Courtney Oros is a former All-American gymnast at Auburn where she also earned All-SEC honors for four years under her maiden name, Puckett. In 2003, the Providence Christian grad was No. 34 on the Daily Post's list of Gwinnett's greatest athletes.
Oros spent the last year living in Montgomery, Ala., where her husband, Ryan, was working in surgical sales. The couple moved back to Gwinnett earlier this summer and Courtney began coaching full time at the Gwinnett Gymnastics Center, where she was once a student.
Oros took some time recently to talk with staff writer Christine Troyke about a variety of topics, ranging from the Olympics to becoming a gymnastics coach to wedding presents in this installment of "Getting to Know ..."
CT: How long did you and your husband live in Montgomery?
CO: We were there right at a year. We got married May 12 of '07 and we moved back at the end of (this) May.
CT: Is your husband from the Atlanta area?
CO: Yes. He graduated from Dacula High School. So I went to Providence Christian Academy and we ended up meeting at Auburn.
CT: It sounds like you started teaching pretty early because your sister Lindsey said when she was little, after you got done with your training sessions at the gym, you would come home and teach her stuff?
CO: Yeah, I did. Going back, my mom was a gymnast. But we didn't have the 'I'm going to have girls and my daughters are going to be gymnasts.' That wasn't her mentality. Whatever we wanted to do, she's so supportive - and so is my dad, too.
And the gymnastics world itself is very intense and if you're in it, you understand the demand it takes day in and day out. And some sacrifices you also have to make in your childhood, too. A lot of parents who are former gymnasts are sometimes like, 'No, my daughter is not going to be a gymnast.'
But my mom and my dad were just there to support us.
I started gymnastics and my mom thought, 'OK, one's enough.' Then I started teaching my sister around the house and she picked it up really well. My mom was like, 'Well, we'll just put her in and she can have fun and that way she doesn't get hurt with Courtney teaching her.' Now's she a senior at Auburn.
CT: Are you working full time here at the gym?
CT: Did it just work out, the timing, when you came back from Alabama?
CO: Yeah. Actually, before getting married, I was in sales at a TV station. I wanted to do something like this (coaching at GGC) but it just wasn't the right time. Dan (Thaxton) didn't need a coach, even though he wanted me here.
I got married, moved away and he told my parents, I think in April, if Courtney ever comes back, I really need an optional coach. It was just the right timing. It was really neat how the doors opened and everything worked out.
CT: It's nice you can come back to a place you A) know and B) like - and do what you like.
CO: Exactly. I understand where the girls are coming from. I understand when someone says, 'I just can't move today.' I understand the fears and frustrations of working and training day after day and not accomplishing what you're working so hard to do that day.
And just taking a step back and being there as a coach, instilling discipline, yes - which is so required in gymnastics - and just being there to encourage them and motivate them and empower them. Because gymnastics is such a mental sport.
CT: This is where you did all of your training growing up, right?
CO: I did a year at a gym in the Atlanta area and then from there, came here.
CT: Was it part of your plan to coach at some point? Because you were in sales for a little while.
CO: Yes, I was in TV sales and doing TV commentating. I really wanted to be in the TV industry. But I also wanted to be a coach, maybe one day leading into college coaching.
It's just something that I come to the gym and can give to the girls what I've learned - and I've learned so much, not just in gymnastics, but in who I am as Courtney, and the work ethic and everything that was instilled in me in the gym. It's not just all about 'these are the skills you need to learn and you need to compete and you need to win.' It's also, when you leave the gym, how are you developing as a person?
Gymnastics itself instills a lot in you. It balances you really well.
CT: When was your last competition?
CO: NCAA's on April 27-29 of 2005. I qualified as an individual.
CT: How was the transition from athlete to coach for you?
CO: It's been kind of interesting. Sometimes I go, 'Oh! So this is what it feels like to be a coach.'
It's funny because this summer I'm like, 'Guys, just let me show how to do it.' It's kind of neat. And they're like, 'Courtney, let's see you do it again.'
So it's fun being back in here again and even though I am a coach, just kind of playing around. It's definitely different, but now being a coach, I know what it takes. If you want to make it to junior nationals, I know what it takes. If you want to get a scholarship, I know what it takes. I know the time it takes so I understand what they're going though.
