Chief topic of conversation at a recent Kaffee Klatsch was about football coach Norvell leaving Nevada. The conversation then evolved to coaches past and present at the U. My most memorable two were Jim Aiken and Jake Lawlor. Then I recalled a coach who got very little publicity—who was Art Broten. He was a physical education mentor.
Of all the physical disciplines in sports, most athletes would agree that gymnastics tend to build the best proportioned physiques. Of course, upper body strength is a must in this demanding sport, but the lower extremities also have to do their part. Watching such performers in Olympic games competition, one has to admire how perfectly sculpted most of the bodies appear to be. In addition to the strength required, gymnasts also have to excel in stamina, balance and timing.
Probably the greatest example of what we are talking about ever to appear on the University of Nevada scene was the late Broten, who passed away at the age of 91 several years ago in Reno. Broten enjoyed a long, 33 year career at the University where he retired in 1980 as a Professor Emeritus. He began that career in 1947 as an instructor and coach of the gymnastics team.
All through his tenure at the U he was omnipresent in the various gyms and work out rooms as well as being a faithful attendee at the major sporting events. When I played at the school, and later when it became a favorite spot for us to pursue the sport of Squash, I would most often encounter Broten in the various locker rooms about the campus.
Even as a senior citizen he sported the same muscular, well-proportioned physique that had enabled him to become an outstanding performer in his college days at Oregon State University and the University of Southern California. He earned his Bachelors and Master’s degree in physical education at Oregon State and his doctorate of Education at USC.
Shortly after Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the Navy as a chief specialist in the Gene Tunney program for Recruit Physical Fitness. He soon was commissioned and became a lieutenant commander. Prior to going to sea, he was regimental commander of camp Farragut at the San Diego national training center.
When he arrived on the Nevada campus, he went on to serve as Chairman of the Physical Education Department where he created a number of innovative programs in health, recreation and dance. He also served as athletic director, where he sponsored coaches clinics and a national boxing tournament. He was also professionally active in the American Association for health, physical education, recreation and dance, holding the post of president of the Western District.
Not one to retire gracefully, he helped start the Stanford Center for Aging locally and presided over summer workshops on alcoholism. He also helped develop an association of western men’s college physical education, which met annually in Reno for many years.
As mentioned above, he never stopped working out, right up to the end of his life. I recall bumping into him somewhere a few years prior to his passing and I remarked how well he looked for a person his age. He sported his famous tight grin and noted, “I owe it all to my good Norwegian genes”. Adding, “I still work out three or four days a week and can still do the ‘giant swing’ on the bar!”
As I came to find out later, he regularly worked out with other 40+ year old faculty members from the U in a group called MOSS (Mighty Order of Stretch and Strain). He also founded another group of dedicated women, called Silver State Super Seniors. The old saying of “You’re as young as you feel,” could be lengthened in Art’s case to: “You’re also as young as you look!”
SEASONS GREETINGS. To all the readers of the Sparks Trib, here’s wishing you a happy holiday season.
Harry Spencer is a long-time Nevada freelance writer.