Hearing a speech delivered by President John F. Kennedy, in which he talked about the need for the nation to become more physically fit, unleashed the competitor in Rebecca Dunning Switzer as an asthmatic young girl.
"The Presidential Physical Fitness Tests were implemented in many schools across the country; I remember most everyone in my class working diligently to excel on test day in order to receive a fitness award," Switzer said. "I loved the challenge of bettering my test scores and oddly enough my grades improved as well."
Her seventh-grade physical education teacher introduced her to gymnastics, and the rest is history.
"Gymnastics was my ticket to see the world, experience different cultures; develop passion for teamwork; acquire the discipline to stay the course, no matter how difficult it became; and it gave me the freedom to use my creative right brain to imagine and design the artistry of sport," she said.
A graduate of Oklahoma City University, Switzer began her coaching career as an assistant coach of women's gymnastics at the University of Oklahoma. In 1983, she assumed the role as head coach for the team and went on to be named Big Eight Coach of the year in 1991 and Big 12 Co-Head Coach of the Year in 2001. Her coaching abilities landed her coaching roles in several international competitions, including the Pan American Games in Indianapolis; World Championships in Rotterdam, Netherlands; the World Cup in Beijing; and the Worlds Fair Championships in Tokyo, Japan. She also was selected to the coaching staff for the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea, a feat she considers to be her most significant professional achievement.
"This was the moment when I knew forever that I had the right to dream on and dream big," Switzer said.
"If I had not heard President Kennedy's speech, and there had been no physical fitness testing, it is doubtful that I would have ever dreamed about participating in gymnastics, or earning the honor of coaching at the Olympic Games."
Today, Switzer runs Switzer Talent Agency, which specializes in providing celebrity guests or motivational speakers for special events. One of the agency's best-known commercials is the Dunkin's Donuts commercials that aired earlier this year featuring her husband, Barry Switzer - the company's most sought-after talent. …