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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.
“The Watson-Raines Gymnastics award was established in honor of coaches Gene Watson and Mike Raines who were pioneers in the growth of Georgia Men’s Gymnastics. Their passion and commitment to the sport provided an innovative approach which was the catalyst for the success of many coaches and gymnasts who began their careers in Georgia. Their award is given in recognition of a male gymnast with financial need whose time and talent in the sport embody the philosophy of commitment, achievement and sportsmanship,” Peachtree Invitational website. To catch this year’s meet in action, February 24 -25, 2018, visit http://peachtreeinvitational.com/ for more information.
The meet is run by an Atlanta School of Gymnastics (ASG) coach who should have an award named after him in his own rite: Nathan Renato Simmons.
Nathan and one of the namesakes of the award, Gene Watson, coached men’s gymnastics at ASG for years developing the men’s team. Gene started the Peachtree Men’s Invitational meet 34 years ago. Nathan took it over when Gene moved away to pursue other coaching opportunities elsewhere in the US.
Nathan works as a lawyer whose passion is gymnastics. In his younger years, he was one of Bob Boudreau’s gymnasts, a coach whom he counts as his best and lifelong friend.
Nathan talks about his life as a gymnast and a coach and the formative experiences that have compelled him to work with kids in the sport of gymnastics in this short film:
Nathan’s goals are simple: Teach kids to grow up to be good people who work hard and reach success.
GMR’s founder, Mike Raines, has known Nathan and Gene for years.
Nathan and Mike are pictured here proudly giving out the Watson-Raines award in 2014. (more…)
Do you live in Men’s Gymnastics Region 8? (Hint: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee).
Do you know, coach or parent an accomplished, senior male gymnast who enjoys a stellar GPA at his high school? If so, we’d love to consider him for our annual 10.0 Award!
Every year, we accept and review nominations of excellent high school male gymnasts, who live in the Region 8 area, who might benefit as recipients of our 10.0 Award. Candidates must submit a biography outlining their gymnastics accomplishments, their academic record and a short essay describing their extra-curricular activities. (more…)
Born in ’52, George Michael Raines, President of GMR Gymnastics Sales (Yep! GMR…) found his passion for gymnastics at pools, trampoline parks and Lakeside High School.
An active, but shy kid, Mike practically grew up in the neighborhood pool and took to diving as a sport at age 10. Family outings to the local, in-ground trampoline park and his brother Tom’s trampolining at Briarcliff High School inspired Mike to try out for his school’s gymnastics team in the 8th grade. Mike remembers, still sounding a bit disheartened, “The coach dropped me because he wanted the older guys.”
“When I got to the 9th grade, my school didn’t have a team, as such. Guys who liked gymnastics tumbled on horse hair mats in the cafeteria after school. We did it on our own.” (more…)