Who doesn’t love Professor? Anyone involved with the Madison Area YMCA Rosettes gymnastics team in the last 25 years knows Vladimir Peleksic, affectionately known as Professor. He has coached, supported and celebrated hundreds of gymnasts during his tenure at the Madison Area YMCA. Now, the gymnasts, coaching staff and the Y are celebrating him as he turns 85 this month. And, it doesn’t mean retirement for this beloved coach. Professor can be found in the Y’s Gymnastics Center on Monday and Wednesday evenings training Rosettes from 6-8:30pm.
“I’m very proud to be part of the team. It’s like a gift,” says Professor, a gymnastics coach for more than 60 years whose experience includes coaching Olympic teams in his native country, the former Yugoslavia.
For almost 20 years, the Rosettes have ranked in the top 10 gymnastics teams in the country. Professor reflects on why the program works so well. “The coaches have an excellent relationship with one another—good chemistry. We support and respect each other. We collaborate so that we are on the same page. And the gymnasts—they work hard. It’s so nice to work with young people. They have energy,” he says, with a laugh. “I push them to be their best and I want them to be happy.”
There’s no shortage of Rosettes who have something wonderful to share about Professor. He has a very special place in every Rosette’s heart.
“Professor is everyone’s hero,” says 16-year-old Chatham High School junior Charlotte Hamilton. “He always has positive little phrases and words of encouragement for all of us. It’s clear that he loves the sport. He’s one of the best role models and coaches ever.”
Fourteen-year-old Madison Junior School 8thgrader Julia Eckhardt says, “Professor builds us up and makes us stronger mentally and physically. If I’m having a bad day, Professor gives me a big smile which reminds me why I’m here.”
“I’ve grown into myself because of Professor,” says 17-year-old Chatham High School senior Jessica Varca. “I was shy, but he helped me gain confidence.”
“Professor is honestly one of the most amazing people I know,” says Julie Gann, a 17-year-old Madison High School senior. “He lifts us up and motivates us. He genuinely cares about every single person on the team. We’re all a big family. We’re so lucky.”
Lily Greene, 12, a Chatham Middle School 7thgrader says, “As soon as I met Professor, I knew how special he was. He taught me how to vault and always encourages me. He’s fun to be with in the gym. He gets to know and love everyone.”
Madison High School senior Jordyn Sterkel, 17, says, “Professor makes you believe in yourself. He’s always at the end of the vault encouraging us. He’s like a grandparent, someone to look up to.”
Meghan Peebles, 16, says that Professor has a gentle way about him. “There’s no yelling, no frustration—he has patience and he takes notice,” says the Chatham High School junior who credits Professor with getting her back to uneven bar routines. “He also asks about other things in my life besides gymnastics. We’ve talked about my math homework and Frankenstein when I was reading it.”
Melissa Pearl, a former Rosette who is currently a gymnastics coach at the Madison Area Y, says that besides being an excellent coach, Professor is a great role model who has a positive outlook on life. “He wants the best for everyone,” she says.
“Professor makes it all about the gymnasts,” says Madison Area YMCA Director of Gymnastics & Y Ninja Gym Christina Lopez. “His support for every girl on the team is unparalleled.”
“It’s been an honor to work with Professor for 25 years,” says Madison Area YMCA Senior Director of Gymnastics & Y Ninja Gym Ellen Gavin. “He brings a great deal of talent and expertise to the team. We are very lucky and proud to have him as part of our staff.”