Class of 1974 alumnus Steve Pancott continues his love of gymnastics through coaching.
Feet pound rubber mats and hands smack to form clouds of white powder as girls ranging from 8 to 15 years old train for upcoming meets in the AJS Pancott gymnastics training center in West Chester. Class of 1974 alumnus Steve Pancott took over the facility in 1997, continuing the business his father had started.
A former gymnast, junior Tanna Styer trained under almost every member of the Pancott family, including Steve Pancott’s father, John Pancott, and his two children, Mike and Allyson Pancott. Although she started the sport at age 8, Styer turned to the AJS Pancott Center to begin training competitively at an all-girls center when she was 11 years old.
“Steve was literally the best coach anyone could have,” Styer said. “Instead of just being a coach, he cared about our well-being, and how much sleep we got and how our grades were. He was basically like a second grandfather.”
Aside from the physical part of gymnastics, Pancott also works with the girls on the mental aspect of the sport. After Styer’s knee surgery in eighth grade, returning to gymnastics nine months later, she felt a lot of support and encouragement from Pancott.
“He was always there supporting me and making sure that my muscles were equal, and making sure that I was safe in general,” Styer said. “There was one skill that I was trying to learn called mike giant which is where you swing around the bar and I had a very big mental block on that and it was so hard for me to try to do. He really helped me with my mental blocks.”
However, after Styer quit gymnastics after tearing her meniscus a year ago, she reflects on the life lessons she learned from gymnastics and Pancott.
“He really engraved into our heads that we need to be determined and have courage. Mr. Steve always told us that you need to succeed with poise, but you need to fail with grace,” Styer said. “If you win a meet, that’s really great and you should be really proud of yourself, but you should still be humble.”
In high school, Pancott was a member of boys’ gymnastics team, which existed from 1972 to 1990. Competing in the Central League, the team matched up against the Radnor High School team throughout Pancott’s high school career. In his youth, Pancott also went on to compete in the State Championship.
While it was difficult for Pancott to balance both his school work and athletics, he was able to make time and even taught gymnastics at his father’s training center.
“My dad was a two-time Olympian for Great Britain in 1960 and 1964,” Pancott said. “He came to the United States in 1968. He opened a gymnastic center (called the John Pancott Gymnastics Center) in ’78, and we’ve been doing it ever since.”
Entering adulthood with coaching experience under his belt, the decision to run a gymnastics training center was a particularly easy one for Pancott.
“I competed at Conestoga. I competed at West Chester University. (Gymnastics) is a family business, and I love the sport so it was very much in my blood,” Pancott said.
Today, Pancott continues to coach at the AJS Center, using his years of experience as a gymnast to understand and aid current gymnasts to reach their full potential.
“It helps me because I understand what the girls or boys are doing because I was a part of it,” Pancott said.
Besides coaching, Pancott’s involvement in the gymnastics community runs deeper. When one of the coaches at his facility was diagnosed with breast cancer and wanted to raise money to help other women, he stepped in to help hold a gymnastics competition called the Pink Invitational.
“We started out with 800 gymnasts, at USTC (United Sports Training Center) in Downingtown, and now we have it at the Philadelphia Convention Center with 3,800 gymnasts,” Pancott said.
Raising over $1.5 million for breast cancer, Pancott and his wife, Louise Pancott, have been helping to run the annual Pink Invitational and this year is their eleventh year.
Nearing his retirement, Pancott plans on continuing the family tradition and passing down the family business. His son, Michael Pancott, runs the John Pancott Gymnastics Center in Malvern, and he hopes that his daughter, Allyson Pancott, will follow in his footsteps and take over AJS Pancott training center in the future.
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