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The Watson-Raines Gymnastics Award

“The Watson-Raines Gymnastics award was established in honor of coaches Gene Watson and Mike Raines who were pioneers in the growth of Georgia Men’s Gymnastics. Their passion and commitment to the sport provided an innovative approach which was the catalyst for the success of many coaches and gymnasts who began their careers in Georgia. Their award is given in recognition of a male gymnast with financial need whose time and talent in the sport embody the philosophy of commitment, achievement and sportsmanship,” Peachtree Invitational website. To catch this year’s meet in action, February 24 -25, 2018, visit http://peachtreeinvitational.com/ for more information.

The meet is run by an Atlanta School of Gymnastics (ASG) coach who should have an award named after him in his own rite: Nathan Renato Simmons.

Nathan and one of the namesakes of the award, Gene Watson, coached men’s gymnastics at ASG for years developing the men’s team. Gene started the Peachtree Men’s Invitational meet 34 years ago. Nathan took it over when Gene moved away to pursue other coaching opportunities elsewhere in the US.

Nathan works as a lawyer whose passion is gymnastics. In his younger years, he was one of Bob Boudreau’s gymnasts, a coach whom he counts as his best and lifelong friend.

Nathan talks about his life as a gymnast and a coach and the formative experiences that have compelled him to work with kids in the sport of gymnastics in this short film:


Nathan’s goals are simple: Teach kids to grow up to be good people who work hard and reach success.

GMR’s founder, Mike Raines, has known Nathan and Gene for years.

photo 4Nathan and Mike are pictured here proudly giving out the Watson-Raines award in 2014. 

Mike and Gene were teammates on the University of Georgia men’s gymnastics team. Their hard work in the gym took them to the NCAA championships during their college years. Gene was a pommel horse specialist. Mike was all around, but loved horizontal bar.

After graduating college, they stayed in the gym to pass the torch to the next generation of gymnasts as boy’s gymnastics coaches. 

In fact, Mike got Gene his first coaching job at The Atlanta School of Gymnastics, where they both coached for several years. Together they played a significant role in developing boy’s gymnastics in Georgia.

Mike’s gymnastics aspirations led him to a different gym, Gym America, where he could expand GMR Gymnastics Sales out of his small apartment and into its first official office/warehouse/manufacturing area in a partitioned space in the back. Mike started a new boy’s team at Gym America, the Atlanta Gym Flairs, and Gene stayed on at ASG.

They developed a healthy and good natured, competitive rivalry with their two boy’s teams until Gene moved to Pennsylvania to work at the famed International Gymnastics Camp.

Gene has since received his 35 year service award from the gymnastics governing body USA Gymnastics. He’s served on several USA Gymnastics committees throughout his years as a coach, as well as having worked for the US National Olympic team. The US National Olympic Team named him Developmental Coach of the Year in 2015.

The Watson-Raines award has been a fixture in men’s gymnastics for over 5 years. The award seeks to reward and recognize a male gymnast with financial need whose time and talent in the sport embody the philosophy of commitment, achievement and sportsmanship. Recipients receive $1,500 and a plaque at the Peachtree Men’s Invitational gymnastics meet in February of each year.

Eligibility for the award entails:

  • Level 10 or Elite Gymnast Competing in the Meet
  • US Citizenship
  • Junior/Senior in High School or Elite
  • Passion and Commitment
  • Financial Need
  • Excellence in a 300 Word Essay “Why I should be a recipient of the Watson-Raines Award”

For more details on entry and application of reward funds please see Watson-Raines Award page on the Peachtree Invitational Meet site. (hotlink award)



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