Gymnastics programs dropped from BC schools: coaches, students upset

The governing body for sport for the province’s primary and secondary schools has dropped gymnastics as a sanctioned sport.

BC School Sports (BCSS) said the rationale was based on low enrollment numbers and gymnastics typically not taking place within the school itself.

In the 2022-23 season, there were only 453 athletes across BC enrolled in school gymnastics, according to the BCSS.

The BCSS went on to justify the decision citing a disproportionate number of athletes in school gymnastics coming from the Lower Mainland and Sea to Sky Country.

“67 per cent (298) of the 453 athletes came from the Lower Mainland,” the BCSS said in its annual Statement of Operations.

“Gymnastics has moved away from being a school-based sport to a community-based sport. In the Okanagan Valley Athletic Association there is not a single school that runs gymnastics in their building.”

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Now, what this means for students who participate in their schools’ gymnastics programs is that they can no longer compete at provincial championships in their sport.

In addition, students will no longer be eligible for an athletic scholarship in gymnastics.

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The decision by BCSS is extremely upsetting to Terry Mitruk, the gymnastics coach at Sutherland Secondary in North Vancouver.

“It doesn’t cost them anything extra. We are a small community. So, the workload is not significantly more. If it’s a workload issue, then tell us and help us resolve that issue,” Mitruk told Global News.

He also takes exception with BCSS’s reasoning and asserts that only around one third of school gymnastic athletes train in a club.

Adding, most athletes, in fact, do train at school gyms with the oversight of school staff.

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He says this also largley impacts young, female students who make up the vast majority of gymnastic athletes.

Many teen girls often drop out of organized sports around the age of 13 but Mitruk says school programs help keep them active and connected outside the academic setting of school.

“Some of them really struggle to connect to their school. They’re unmotivated by their studies. This has given them a support network, a community where they like coming to school. They’re hanging out in a multi grade setting where our senior students are mentoring and tutoring our younger athletes. The benefits are immeasurable,” Mitruk explained.

Kaya Mahony is in grade 8 and says she is quite gymnastics last year but rejoined high school. Now, she’s in disbelief her sport is no longer supported by the province.

“I was really surprised, because everyone seems to really enjoy it. I didn’t think it would ever happen,” shared Mahony.

It’s really like a fun community to be in. Even if you have no experience, you can always just have fun.”

Mitruk thinks it’s unfair to drop gymnastics since the sport is growing in certain zones of BC, mostly in the Lower Mainland, despite being less popular in others, like the Kootenays and North West, where zero athletes were registered this year.

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Mitruk says there’s a lot of questions now about how the sport coaches will change moving forward,

“We don’t know if we will have the equitable access to gym time or be able to advertise programs to the schools when we’re no longer a sanctioned sport.”

In a statement, BCSS has noted that newer sports with growing appeal have recently become sanctioned like Esports and Ultimate.

“BCSS has had to make other difficult decisions in response to changing dynamics and demands across its 6-decade history. Instead, BCSS has added Girls Rugby XVs, Boys and Girls Rugby 7s and Ultimate in recent years in response to evolving trends and requests from its member schools. ”

However, Mitruk does not feel confident in the future of the BCSS’s mandate of inclusion and diversity if sports are being cut.

“There are other sports with smaller participation and certainly our fear is that we are the first sport to be removed, which sports are next? This is now a narrowing of the sport offerings available to students in schools and they need as many opportunities to connect with their schools as possible.”

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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