The Student News Site of Plymouth-Canton Educational Park

The Perspective

The Student News Site of Plymouth-Canton Educational Park

The Perspective

The Student News Site of Plymouth-Canton Educational Park

The Perspective

Remembering Canton Gymnastics coach and retired English teacher John Cunningham

Peter Draugalis
John Cunningham celebrates with varsity gymnastics captain Sydney Dunn. 2022

John Cunningham, known to many as Coach JC, passed away on October 21, 2023.  Cunningham, the Canton Varsity Gymnastics coach for 51 years, started his teaching career at P-CEP in 1968 and retired in 2005. Cunningham also co-founded the Michigan Academy of Gymnastics in 1977. 

Cunningham started his P-CEP coaching career in 1969 when he founded the Plymouth Gymnastics Club. Cunningham went on to coach the Canton gymnastics team the year the school opened in 1972. Coach JC coached the Canton boys team until 2004 and the girls until his death in 2023. 

“I’m not sure if Canton Gymnastics has ever had another coach,” said Canton senior Avery Wolf.

The University of Michigan gymnast and graduate left behind his wife Sally of 55 years, and their three sons: Adam, Eric and Ryan.

Coach JC has always had a love for coaching as he coached his sons in basketball, baseball and gymnastics. “He was different from other coaches that I had,” said Canton graduate Madison Wingle. ¨He was always encouraging and much more positive than my previous coaches, which made practice and competitions more enjoyable.¨ 

Many felt Cunningham left a positive and memorable impact on Canton Gymnastics. “JC was the type of coach to be proud of you no matter what. He was your biggest cheerleader, and whenever he was nervous for us, he wouldn’t show it because he believed in us and taught us how to believe in ourselves,” said Dunn.  

Cunningham earned multiple awards for coaching Canton Gymnastics, including the National Coach of the Year by the NHSACA in 2016 and the Michigan Coach of the Year four times. Cunningham’s team won a state championship in 2014.

“His impact on the gymnastics program and the gymnastics community in general is huge. His history and success in gymnastics spans decades and he built the program from the ground up to what it is today,” said Canton senior and Canton Varsity Gymnastics captain Sydney Dunn. 

Cunningham was also inducted into numerous Halls of Fame, including the Canton High School Athletic Hall of Fame, the Michigan High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame, the Michigan Gymnastics Coaches Hall of Fame and the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame. 

Cunningham’s most recent awawawas being inducted into his hometown hall of fame, the Alpena Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022 on May 6. Cunningham graduated from Alpena High School in 1963.

Cunningham gathered 1,132 wins in his 52 years of coaching, but according to his athletes, wins were not all that mattered to him as he believed that having fun was also important. 

As a gymSNO Dashboardnast, JC taught me that it’s okay to make mistakes, and it’s okay to have fun,” said Dunn “When I joined Canton Gymnastics my freshman year, he showed me having fun makes succeeding easier.¨ 

“JC taught me how to believe in myself. He taught me how to be a leader,” said Dunn.”He taught me how to succeed.”

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About the Contributor
Ella Fournier, Staff Writer
Ella Fournier is a senior at Canton High School. She recently joined The Perspective in the fall of 2023. She loves watching basketball and baseball in her free time, especially the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors. She is a second-year captain for Canton Varsity Softball and plays Canton Girls Varsity Basketball. She also plays travel softball for Tennessee Mojo out of Brighton, Michigan. Ella currently resides in Westland, Michigan with her Mom, Dad and Sister. Her biggest influences are her Grandma and Grandpa as she always has loved to spend as much time as possible with them and learn all of the life lessons and advice they have to offer. Ella also has a passion for animals and likes to hike in search of any and all wildlife. 

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