gymnasticszone.com to ask the coach
Subject: high school teams
Gymnastics Level: n/a – parent
Hi – my question is out of pure curiosity. My daughter is enjoying her club, and will be entering 9th grade next year. Other parents and I have been wondering why there is no school team, because many schools used to have one. What has happened to high school gymnastics in the last 20 years? Is it insurance? The rise of the club system? A more streamlined connection between USAG and college athletics? Something else, or some combination of factors?
There are numerous reasons why high school gymnastics programs are no longer in existence, besides the current level of financial cutbacks to the educational system in both academic and sports areas.
Equipment and Building Expense
The cost of official and safe gymnastics competition equipment is significant to any institution, including educational institutions. While the other competition equipment could theoretically set-up and taken down, a competition spring floor exercise mat is to difficult to set-up and take down on a regular basis. For high school programs this would mean using a non-regulation (and less safe) non=spring floor. This limits the level of tumbling that can be done. The only other equipment solution is to have a dedicated gymnastics gym. Such a building is expensive and there are always other sports in a high school competing for space and budget.
While there is no doubt that insurance costs for gymnastics are always a significant cost that must be budgeted, it is certainly no higher than for cheerleading, currently the most dangerous and accident-prone women’s sport. School athletic programs are able to deal with the insurance costs for any athletic program, including a gymnastics program.
Lack of Qualified Coaches
Private club programs face a shortage of qualified gymnastics team coaches. There is an even greater lack of coaches, willing to work for most school district’s coaching wages, when they could be working in better equipped, higher level gymnastics club programs. The level of coaching, necessary in some other sports, is not as critical as it is when it comes to gymnast safety. While injuries may occur in sports like soccer, tennis and basketball, the risk of catastrophic gymnast injury is too great to leave to untrained or inexperienced coaches.
Closer Relationship Between College and USAG Programs?
USA Gymnastics has expanded its control into a number of other somewhat similar sports, including tumbling and trampoline among others, but it does not have any significantly closer connection with NCAA Collegiate Gymnastics, than it had when jr. high and high school gymnastics programs were more prevalent.
Mike Jacki, former president of the USGF gymnastics federation, (now called USA Gymnastics), pointed out that NCAA regulations would make it impossible for private clubs to privatize collegiate gymnastics teams and programs. But it would seem possible for private clubs to privatize jr. high and high school gymnastics teams and programs. It would be interesting to see some private clubs try this out as a profit center and a community service.
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