Gymnastics Club History

Dorothy Erikson founded the Palatine Gymnastics Club in April 1977 with the assistance of the Palatine High School gymnastics coaches, Sandy Oldham and John Schrammel.

Dorothy spent many months investigating the possibilities of organizing a non-profit parent-owned program. Her daughter, Lori, was a highly-rated club gymnast in Minnesota when they moved to Palatine in the fall of 1976. Because Lori wanted to compete for Palatine High School, it became important that the new club welcome and support high school gymnasts. Dorothy discovered that rental, insurance, and purchase of equipment were very costly. Leonard Newendorf, the principal at Palatine High School at that time, encouraged her to speak to Fred Hall at the Palatine Park District. Fred made it possible to form a Gymnastics Club within the Palatine Park District’s recreation program.

The first session in the spring of 1977 had sixty students, taught by four instructors and was held at Palatine High School. That summer, the enrollment increased to 120 students. It moved to Community Center two years later. Many of our coaches and instructors have been with our program for many years, or are former team members. This gives our Club a sense of loyalty and pride. In June of 1996, we moved from our home on the shelf to our new facility, complete with a soft foam-training pit. Currently, we have an enrollment of over 600 team and class gymnasts, with a staff of thirty.

To help convince the Palatine Park District's Board of Commissioners to build the present gymnastics facility, the Booster Club committed to Palatine Park District $50,000 payable over ten (10) years. This was a deciding factor in building our present facilities.  The Palatine Gymnastics Booster Club faithfully paid off debt with the generous gift of $20,000 from the Mari-Rae Sopper Memorial Fund on June 1, 2003. 

Mari-Rae Sopper was a Fremd gymnast, a member of the Palatine Gymnastics Club and a former instructor. She was in the process of changing her career path, leaving an established and impressive law career to coach college gymnastics at the University of California at Santa Barbara. She was on board Flight 77 which crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.  Palatine Park District has named the Spring Show after Mari-Rae, in honor of her love for the sport of gymnastics. 

Our largest fund raising endeavor is the Phyllis Matras Memorial Meet, held each year during the first full weekend in November.  This year marks the 32nd year for this meet.  Phyllis Matras was the Club Supervisor from 1981 until her untimely death in 1984. In her memory, we have established the Phyllis Matras Memorial Meet. Her love for gymnastics and the Palatine Gymnastics Club lives on each fall as our Club holds this meet.