Fresh off his induction into the American Gold Gymnastics Hall of Fame, it’s time to think of a higher honor for Jim Simle. Namely, Simle should receive the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award. Full disclosure: I have joined a committee to nominate Simle for the award.
The Rough Rider Award is the highest honor given to North Dakotans. Winners are chosen by the governor, along with the secretary of state and director of the State Historical Society. The award is for, “North Dakotans who have been influenced by this state in achieving national recognition in their fields of endeavor, thereby reflecting credit and honor upon North Dakota and its citizens.” Simle easily qualifies.
Simle (known by many as Sim) was the founder and head coach of the fantastic Fargo-Moorhead Acro Team. What Simle did in developing the Acro Team was phenomenal. From 20 elementary school students to hundreds of athletes through high school age. From performing at a Fargo Cub Scout banquet to performing all over the country. Whether showing off their amazing talents at high schools, North Dakota State University, University of North Dakota, or the state Class A and Class B basketball tournaments, the Acro Team has become a wonderful fixture across the state.
Beyond that, this inspiring team became a highly sought after act throughout the nation. That included performing in front of millions of excited fans at 26 NBA arenas, nine NBA All-Star games, nine Minnesota Vikings games and countless appearances at major universities. The team was appropriately named the official goodwill ambassadors from North Dakota. The athletes represented the state with distinction and thrilled the crowds with their amazing leaps, stunts and dives. They make people feel good. How can anyone not love the Acro Team? That is, outside of the concession stand workers who lost a lot of business at halftimes.
I had the pleasure of covering the Acro Team in the 1980s for WDAY-TV. I observed Sim in action. He was a cool and calm teacher who brought out the best from his athletes. They loved being on the Acro team, and many have become his lifelong friends. Lots of his former performers will tell you of the tremendous impact he’s had on their lives.
Sim will tell you he’s not looking for individual recognition. He will tell you he’s more interested in honoring the team. The reality is by giving the award to Simle (only individuals can be selected), it is honoring the team.
The best comparison is to Rough Rider Award winner Phil Jackson. Coincidentally, Simle coached Jackson at Williston High School. Jackson, a good NBA player, won the award because he coached the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers to 11 NBA championships. Likewise, Simle would be recognized for the excellence of his teams.
There is no other team in the country like the Fargo-Moorhead Acro Team. Giving Simle the Rough Rider Award is a no-brainer.