He was a top runner from Miami who abruptly stopped Cross Country one day to focus on Gymnastics. That decision led to All-American honors at Lipscomb in both vault and rings under legendary coach Tom Hanvey. Tim Richards now owns Let It Shine in Franklin, Tennessee. It could well be the largest and most successful gymnastics club in the world, where more than 100,000 students have trained. His staff of 170 coaches works with 4,000 students each week in facilities branded with Matthew 5:16. We learned a lot when Tim sat down this week with LipscombSports.com.
What years did you compete for Lipscomb?
I came to Lipscomb in the fall of 1976, and I graduated in 1980. I competed on the Gymnastics team under Coach Tom Hanvey.
What teammates were most memorable?
My two most memorable teammates were also my best friends and roommates – at different times – in college, Drew Davis and Kit Bunger. The truth is, to this day they are two of my best friends.
When I came to Lipscomb, I had no idea what I was getting into. I grew up in Miami and was not accustomed to a school with rules, and I had never heard of the church of Christ. These two guys had no idea what to do with me, but they were absolutely the best friends anyone could ever want. Kit would come into my room on Sunday morning and ask if I wanted to go to worship service with him. I remember telling him, “Kit, I just snuck in this dorm three hours ago. I need some sleep!” But he and Drew never gave up on me – they were, and are, such faithful friends.
Their example to me became a foundation of our goals at Let It Shine. Our students have done very well, but our goals have never been to help them win individual awards or make them national champions. We strive to help them get college scholarships so that when they go to college they can have a team to surround them, to hold them accountable, to love them, to walk with them. College life is a daunting task, and we are determined to do whatever we can do to surround them with a team that provides the right type of support.
What degree did you earn?
I graduated from Lipscomb with a teaching degree (K-12) in Health, Science and Physical Education with a minor in History.
Why did you attend Lipscomb?
My gymnastics coach in Miami knew Coach Hanvey and I’m sure they connected at some point, but the truth is, I can’t explain – even today – how I ended up at Lipscomb.
Coach Hanvey’s job was really hard. In those days Nashville wasn’t near as fun as it is today, yet he had to recruit high school gymnasts to come to a small town, to a very small school, and further – to a strict school. It was a tough sell, and all I can say is it must have been part of God’s master plan for me to come to Lipscomb. That’s my only explanation. Coach reached out to me, I visited and fell in love with the town and the rolling hills, and eventually I found the beauty in the people and relationships.
Here’s a scoop: I was a runner in high school, and I had committed to Appalachian State. They had the top Cross Country team in the nation at the time, but in my junior year in high school, I woke up one morning and just quit. We were running probably 100 hours per week, and I was a much better runner than gymnast, but my heart turned. Thankfully, Coach Hanvey saw something in me. I look back now and realize Lipscomb is clearly where God ordained for me to be. God had a plan for me all along.
What is your favorite athletic memory at Lipscomb?
I imagine it was our junior year, when our ring team was the #1 team in the nation – that was a pretty big deal. We were competing against schools with 20,000 students, and we had, what, 1,800 at the time? That felt like a huge accomplishment for our little team.
Here’s another staggering fact to me, which is an incredible compliment to Coach Hanvey: we trained 10 hours per week in those days. By comparison, my gymnasts at Let It Shine who are working to get college scholarships train double that – 20 hours each week – and we are one of the lowest hour training clubs in the nation who are nationally ranked.
And a quick note: those 10 hours of training included our setup and breakdown each day, including the mandatory cleanup of our chalk dust from Coach Meyer’s basketball court before his team started practice. He was not a fan of our dust, and looking back, I suppose I don’t blame him.
Who influenced your athletic career at Lipscomb?
Tom Hanvey was clearly the greatest influence for many of us. He was a man who believed in us, who fought for us, and who blazed a trail in collegiate gymnastics.
What can you recall about Lipscomb campus life during your time here?
I remember spending the majority of my first three years rebelling, to the point that I was ready to quit and go home after my junior year. The man who kept me here was the Dean of Students, Dennis Loyd.
There were students at that time who resented student-athletes, and I understand that – many of us were not at Lipscomb for the right reasons, and we sometimes made life rough for other students. So at one point the administration actually decided it might be best for me to live off-campus. I’m pretty sure I was the first student granted that privilege. It was a bold move, but one to which I – thankfully – responded positively. That move really helped turn my life around. However, at one point a student accused me of throwing a wild party at my apartment, and Dean Loyd brought me in to his office: “Tim, I need to know the truth. I know you and I’m going to believe your answer, but I need to hear from you the truth.”
I respected him enough to never let him down, and I told him honestly that in this case, the accusation was false.
My memory of campus life is the simple fact that I found at Lipscomb a small army of people who supported me, helped hold me accountable, and felt a responsibility to help me grow closer to God.
What are the most valuable things you took from your time at Lipscomb?
I learned a lot, but I took two specific things from Lipscomb: two of my best friends that I still walk with today, and the fact that I learned the importance of the Word of God.
I would love to say the top thing I took from Lipscomb was my education or the ability to make a business plan that helps me run a crazy gymnastics business, but I can’t say that’s the case. What I can say is that God placed in my life at Lipscomb two great friends who became the perfect business partners. Whatever I needed, God provided people who were smarter than me who helped me take our business to the next step.
Lipscomb was a great place. That’s why I never went home to Miami. I came from a beautiful town, but I fell in love with middle Tennessee and the people here, and except for a 10-month business pilgrimage to Atlanta, I’ve never left.
Who were your favorite professors?
I had lots of classes with Coach Hanvey, and those were always very good. I also remember several education classes with Joyce Rucker, who was so incredibly kind to her students.
What do you do now?
In 1983, after teaching gymnastics to children since I was a student at Lipscomb, I started Let It Shine in Franklin, Tennessee. I had no idea what I was doing. I was a brand-new husband, a brand-new father, and a brand-new business owner; and I was clueless in all three. God is so gracious and forgiving, He had me every step of the way and was faithful even in times when I got off-target. He was always faithful.
I think of Let It Shine as an athletic Sunday School class. We purposefully drafted our mission statement: Our mission is to provide exceptional gymnastics programs in a state-of-the-art facility instructed by staff who emulate the life of Christ. We want our members to have fun and develop their minds, bodies, and souls in the safest manner possible all for the glory of God. We acknowledge that we are not perfect, but we pursue excellence by seeking continuous improvements in every aspect of our business.
Tell us about your family:
Janie and I have been married nearly 38 years, and we have three wonderful children. T.J. lives near Seattle, Washington and has one son. Tanner, who lives here in Franklin with three daughters, coaches and helps run Let It Shine. Our daughter, Tabitha, lives in southern California and helps run two gyms there.
- Favorite food: Lobster
- Favorite TV show or movie: “Lonesome Dove”
- Favorite Bible scripture: Matthew 5:16 – “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
- Favorite sports team: Miami Dolphins
- Pet peeve: Procrastinators
- Person I most admire: Janie, my wife
- Person I’d most like to meet: Procrastinators
- Pick one – salad or dessert: Dessert
- Dream vacation spot: The coast of Maine
- Early morning or late night person? Believe it or not, both
You can reach Tim by email at email@example.com, and you can learn more about Let It Shine at www.lisgym.com