Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Opinion

June 13, 2013

Fitting victories for boys gymnastics, service clubs

Cheers to the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association on its decision to restore high school boys gymnastics to varsity standing.

The MIAA board of directors’ decision last week came at the plea of coaches, athletic directors and alumni gymnasts from across the state — with Andover High coach Steve Sirois, who led his team to the state championship earlier this year, among the vocal lobbyists for the reinstatement.

In January, after the national federation announced it would no longer write the rules for boys gymnastics because of the decline in the sport nationwide, the state athletic association voted to discontinue its support as well.

Sure, participation in the sport is at an all-time low. Only a half-dozen states in the country field boys gymnastics teams.

Massachusetts is one of them, and while only seven districts, including Andover, support a team, those athletes deserve a chance to compete.

Sirois and the coaches of the other boys teams in the state had vowed to continue the sport next season, with or without MIAA recognition. They were committed to making varsity boys gymnastics a club sport, they said, with the districts banding together to run their own state tournaments.

We’re glad they don’t have to. The MIAA owed it to the sport and its athletes to provide the validation it did.

Andover’s Brian Manning, the 2013 state gymnast of the year and a Junior Olympics competitor as well, says gymnastics, with its five-hour-a-day practices during the season, has taught him determination and discipline.

It’s certainly prepared him well for the next level. He’s been drafted to compete at Penn State, a Division 1 school where he’s headed in the fall.

The MIAA was right not to turn its back on athletes like Manning, who will certainly serve as a role model for future gymnasts coming out of Andover and elsewhere across the state. And the 300 athletes, including the 25 expected in Andover next year, owe Sirois and Manning a debt of gratitude when they hit the mats next season.

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