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Gymnastics, like music, art and other niche sports, has suffered greatly from educational budget cuts. Fewer high schools feature gymnastics programs. Kids are lucky, these days, if they get physical education (PE) at all. Cuts have hit so hard at the college level, the number of NCAA men’s gymnastics teams has gone from 270, only a few decades ago to just 16, now.
The sad and frustrating part is that enthusiasm for boys and men’s gymnastics continues to grow, but boys and men have fewer opportunities to pursue it on a competitive level, in a way that pairs gymnastics with an advanced education.
As the number of college teams has plummeted, so have scholarships to compete and attend school. That, in turn, makes for fewer educational opportunities for many male gymnasts’ who rely on athletic scholarships to offset the expense of college.
What we’re seeing is men who want to continue with gymnastics — while they’re bodies are in their prime — end up forced to choose between gymnastics and a higher education. Because of these cuts to teams and scholarships, male gymnasts are being deprived of opportunities to get an education on par with other athletes.
What ends up happening is that male gymnasts stay local and attend a community college, rather than a larger university, so they can still do gymnastics at their own club or gym. Fewer men at the larger, NCAA affiliated schools also leads to an impoverished NCAA field when good gymnasts get weeded out based on scholarship opportunities and scant team availability.
We spoke with a dedicated men’s gymnastics coach who’s taken a different tack to keep his athletes both in college and in the sport of gymnastics at a high skill level.