Acrobatic Gymnastics Spotlight of the Month - Jeff & Leanne Oberst
posted on 01/07/2019

Q. How did you get involved in Acrobatic Gymnastics?
In 1996 Jeff’s daughter, Lori, was invited by her best friend to join a new local recreational gymnastics club. Her best friend’s mother was a coach in the club, and Lori enjoyed the classes. In 1997 Lori joined the club’s Sports Acrobatics (now Acrobatic Gymnastics) team, and Jeff was introduced to the sport. 8 years later, Leanne and Jeff began dating and Leanne was introduced to the sport.

Q. Where was the first National Championship held the year you were in this position?
We have had a variety of positions throughout our years in Acrobatic Gymnastics, but Jeff’s first nationals was in Houston Texas, where he was a parent and photographer. His first USSA nationals volunteer work was the next year, in Dayton Ohio, where he worked extensively with the scoring system. He then started working on the Nationals organizing committee in 1999, when the event was hosted in Phoenix Arizona. Lori’s first Nationals event was 2006 in Kansas City, Missouri.

Q. Besides National Championships, do you help out with any other meets?
Besides Nationals, they are involved in planning and executing almost all Region 1 competitions (local, state and regional championships). They’ve also planned and supported all of the international Acro Cup events as well as some level of support for most team selection events. They are also on the organizing committee for the recent Vegas Acro Cup events, including the upcoming 2019 FIG World Cup event that will be hosted there.

Q. How many years have you been involved in Acrobatic Gymnastics?
Not counting his first year as an Acrobatic parent, 2019 will be Jeff’s 22nd year of volunteering and serving in the Acrobatic Gymnastics community. This will be Leanne’s 14th year with the sport.

Q. Do you have any other hobbies?
In addition to Acrobatic Gymnastics, another hobby is extreme Christmas decorating. The house and yard are decorated with over 35,000 lights which are programmed to dance to music. They have their own private radio station for the 20 choreographed songs, and collect fundraising for the Make-A-Wish foundation. 2018 was the 13th year of animated light decorating. They also enjoy serving in multiple technical and on-stage roles at church, which is where they met.

Q. What is a couple of your favorite things about being part of the Acrobatic Community?
It’s definitely the people that we get to meet and work with through the sport. Many have moved on as their children have left the sport, but many continue to participate and each year brings us new opportunities to make lasting friendships and renew old ones.

Q. What year did you introduce the electronic scoring system?
The first version of the current scoring system was developed and introduced during the 1999 season. Jeff Smith developed the original database and the he and Jeff O supported many of the Acrobatic events. After Jeff Smith moved to Indianapolis to lead the USA Gymnastics Events team, Jeff O took over the maintenance and continued the development and expand the system.

Q. What is the most challenging aspect when preparing for National Championship competition?
The event planning has always been the most challenging aspect of Nationals. Early in the planning before registrations are due, we need to estimate how many competitors will be in each event so we can announce which events are on which days. Once the finals registration numbers are complete we then need to find a way to fit them into the preliminary estimated schedule. Defining all of the individual training sessions was also a challenge, but the USA Gymnastics event staff has performed this task since we’ve started the combined USA Gymnastics Championship events.

Q. Do you have any interesting stories that happened during a competition?
Well, there was the first time we were in Dayton Ohio (1998) and the arrival of 2/3 of the organizing committee were delayed due to airline issues. Those that made it decided to start the setup since the volunteers were there, but read the plans upside down and setup the entire venue backwards. Then there was our second visit to Dayton (2001) when the heavy rains outside decided to come inside, collapsing the ceiling tiles and flooding the banquet (maybe that’s why we haven’t been back to Dayton?).

However, I think our favorite story was in 2012 after hosting the Acrobatic Gymnastics World Championships. Held at the ESPN center in Disney World, we had finished the event and were packing up the equipment while the Disney employees were performing their clean-up. As we were leaving we noticed a backpack still in our area, and called out to another organizing staff member that was across the venue, asking if it was theirs. They replied “Not Mine”, and before we could react the Disney staff started chiming in “Mine”, “Mine”, “Mine” in a re-enactment of the seagull scene from ‘Finding Nemo’. Leanne and I just looked at each other, not really believing we had heard it, and busted out laughing.

Q. What is your favorite thing to do once the competition is over?
RELAX! As the Acrobatic competition manager and Acrobatic scoring supervisor we are at the venue before it opens in the morning and among the very last to leave after competition each night. After the week’s events you can imagine we’re pretty wiped out. If possible, we try to spend an extra day at the location to do some sight-seeing or just relax. Then we’re off to home and start the planning and construction for the upcoming Christmas display.