AUSTINTOWN — Gymnastics has
been the center of Ron “Ronnie” Ferris’ life for as long as he can remember.
“Gymnastics has always been the focal point of my life. It is what developed me into the person I am now. It was and is the driving factor through all stages of my life,” he said.
Now 37, Ferris said he was thrown into the sport the moment he was born. His parents, Ron and Cheryl Ferris, were both collegiate-level gymnasts. The couple opened their own gym, Ohio Gymnastics Institute, the year he was born. Immediately, Ferris was thrown into “mommy and me” classes, which led to him attending classes alone, and eventually joining the competitive team at the age of 6.
Ferris started coaching at 14, while still training as a gymnast. After he graduated from Austintown Fitch High School in 2002, he received a full ride gymnastics scholarship to The Ohio State University, where he competed for four years.
Today he owns and coaches at Ohio Gymnastics Institute in Austintown.
While at OSU, Ferris earned All-American status three times — twice on the horizontal bar in 2004 and 2005, and once on pommel horse, also in 2005. He was the NCAA horizontal bar champion in 2005. In 2004, Ferris was 16th in the country at the Visa Championships, just two spots shy of qualifying for the Olympic Trials that year.
While at OSU, Ferris trained alongside four-time Olympian Blaine Wilson (2004, 2000, 1996 and 1992), three-time Olympians Paul and Morgan Hamm (2004, 2000 and 1996) and 2008 Olympian Raj Bahvsar. During his career as an OSU gymnast, Ferris trained under OSU head coach and four-time U.S. Olympic Assistant Coach Miles Avery, according to his biography.
He did not stop competing and training as a gymnast until 2011 when he broke his leg landing a vault in competition. The next Olympics were too soon to be able to heal and prepare for another run at it, so he decided it was time to stop competing and move to coaching. He also is a nationally rated men’s gymnastics judge.
“It was always my dream to take over the gym and continue to help children enjoy the sport I have devoted my life to,” Ferris said.
He coaches the girls and boys competitive teams at Ohio Gymnastics Institute. The gymnasts have nothing but kind words to say about Ferris and the way he coaches. Ferris has had a big impact on all of his gymnasts, and they say he makes sure he is encouraging and positive during every practice.
“Ronnie is very supportive and pushes you to be the best athlete you can be. While he has experience of being a gymnast in his past, he knows how to drive you, keep you focused on your goals. He has the ability to keep the sport fun,” student Sydney Russell said.
“In gymnastics, stress and frustration build up very quickly, which can push the athlete to give up. I think his funny personality helped me and my team to relax when faced with a lot of pressure. He is always there to remind us why we started gymnastics — because it was fun and we enjoyed doing it,” Russell added.
It is clear to the other coaches how much he loves his job and how it is the perfect match for him.
“Ronnie is a very hard-working, dedicated caring person. He really wants the best for his athletes and puts their success over his success and happiness. He wants to have fun, but still work hard, which is why he’s good with young athletes. It’s a good quality to have when working with children,” gymnastics coach Zak Leger said.
Ferris said he never even considered doing a different job in his lifetime, and he still carries the same love for the sport that he had when he started gymnastics. He said coaching was the best replacement when he could no longer compete, and he loves it more than he imagined.
“My favorite part of coaching is watching the moment when a skill finally clicks for an athlete. Coaching is not just my job; it is my passion,” he said.
Ferris and his wife, Jackie Karmecy Ferris, live in Austintown and have a 5-year-old son, Westin. His hobbies include writing, watching TV, specifically basketball, playing with his dog and spending time with his family.