As participation continues to grow in high school gymnastics, it stands to reason that, over time, more schools will start to sponsor the sport.
In fact, there could be a 14th program joining the AA ranks in 2017-18 with Harrisburg High School in discussions to possibly add the sport as early as next fall.
This is essentially round two in the push to bring a gymnastics team to Harrisburg. There were discussions about adding the sport when Jim Altenburg took over as activities director last fall, but the school board opted to only add competitive cheer and competitive dance.
However, since that vote, even more parents and students have expressed interest in gymnastics, which has led the board to reopen discussions.
Though a formal survey of the student body has yet to be conducted, Altenburg says the conversations they have had suggest the Tigers would have enough participants to field a team as early as next year.
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He also says they have people on staff with gymnastics experience who could be interested in coaching a team.
As for facilities, Harrisburg’s gym is not equipped for gymnastics, but Altenburg says there is a lease option “on the table” and that’s the route the school “might likely” take, though an official decision has not been made.
News of another school exploring sponsorship of a gymnastics program comes as exciting news for area coaches.
“I’m excited to see Harrisburg add,” Mitchell coach Audra Rew said. “I think that’s good for the area around Sioux Falls and for Harrisburg and it’ll help the club programs around there. It all just helps each other.”
“We love having more competition around. It would be fantastic,” added O’Gorman coach Skye Bork. “It’s really good to see more gymnasts out there interested and even getting more schools up and going. I would love to see more AA schools out there add it back.”
The addition of new programs also represents another major step forward for the sport of gymnastics itself.
“In my career, before I coached, it was always gymnastics is going to go away, you’re not going to have it anymore. They’ve been saying that since the 80s,” Rew said. “I feel like we’re just proving to them as coaches and athletes and parents that we don’t want the sport to go away. … There are girls out there willing to make the sacrifice just so they can do the sport for their school. They don’t want to have to move schools. They want to do that sport for their school.”
Follow Brian Haenchen on Twitter at @Brian_Haenchen