Dr. Joe Massimo, affectionately known as Doc throughout the gymnastics community, began his career in gymnastics in 1950 and has remained active in the sport ever since. As a competitor, coach, and judge in the 50’s and 60’s, he joined the United States National Coaching Staff in 1969 as a Special Assistant. Having recently graduated from Harvard University with a Master’s and Doctorate in Clinical and School Psychology, Doc focused on helping grow the sport of gymnastics in this country into an international presence while working with several World and Olympic Games Teams over the years…
This is a first hand account of one of the countless people who Doc has impacted:
Doc Gump. No, that is not a typo. Growing up in the gym and hearing amazing stories of gymnastics breakthroughs, groundbreaking psychology research, even anecdotes from Woodstock (where a certain somebody held Jimi Hendrix’s blanket while he played the Star Spangled Banner), was a regular occurrence for me. The name, Doc Gump, was born out of the realization that all of these incredible stories had one common tie. They were all about Doc. Out of these stories came priceless messages that helped shape the perspectives, work ethic, and overall outlook of my teammates and I. We referred to these messages as “Doc-isms.” These learning lessons from Doc were spread far beyond the 20 hours a week and four giant walls of that industrial building we called “home.” Our teenaged minds truly began to appreciate just how lucky we were to have him all to ourselves.
Doc was like our secret weapon. He took great physical athletes and made them mentally strong. He was able to take “crazy teenagers” and make them emotionally tough warriors out on the floor. All of this was done without ever wavering on his primary message. Although never verbalized, these thoughts of his were understood by all of us. It is how he was able to establish an uncanny degree of mutual respect between him and his athletes.
This message became engrained in me so much that as a beginning coach working with my own athletes, I heard it from my own mouth; my favorite Doc-ism, “I care more about you as people than I do as gymnasts.” What a fantastic message from coach to athlete. Even to this day, the mutual admiration and respect he shares with his athletes is manifested in every well-deserved high five and with every unique nickname he dubbed his athletes like Strussy, Meister, and Gin. How fortunate I am to have such an amazing relationship with the man I call “Doc,” my mentor, my coach, and consistent listening ear. From a gymnast to a professional, he has been there from my formative years into adulthood.
Thank you, Doc, for being such a strong testament to the power and influence that we coaches have over our athletes. The impressions we leave on them and the contribution to the teachings that they will eventually pass onto the next generation are insurmountable. The sport of gymnastics is so very fortunate to have you in it. What a damn fine world it would be if everyone incorporated Doc-isms into their lives.
-Nicole “Gin” Langevin
…In the 1980’s and 1990’s, Dr. Massimo, while continuing his coaching, was a Master Clinician and lecturer on the national circuit. Serving on the United States Association of Independent Gymnastics Clubs Sports Medicine Council, Doc was inducted into their Hall of Fame in 1993 and was also inducted into the USA Gymnastics Region VI Hall of Fame in 1994. Appointed to the USA Gymnastics National Athlete Wellness Network as a Sport Psychologist in 1997, he has been listed in the World Sport Psychology Sourcebook, U.S. Olympic Committee Sports Psychology Registry, and International Society of Sports Psychology.
Although, many thought Doc worked full time in gymnastics, he was the Chief Psychologist for a school system in the suburbs of Boston for nearly 30 years. Supervising a staff of 23 psychologists charged with providing services to youth within the context of school and their families, Dr. Massimo also found time to teach at the following universities: Boston University School of Medicine and School of Education, University of Massachusetts, and Harvard University Graduate School.
Based on his school and educational background, Dr. Massimo is a strong proponent of supporting a healthy relationship between young athletes, their parents and the teachers and coaches who work with them. As the author of many articles and books about psychology and gymnastics, his clinical psychology work has been published in every major journal in the U.S. In addition, Doc has also worked with athletes from the following sports: figure skating, kick boxing, swimming and diving, soccer, ballroom dancing, track and field, and bobsledding.
Today, even though he is retired, Doc Massimo continues to spend his time in the gym teaching, coaching and doing psych sessions with the gymnasts. He loves all the kids, regardless of the age or talent, and couldn’t think of a better place he would rather be.