Unclear future for boys’ gymnastics

Athletes take to the podium as South’s boys’ gymnastics has qualified for state again. However, this might be their last time because after decades of competition, boys’ gymnastics may no longer be a Illinois High School Association (IHSA) sport, Brandon Tucker, Varsity Head Coach, explained. Currently, the IHSA is voting on whether or not to keep boys’ gymnastics next year, according to the IHSA website.

Because of the lack of competition and the small number of high schools participating in the program, IHSA is considering cancelling the boys’ gymnastics state championships, which would affect Illinois gymnastics programs including South’s, in existence since 1962, Tucker explained.

“IHSA has deemed that the number of teams competing in the state does not pass a new threshold they set,” Tucker said. “The possible cancellation is deeply troubling to me, [Boys’] Gymnastics is a niche sport that offers a safe home and family for all of the members of our team.”

The team has a small but strong community, and eliminating gymnastics is harmful to those participating, Lucas Smalec, gymnastics athlete, explained. The gymnastics program will still be an option, it just might not be through IHSA, Smalec said.

“IHSA is getting rid of a sport I loved, which is sad,” Smalec said. “It makes the team feel like we wasted all [of] these years trying to get better, and it [has] all been thrown away.”

When a smaller percentage of athletes participate in the sport, it gets less recognition, leading to less people being interested in continuing and or joining the sport, freshman Charlie Richards said.

“It is upsetting, but we still get to compete [this year],” Richards said. “We do not know if there will be a state meet or a conference. Many people might not play next year [if] it is not as big of a sport.”

Though their future as an IHSA sport is uncertain, South’s boys’ gymnastics team will work to continue for future seasons, Tucker said.

“[South is] committed to keeping the sport alive if the IHSA pushes us into emerging sport status,” Tucker said. “The Illinois High School Gymnastics Coaches Association is working on creating a plan to host meets so participating schools could keep the high school gymnastics experience.”

However, there are still actions that athletes are taking to prevent this from happening, Smalec said. Gymnasts are taking to social media to call out and protect their sport, Smalec explained.

“Many of us are writing letters to IHSA and sending in videos,” Smalec said. “Most schools are also posting their results on Instagram using the hashtag #savehsgymnastics.”