From the desk of  ...  Preston H. Hazzard, Sr.  ... My Daily Blog    


Congratulations SOKOL Fort Worth, for 100 years of exemplifying the True Sokol Spirit.

What is SOKOL?
Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 4:00pm

SOKOL is an organization dedicated to the physical, mental and cultural advancement of its members, and the children who attend its gymnasiums. It is based upon the theory that only physically fit, mentally alert and culturally well-developed citizens can form a healthy, strong nation.

Sokol's Credo: "A sound mind in a sound body..."   The Sokol symbol is a Falcon. "Sokol" is the Czech word for Falcon.

In 1862, a highly educated young intellectual, Dr. Miroslav Tyrs (1832-1884) founded Sokol. His goal was to develop physically strong and mentally alert citizens, and to instill in them a deep love for national freedom from volunteer exercise and discipline. Tyrs was led to the Sokol concepts through his studies of old Greek gymnastics, and from this, developed the Sokol gymnastics system and method which has stood the test of time. The first Sokol organization formed in the United States was in St. Louis, Missouri in 1865. Within a few years, Sokol Units formed in cities and towns throughout the United States and eventually in many foreign countries.

SOKOL Fort Worth was founded 1913 and is the oldest continually operating gymnastics club in Tarrant County. Gymnastics and calisthenics are the main part of the Sokol physical culture system. Others are volleyball, track and swimming, to name a few. Music, song, dance, drama and literature are also promoted.  At first SOKOL was just off Azle Ave. in N. Fort Worth. Later they built their new facility out on Boat Club Rd. by Eagle Mountain Lake (pictured right).

I started my gymnastics training in the 7th grade at Euless Jr. High School. 

My neighbor, Gary Heartsfield, had learned Gymnastics in Garland, before moving to Euless. Every day after school, while waiting for the bus, a number of his friends and I would meet at the “monkey bars”. Gary taught us hip circles, knee giants, “lemon drops” and kips. Gary built some parallel bars in his 9th grade wood shop class. He taught me to hold handstands up there on those two wooden rails. 

In my own 9th grade year, the gymnastics team from L.D. Bell High School came to Euless Jr. High and gave a Gymnastics demonstration. They performed tumbling stunts like cartwheels and dive rolls, round-offs and flip/flops (back handsprings) and back flips. Gary showed us the glide kip and handstands with pirouette turns. The whole program was fast and exhilarating involving giant swings on the high bar and stunts on the trampoline.

Forget about baseball. From that point on, I’m going to be a gymnast.

I enrolled in the summer Gymnastics program at L.D. Bell High School.  Coach Emil Milan grew up a “Sokol”. That’s what Sokol members call each other. In the Fall, Emil was my 10th grade coach at Bell. Coach Emil had developed his team members to teach as well. He had a number of students in his program that were invaluable to those of us just getting started. Gary Heartsfield, Roland Rangel, Steve and Randy Snow, Robert Atchison, and Eddie Pannel. ... These guys were always able and willing to help, spot, or demonstrate skills to us new guys. We learned mostly from each other. That's how they learned ... from those that came before them. 

In the fall semester of 1970, I followed Gary, Steve, Randy and Robert at Odessa College under Coach Mike Willson.

In my 11th grade, Trinity HS opened in Euless, and my new best friend was Coach Jerry Milan (Emil’s Brother and former Football coach at Castleberry High School). My teammates and I became the first Gymnastic team out of Euless' Trinity. 

In my senior year at Trinity High School, I won the 2nd place silver medal in the All Around at the State Meet. I competed in all six of the all-around events including Floor Exercise, Vaulting, Parallel Bars, High bar, Still Rings, and Pommel Horse. 

Sokol also took me twice to Monterrey Mexico for a cultural exchange with gym teams there, sponsored by the Circulo Mercantil Mutualista de Monterrey.

With the help of my coaches, I earned a Gymnastics scholarship to Odessa College. 
We won the National Jr. College (NJCAA) title in 1971.

I truly stand on the shoulders of those dedicated Sokols that came before me. They changed my life.
Nazdar, Y'all. ...


Author & Webmaster: Preston H. Hazzard, Sr.
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