Gymnastics reinstated in schools

The Baltimore Sun

The Anne Arundel County school department has reinstated its high school varsity gymnastics program, after canceling the sport because of a lack of coaches and student participation.

Annapolis and Severna Park high schools, which had struggled to find coaches by the season's Feb. 28 practice start date, have hired coaches to oversee their gymnastics programs.

"I am pleased that we now have enough coaches to be able to field gymnastics teams at six of our schools and can proceed with the spring season," said school superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell. "Our athletic departments had searched for months to find coaches and had no success, so we were forced to make the decision we did. It is my hope that the coaches who have now stepped forward will be involved with these programs on a continuing basis so that we do not have this situation in future years."

Maxwell announced the discontinuation of gymnastics as a high school varsity sport Feb. 9, citing sagging participation and a dearth of coaches.

County school athletic rules require that at least six of the county's 12 comprehensive high schools field varsity teams in a sport for the school system to support it, school officials said. And this year, Annapolis and Severna Park high schools could not find coaches. Last year about 95 girls and 20 boys participated in the program in six schools. The other schools are Arundel, Broadneck, Chesapeake and Old Mill.

Bob Mosier, a school spokesman, said the school department would have saved up to $75,000 if the sport were to remain canceled, but he said the potential monetary savings played no role in the initial decision.

The county's gymnastics community rallied after hearing of the cancellation, calling the school department, forming a Facebook group highlighting its cause and distributing petitions.

Kira Shaffir, a junior at Annapolis High School who has been participating in gymnastics since she was 8 years old and helped organize a petition drive, spoke out at last week's board of education meeting.

"Gymnasts are supposed to be strong and dedicated, and we persevere," Shaffir said. "I think the board of education picked the wrong people in the wrong sport to deal with. They should have seen it coming."

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