Boys gymnastics faces cancellation

Attendance drops drastically, optimistic for return next season


Will Taylor ’24 practices a routine on the high bars during open house in gymnastics gym on Jan. 18 (Ross/LION)

George Ross, Reporter

The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) has voted on a rule change that has now put boys gymnastics at risk of being cut. The ruling states that if any sport falls below seven percent of schools that have an active team, the IHSA can decide not to continue the sport. The IHSA has not cut boys gymnastics yet, but they will vote on whether to have a 2023/2024 season in June. Boys gymnastics falls well short of the seven percent with only 46 schools that put forth a team this year. Many athletes, parents, and coaches have been stunned by the ruling. One of those coaches is varsity head coach Samuel Zeman, who has been coaching at LT since 1983.

“It’s a slap in the face,” Zeman said. “We’ve been supported for 70 years and to all of the sudden have it happen now, especially given COVID-19, it’s not logical. It’s left a lot of people confused, so to start dropping programs makes no sense at all, this is the time to add or continue sports and not drop anything.”

This new ruling from the IHSA was done quietly and quickly in only a couple of months. The new rule put in place was proposed last June then voted on in October. The ruling has nothing to do with money or budgets, Zeman said. The IHSA is a non-profit organization, so this has been a shock to most in the sport. Some athletes impacted like Nicholas Giordano ‘25 have been in the sport since they were young. 

“I have been doing gymnastics since I was 8 years old,” Giordano said. “If boys gymnastics was cut I would be really disappointed because of how much work I have put into the sport. Gymnastics is not an easy sport to [become] good at. It requires a lot of motivation, toughness, determination and dedication. It has a lot to do with your attitude [and it] requires a lot of self confidence and strength to be successful.”

A lot of athletes compete at the club level for several years before entering high school and compete against other schools. The club level is expensive for many families, costing potentially thousands of dollars each year to compete.

“Some families have spent a fortune doing club gymnastics with the idea that they would come and compete in high school,” Zeman said. “They thought they would have a four year commitment here, and a place to go. Now that could be suddenly gone without warning. There’s a lot of parents that are upset with that too.”

Although the money commitment is a huge factor in becoming a gymnast, the desire to compete for an athlete’s high school is also just as big. One of those athletes, who was expecting four years of high school competition, is Will Taylor ‘24

“I honestly don’t know what I’d do,” Taylor said. “I have been doing club gymnastics [since] first grade up until [now], so the high school program is really my only way to continue doing what I love.”
In Illinois the participation in boys gymnastics has been dropping for many years now. It has never been a widespread sport in Illinois, but the recent drops in attendance are what have prompted the IHSA to review the sport. There are several theories as to why many students do not want to compete in gymnastics. 

“I feel like not a lot of people know about gymnastics,” Matthew Adler ‘24 said. “It’s not advertised and there are no major league gymnastics, so many people don’t think about it. It’s under the radar.” 

However, all hope is not lost on high school boys gymnastics. In the Illinois House Legislature, there is a resolution being reviewed by the committees. The resolution would support boys gymnastics from being cut which could save the sport. The resolution has been approved by the speaker and could be put on the floor for a vote any time.