Boys gymnastics’ future in the air

IHSA to consider ending state series


Senior Michael Glowacki performs a high bar routine at a home meet on March 22. The IHSA is scheduled to host the state finals this year on May 12 and May 13. Photo by Jada Glazebrook

During the boys gymnastics off-season this year, head coach Ryan Dul called the returning gymnasts to the gym to deliver the news that this year’s IHSA postseason could be the last for boys gymnastics.

“He told us, ‘Come to the gym,’ and we didn’t really know what it was about,” said senior Shane Vayser. “I think maybe a couple of guys knew, but I didn’t know what it was about. And he brought it up, and it was just really disappointing. It wasn’t what I wanted to hear.”

The IHSA is considering the discontinuation of the boys gymnastics state series because of a policy in the IHSA handbook regarding low participation.       According to this policy, if a sport does not have participation from at least 7 percent of IHSA member schools, there will not be a state series.

Fifty three schools are entered in the boys gymnastics state series this year, consisting of 43 teams and 10 individuals, which does not meet the 7 percent requirement of 57 schools, said Tracie Henry, assistant executive director of the IHSA. 

“This will be something for the board to review,” said Henry. “They can go in a number of ways. They could choose to continue with the state series and not apply the policy as it’s written, but that’s ultimately up to the board.”

The Illinois High School Gymnastics Coaches’ Association, also known as the IHSGCA, has been discussing the low participation rates in boys gymnastics all school year. 

“As a coach, I feel like our sport is just a great opportunity for kids to find their place within [schools],” said IHSGCA president Jason Brandenburg. “So I feel like, with some support, we can get our participation numbers not only back to where they were, but even better. I just think that it’s going to take time and support.”

According to Dul, the board of directors is scheduled to meet for its annual review of every sport in June, during which the board plans to make a decision on the continuation of the boys gymnastics postseason.

“[The possible end of the postseason is] not fair to the guys who are in the gym, so it’s frustrating,” said Dul. “It’s sad. It’s annoying. You hit all the emotions. But at the end of the day, you just have to be happy for the guys that do come out and that are there.”

The Glenbrook North boys gymnastics team has 29 gymnasts. A team needs to have at least three gymnasts who compete in all six events to be considered a full team by the IHSA.

“My junior year, there was this one kid from a school that didn’t even have a gymnastics team that [spent time with] our team for a meet,” said Vayser. “So he [hung out with] our team for whatever that one meet was … and we treated him like our own.”

IHSGCA coaches have been coming up with ways to increase boys gymnastics participation in existing programs and kick-start programs at schools that do not have them. 

“There have been some challenges,” said Brandenburg.“For instance, there have been athletic directors that I’ve been in correspondence with that do not want to take the time to add the gymnastics team to their school if they feel like it won’t be around next year.”

If the IHSA does not host a state series, schools or the IHSGCA could still choose to offer a boys gymnastics postseason.

“Just because the IHSA might not run it anymore doesn’t mean it’s going to fall apart,” said Vayser. “We still have our equipment, we still have our mentality, and I really think that’s all that’s necessary.”