With a diploma from Ohio State in one hand and an NCAA gymnastics title in the other as a student coach for the Buckeyes, Rodney Gendron had a life-altering decision to make. 

Gendron had the choice to stay in Columbus, Ohio, and be a full-time assistant coach for the men’s gymnastics program under Peter Kormann, or return to his hometown of Lewiston and take over ownership of Andy Valley School of Gymnastics, where his love for the sport began. 

He chose the latter.

No regrets.

“It was a major decision in my life but I think I made the right one,” Gendron said. “I have a nice family and everything local. I’m very happy with the decision.” 

Sixteen years after making that decision, Gendron’s gymnastics career will be honored just a short drive from his office. Gendron will be one of five members inducted into the Auburn-Lewiston Hall of Fame on Sunday.

“It’s a great honor to have that acknowledgment,” Gendron said. “I look at all the past inductees and members of the hall of fame and there’s a lot of great athletes and just remarkable people that have been inducted.” 

Long before Gendron owned Andy Valley, he was a student under the direction of Don White, who would eventually give Gendron the keys to the gym after 23 years. His journey into gymnastics began at the age of 5 when his parents looked for an outlet for Gendron’s youthful energy. Gendron said when he was little he’d be “flippin’ around all over the house and using the couch as a vault.” 

For the next 13 years, Gendron spent countless hours at Andy Valley. Under White’s direction, Gendron won seven state titles and three New England championships. 

“It’s a lot of training unlike other sports, where it’s a seasonal thing,” Gendron said. “Gymnastics is a four-season sport. Not that we’re competing all four seasons, but we’re training all year round. Long hours in the gym, four or five days a week. It’s a lot of hard work.” 

Gendron also landed a spot on the U.S. Junior Gymnastics team at the age of 12. He competed against kids from across the globe, including Hungary and Australia. Gendron said White was a big part of his success growing up. 

“He was a huge part of my life,” Gendron said. “He was my first coach. He was the one that gave me the passion for gymnastics at a young age. Watching him coach and the love he had for gymnastics and the lessons he instilled in us about hard work, preparation for competition and the things he taught me stuck with me throughout my career.” 

After graduating from Lewiston High School in 1991, it was off to Ohio State. With the Buckeyes, Gendron was a three-time NCAA individual event finalist, a scholar athlete and an All-American. He was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection, a CoSIDA Academic All-American his sophomore season and a four-time letter-winner. 

Gendron served as a team captain his senior year, when the Buckeyes finished third in the Big 10 championship and tied for fourth at NCAAs. Ohio State captured two Big 10 championships during Gendron’s four years as a competitor and a third as a student coach. The Buckeye’s never finished lower than fourth at NCAAs in Gendron’s four years and were national runners up his sophomore year. 

From 1992-95, Ohio State went 23-3 in duals and 149-22 overall. 

Gendron stayed on a fifth year as a student coach. He may have only been a coach for a year, but he knew how to recruit. When fellow Andy Valley alum and Hall of Fame inductee Peter Landry called to tell Gendron he was signing with Nebraska, Gendron, with the help of Kormann, convinced him otherwise. They won a national title the next year. 

“He was a great teammate,” Gendron said of Landry. “We motivated each other well. He was a big part of my gymnastics career, too.” 

Gendron’s love for gymnastics never wavered, though it did frustrate him at times. Nothing was more frustrating then when he had to withdraw from the Olympic trials in the summer of 1996 because of an injured knee. 

“You put all those hours and you have setbacks or injuries or what not,” Gendron said. “That’s frustrating. I’ve had my share of injuries at inopportune moments and that’s definitely frustrating.” 

That disappointing moment didn’t faze him, mainly because he had a decision to make between Ohio State and Andy Valley. Before ultimately choosing to return to his hometown, Gendron took a two-month road trip with a friend to see the country. During the trip is when he found his answer. 

While he could have chosen to work with some of the country’s best college athletes at Ohio State, Gendron said the deciding factor was being able to work with kids and mold them into good athletes and good people. 

“I have a passion for the sport that Don gave me,” Gendron said. “I still have that and just being able to pass that onto another generation and not necessarily the top athletes or top competitors. There’s kids in recreational classes who just love the sport and that’s why I do it.” 

Just like when he was a kid, Gendron logs long hours at Andy Valley. Gendron said there’s a lot of evening hours and a lot of weekend hours working with kids on top of the business aspect that comes with owning a business. Gendron said having a supportive family helps make it all possible. 

Throughout his gymnastics career, the all-around was Gendron’s specialty. He said that although he wasn’t great at one specific event, he was “pretty good” at a few.

All six events required different skill sets. According to Gendron, the pommel horse took balance, the high bar and parallel bars take air awareness, the vault and floor exercises were more about leg strength and the rings focused on upper body strength. Being an all-around gymnast taught Gendron a strong life lesson. 

“Gymnastics taught me you can’t just focus on one thing specifically, you have to be a well-rounded gymnast to be a good all-arounder,” Gendron said. “I try to use that in my life today as far as being the best coach I can be or the best business person I can be, or even a loving father and husband.” 


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