The Mojo Invitational, coming up Friday and Saturday, has been renamed for Martha Mitchell, a highly decorated Permian High School gymnastics coach, now the principal at Lamar Early Education Center.
The two-day tournament brings teams in from throughout Texas.
“It’s a neat opportunity for young people and a great competition,” Ector County Independent School District Executive Director of Athletics Todd Vesely said.
Mitchell, who has been at Lamar for six years and served as principal at several other ECISD campuses, coached at Permian from the 1971-72 school year to 1992. She is a life member of the Gymnastics Association of Texas, the umbrella for gymnastics in the state and of the Texas High School Gymnastics Coaches Association, the governing body of high school gymnastics.
In 2013, Mitchell was in the first group to be recognized in the Hall of Honor for the Texas High School Gymnastics Coaches Association.
Vesely, who coached with Mitchell for a number of years, said he announced the tournament renaming at a Superintendent’s Advisory Council meeting, Mitchell said. She said she was surprised, shocked and happy about the news.
He said people in the gymnastics program decided it was time to honor Mitchell.
“She’s pretty awesome,” Vesely said.
Learning about the new moniker was probably one of the proudest moments of her life, Mitchell said.
“… This is a part of Permian gymnastics and to still be remembered and still be a part of Permian gymnastics and high school gymnastics is an amazing feeling. It’s going to be a joyful occasion. It’s going to be something that I’m going to always be able to enjoy and be a part of keeping me a part of gymnastics,” Mitchell said, tears in her eyes.
“One of the greatest joys of my life was coaching gymnastics and working with some amazing young people who have grown up now to be adults and are amazing people to this day, so to think that you had an impact in someone’s life makes it even more meaningful,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell said 1992 was the year Permian girls’ gymnastics team won state, so they were No. 1 in Texas and declared No. 1 in the nation.
“I was named the coach of the year in Texas and in the national organization, so when you do something like that and you feel like you’ll work the rest of your life to do all this again. I had been encouraged to go into administration, and at that time I really wanted to be an athletic director, but the doors opened to go into administration,” Mitchell said.
“I’ve been principal now at every level. I taught in high school and I’ve been a principal in elementary, middle school and pre-k. It was time for me to go ahead and take this next step in something that I wanted to pursue and I’m glad I did. I wouldn’t be in this position and I would not have been successful as an administrator if it had not been for gymnastics,” Mitchell said.
Ironically, Mitchell was not a gymnast herself.
“In high school, I was a tennis player and I went to college on a tennis scholarship to Lamar University,” Mitchell said.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Lamar and was hired as a PE teacher and gymnastics coach by Bob Clark, then the coordinator for physical education and related sports.
Mitchell earned her master’s degree in kinesiology from the University of Texas of the Permian Basin and obtained her supervisor’s certification and principal’s certification from UTPB, as well.
She added that she had a lot of great students and studied, worked and read about gymnastics to gain knowledge about the sport. With her background in kinesiology, Mitchell understood movement.
“The gymnastics association is a very close group of people. We went to lots of clinics, even more so than we do now. We did lots of high school clinics around the state and gymnasts and coaches learned together. We competed against Midland and a few other nearby schools, but it wasn’t recognized in the district as a true sport and it’s still not a UIL sport but it’s ruled by the Texas High School Gymnastics Coaches Association,” Mitchell said.
Her first year at Permian, they hosted a state meet and there were several others through the years.
She is looking forward to the tournament Friday and Saturday. Last time, she said she helped out and this time she’ll likely ask to be put to work.
“If not, I’ll just stand around and enjoy the meet,” Mitchell said.