Gary Leslie's Minot coaching legacy

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MINOT, N.D. - A legendary Minot coaching career began with a simple question for Gary Leslie when he began teaching high school students in the 1960s.

"I was teaching movement exercises and I thought 'What is the best way to teach movement exercise?,' well to have somebody move," Leslie said.

Leslie's gymnasts performed at local halftime shows all the way up to NAIA Championships. Linda Grina took lessons from Leslie as a student-athlete and has used them in her own coaching career with Bismarck Public Schools.

"I know he's very passionate about it to this day. He still comes to meets, and he's always out there coaching with Minot or helping the girls mentally get through things," Grina said.

Leslie also coached track, tennis, and football, with his best memories coming off the field.

"Everything that those student-athletes did were a highlight. Their friends now. They communicate back and forth. That's what it's all about. I couldn't tell you what the score was in a particular track meet or gymnastics meet. I just know when they stepped on the floor or put the uniform on, they were ready to compete," Leslie said.

Steve Carver coached the first Bishop Ryan gymnastics team in 1973 after Leslie asked him about the job. He saw how determined female athletes were to succeed alongside Leslie, in an era where they were limited to practicing on mats in Swain Hall.

"They're a certain type of character. They have to work really long hours really hard, and you get to know them and spend a lot of time with them... It's fun to watch them grow, both as an athlete [and] as young adults and adults," Carver said.

Leslie is pleased to see how far the sport has come in the Minot area.

"These athletes now have a chance to compete because they have good coaches, they have good video machines, and everything else. We used to have to slow down the videos. We had 8-track tapes that we had to take a pencil to move slowly to make sure that we could see it," Leslie said.

One thing's for sure, you can't tell the story of early Minot female athletics without Leslie.

"He affects a lot of people in a lot of positive ways, I can say that. [When it comes to coaching] I said 'Well okay we'll give it a try' and he was true to his word. He was right there for many, many years to get me started and to keep me going," Carver said.

"[It] just makes you feel good that you hopefully had a positive influence on the people that you interacted with," Leslie said.

A coach's impact, spanning generations of athletes. Gary recently celebrated his 80th birthday and 50th wedding anniversary.