Boys in Illinois

Boys gymnastics is more popular in Illinois than in any other state. There are 54 schools in Illinois that field boys’ teams.

Gymnastics can be appealing for a high school athlete because previous experience isn’t required to enjoy success.

Foerch cited Highland Park gymnast Mark Gauger as an example. Gauger qualified for the state tournament in the parallel bars as a senior in 2005 despite taking up the sport as a sophomore.

“They don’t have the golden arm in baseball and this is a sport where they can come out and have a good time,” said Jon Wasik, a two-time all-around state champion at Mundelein in 1992-93 and now an assistant coach under Foerch. “A lot come from track, (or) wrestlers who have short, compact bodies. Those translate.”

The whole bit about previous experience not being required is interesting to me. I wonder if the reason they can still field teams is because coaches in Illinois are perhaps more welcoming of those with less experience than coaches in other states. Some coaches seemingly look down their noses at lower level gymnastics skills. Especially when performed by older people. Coach Rick posted something that illustrates the sort of mindset I’m talking about recently. In a post titled “Gymnastics at Blue Heron School” he writes this:

Tumbl Trak, one of the co-sponsors, sent me to assist at a 2-day fitness event in January. We taught “gymnastics” to students at Blue Heron Middle School in Washington State.

Notice the quotes around the word gymnastics. These kids were doing handstands, swinging on a bar, using gymnastics equipment to do gymnastics drills but for some reason, probably because they were teenagers, the skills they were doing were considered “gymnastics” instead of gymnastics.

Only three state high school associations still sanction the sport. Besides Illinois, New York and Louisiana are the other two. Massachusetts just voted to downgrade boys gymnastics to a club sport.

A gymnastics coach from Braintree High School is scheduled to appear before the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association Thursday to fight for the sport he loves.

Richard Ellis will have three minutes to speak and one goal in mind: Persuade the MIAA’s board of directors to recognize boys’ gymnastics as an official high school sport and reverse its decision to downgrade it to a club activity next season.

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