CT: You got married a year ago - did you think about keeping your maiden name if only for "gym cred"?
CO: Um, well, when I commentate, I'm Courtney Puckett Oros, so people know me. But other than that (laughing), no.
CT: What was your best wedding present?
CO: Oh, gosh. Um, well ... OK, I think I'm going to have to say our silver, crystal and fine china. I love to entertain formally. My mom and my whole family, everyone, entertains formally and my grandmother gave us her silver, so it's really special.
CT: Were there any presents you had to return?
CT: Is that from people not following the gift registry?
CO: Yeah (laughing) or just three of something. We don't need three ice cream makers. I think one's plenty. So, yeah, some things like that. And then, I think, I might have regifted one.
CT: Every four years people go crazy for gymnastics because of the Olympics. Do you wish it, as a sport, got more attention during the interim periods? Or do you just appreciate that people so obviously love it when you get to see it at the Olympic level?
CO: I do appreciate that people enjoy watching it, that they're enthralled and amazed at what we go through and the dedication. I don't think it really sinks in to people that the beam is four inches wide. I don't think that really absorbs.
It's rewarded that people have such a high appreciation for it. I do wish, though, during the year they showed more of the international meets, the championship meets.
They do a good job covering the college gym meets. I just know because I commentate for them. But it would be nice if it was shown more, not just when the Olympics come.
CT: What kind of stuff do you do for TV?
CO: I commentate for CSS - I've done that for the past three years - for the college meets. They do Auburn, Alabama and Georgia and whoever they're competing against. And that's been fun, staying in the collegiate world.
CT: Have you done commentary on a meet your sister was in?
CO: Yes. I have. I have a hard time watching her though. I really do. I think it's because I'm not in control. And, too, I know how bad she wants to excel and to win. So I share in her disappointment and I share in her joy.
When it's over, I can breathe.
CT: Did you watch the gymnastics at the Beijing Olympics?
CO: I did.
CT: What did you think?
CO: We were actually at the beach, my sister and I, watching it. I was blown away. Words don't express. Because we do gymnastics and I know what they're doing. It's just textbook, just insane. It really is.
Like a vault I would add a half twist to, they're adding a one-and-a-half to. And their bars are basically men's high bar, men's gymnastics. I was in awe, my sister and I were both.
CT: To watch Shawn Johnson on the beam was stunning.
CO: Yeah. Not just skill-wise, but the confidence she had, it was like if she's on the beam, she owns it.
And you know, too, people get frustrated with gymnastics because it's real political, the judging. Like the Chinese girl that won the vault and fell.
You score a basket, you hit a home run, you get a touchdown - it's yours.
CT: It's not based on someone's opinion - however educated that opinion is.
CO: That's the hard thing about gymnastics when you're competing, the judging.
CT: Yeah, would that be your biggest frustration with the sport that you've obviously put so much time and effort into?
CO: Um, I think so. Really looking back, there are no regrets. But sometimes the judging can get frustrating. But, you know, in a meet, I never looked at my scores. Because when you feel you've done such a great performance and you see a low score, it can deflate you.
My senior year in high school, when I won nationals, I had no idea until they called my name.
CT: Your mom was on Georgia's gymnastics team, in the 70s, right after they enacted Title IX.
CO: Right. Her senior year was the year they enacted Title IX. So she received free books. That was her "scholarship."
CT: Who is the better athlete - you or (fellow Providence grad and Atlanta Silverbacks soccer player) Sarah Steinmann?
CO: Ohh, I have no idea. Whole different sports. She's such a great friend. She played for the Silverbacks and just had tryouts for the (Atlanta) pro team. She's living in Auburn right now, helping with the soccer team.
It was a fun relationship in high school because she and I every year for spring break - I mean, we were best friends since fourth grade - but everyone else would go on spring break and we of course were in training. So we'd lay out on the driveway and use sidewalk chalk to draw our imaginary guys beside us and waves and we just made fun of it. We had great, great times.
And it's neat too, putting our faith in the Lord and seeing where he's taken the talent he's given us.
CT: I didn't really expect you to say one of you were better.
CO: (Laughing) Oh! Good.