most of all his everyday presence in our lives. We wish him all the best in his well-deserved retirement.”
His replacement has yet to be named.
“Coach Feeney is special in so many ways, ranging from singularly terrible jokes to his passion for and dedication to the sport of gymnastics. He gave his heart and soul to Brockport and this program,” said Brockport Assistant Athletic Director Dani Drews.
“There is no way to replace him, but he certainly has earned his retirement. Coach leaves us as the defending Division III national champion. A fitting ending to an incredible career.”
“The Father of Brockport gymnastics, such a fitting title for Coach Feeney. John has given not only his heart, but his body to the sport he has loved. The student-athletes John has recruited to Brockport are not only accomplished gymnasts but also outstanding students,” said Brockport Associate Athletic Director Susan Hoffman.
Many former athletes and colleagues described Feeney in the same way, he was dedicated but about more than gymnastics he cared about who the students were outside of the classroom or gym and cared about the community. His community involvement included programs like Junior Eagles, a recreational gymnastics program that strives to teach children body awareness, locomotor, and basic gymnastics skill and Flips for Cancer. “He has left big shoes to fill, but I suspect we will still see him around trimming the hedges to make our campus beautiful,” Hoffman added.
“One big thing I can say is that my door was always open for my team. I’m grateful for these kids,” said Feeney. “When I think about all of our accomplishments, I would have to say I’m most proud of the emails and phone calls I get to this day from our former student-athletes. They say thank you. They tell me how Brockport and the gymnastics program helped to make them into the person they are today. I’m so proud to have played a role in helping our student-athletes grow.”
“Coach Feeney has taught all of his athletes not only gymnastics, but lifelong lessons. It has always been about more than just gymnastics,” said All-American Brockport gymnast Jamie Sklenar ’21.
“Coach Feeney was not only a coach but a great leader, mentor, and friend. He dedicated himself to his team and encouraged all of us to be the best we could be both inside and outside of the gym,” said former Brockport gymnastics team member Lauren Gildemeyer ’10. “He was available and willing to help at any time and has continued to make every effort to stay in touch and support us even after graduation.”
He’s like a second father to Carrie Santore ’05 who won the all-around national championship in 2004 and was the first Division III student-athlete to make an appearance in the NCAA Division I Gymnastics Finals.
“I consider Coach Feeney as a second father and the reason I continued my career as a competitive gymnast while I attended SUNY Brockport,” said Santore. “His dedication to his athletes is a testament to his commitment and passion for the sport of gymnastics, truly cementing his legacy in Division III athletics.”
“Feeney is the rock of Brockport Gymnastics. He has a special gift for being a coach, and he sees greatness in every one of his athletes, even if they do not see it in themselves,” said sophomore Brockport gymnast Emmie White. “We were all so sad to hear of his retirement, but we understand that there is no one more deserving of time to relax. Feeney, and the energy and passion he brings to the gym, is going to be missed so much by our team.”