Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Sports

June 13, 2013

Boys gymnastics sticks varsity label

MIAA agrees to return high school sport to official standing

Practicing in the gym five hours a day is hard enough.

But when the state organization overseeing high school athletics decided to pull the varsity label from boys gymnastics earlier this year, Brian Manning was not a happy tumbler.

“I thought it was extremely unfair,” Manning said. “To be honest, it’s a sport you have to start when you’re young, but many people don’t get interested in it until later. Just when they got interested in it, they couldn’t do it.”

Hearing pleas from athletes like Manning, who was named the 2013 state gymnast of the year, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association late last week decided to reinstate boys gymnastics as a varsity sport, pleasing coaches, athletes and many others.

Steve Sirois, coach of the Andover High School boys gymnastics team that won the state championship this year, testified at the MIAA board’s bimonthly meeting in Franklin last Thursday in an effort to convince its members that the sport deserved the varsity label.

He joined the state’s six other high school gymnastics coaches, along with the athletic directors from the seven school districts that offer boys gymnastics. Five alumni gymnasts from around the state accompanied them at the meeting.

“We all got a voice,” Sirois said. “We were very well-received. We weren’t pointing fingers at anybody. We just came to talk about our sport and how important it was and what a great beginning it could be for a young man.”

He said the MIAA board members seemed impressed with the coaches and athletic directors, including Andover’s Don Doucette, as well as the student-athletes who spoke.

“They saw that we had class and passion for the sport,” Sirois said.

In January, the MIAA voted to discontinue recognition of gymnastics as a varsity sport, starting next year. According to MIAA spokesman Paul Wetzel, the national governing board of high school athletics had made a determination that because only a half-dozen states in the country field boys gymnastics teams, they would no longer promulgate rules for the sport.

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