Many around Western North Carolina recognize Miles Avery as one of the owners of OSEGA Gymnastics, which produced the first Western North Carolina gymnast to qualify for the USA Gymnastics Elite Program in 2015. Others know him from NBC’s American Ninja Warrior, on which Avery became the oldest city finals qualifier later in the same year.
Avery is also known locally for programs like the annual Miles Avery Autism Awareness Classic, which benefits the Autism Society.
On Saturday, Aug. 19, in Anaheim, California, the national governing body of the sport to which Avery has dedicated much of his life will recognize him as well as part of the 2017 USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame class.
Joining Avery in the 2017 class is the Final Five, the nickname adopted by the U.S. Women’s Olympic team which brought home the gold medal from the 2016 Rio Olympics. One member of that quintet, Gabby Douglas, who became the first African-American to win the Olympic all-around title in 2012, will be inducted individually.
Shawn Johnson (East), who won four medals in Beijing in 2008 before going on to win season eight of Dancing with the Stars, is another on the impressive list of names. Storied men’s gymnastics coach Mihai Brestyan and gymnasts Chellsie Memmel and Sean Townsend round out the class.
“This is an outstanding class,” Avery said smiling while working with a group of gymnasts at OSEGA on a Wednesday afternoon. “To go in with this class, the Final Five, Gabby Douglas, Mihai Brestyan, talk about the cream of the crop. I’m beyond grateful, beyond honored to be a part of this class.”
Avery grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and went on to letter as a member of the Temple University gymnastics team in each of his four years. He began his coaching career as a member of the Owls’ staff in 1982. In his first head coaching job, at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania, he guided the Warriors to an NCAA Division II national championship in 1988, earning coach of the year honors.
His success at the Division II level paved the way for an assistant coaching position at Ohio State University in 1989. The team won its first national championship in 1996 while Avery was on the staff.
“That was an amazing experience,” he said.
Avery became the head coach of the Buckeyes in 1998, by 2001 he led the team to another national championship and recognized as the National Coach of the Year. Avery’s head coaching career at Ohio State lasted 13 seasons and included five Big Ten championships and the same number of coach of the year awards in the conference. He produced 22 All-Americans during his tenure.
Avery, who has also been on the coaching staff of four U.S. Olympic teams (1996, 2000, 2004, 2008), worked as the personal coach of Paul Hamm, the first American male gymnast to win the all-around championship in the World Games (2003) and Olympics (2004).
“All of the things I dreamed about came to fruition at Ohio State,” he said. “But then in 2004, while I was still at Ohio State, I coached Paul Hamm who goes and wins the Olympics. That’s something you don’t even dare to dream about.”
A phone call from his daughter while in the Netherlands for the 2010 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships altered Avery’s career path permanently.
“She called and asked if I was going to be home in time to see her receive an award,” Avery recalls. “I told her I wouldn’t be back until Thursday and she said ‘I don’t know why I ask anymore because you’re never home.’”
Avery stepped down upon from his position at Ohio State upon his return and set out to find a way to live closer to his children.
“I couldn’t have my daughter think I was never going to be around,” he said. “People thought I was crazy because I was giving everything up to set up a private gym in Swannanoa.”
But that’s exactly what Avery and his wife Monica did.
“I’m still excited about gymnastics,” he said. “You have to love what you’re doing and I’m fortunate to still be doing this.”
What OSEGA does goes far beyond teaching techniques and fundamentals, according to Avery, it starts with teaching more important lessons.
“We try to teach these kids how to handle success and failure,” Avery said. “Competition is a great thing because it teaches you how to succeed and how to win and lose with grace.”
OSEGA places an emphasis on life skills, which Avery says are important in and out of the gym.
“Simple things like if you see someone moving a mat, don’t ask if they need help, just go help them,” he said. “Same at home, when you see your mom or your dad doing something just go help them. Even though this is an individualistic sport we preach the concept of being a team.”