IHSA: boy’s gymnastics not up to ‘bar’

Karl Vachlin (LP 24) prepares for an event as a leader of the boys gymnastics team.
Karl Vachlin (LP ’24) prepares for an event as a leader of the boy’s gymnastics team.

Founded on December 27th, 1900, the Illinois High School Association has grown to become the high school sports authority in the state. The first state championship was held eight years later for boy’s basketball, in which Peoria defeated Rock Island 48-29.
Since then, many sports have been added, the most recent being girl’s wrestling just three years ago. (The first girl’s sport added was tennis in 1972, almost certainly because of Title IX and Billie Jean King.)
Last June, the Illinois High School Association cut boy’s gymnastics from their official list of sanctioned sports, along with competitive debate. In the 124-year history of the IHSA, the last time a sport was cut was in 1982. Those involved with boy’s gymnastics worried this drop would come following declining participation numbers, but the help they hoped for didn’t arrive.
The IHSA did operate boy’s gymnastics for many years after it fell under the minimum threshold identified in the bylaws for the number of schools participating. The impetus for the move came when the sport continued to decline. Less than 7% of IHSA member schools offered boys gymnastics as a competitive IHSA sport.
It’s worth noting that a drop from the official sports list doesn’t mean the team can’t continue the sport they love.
But it does mean they can’t participate under the big banner of the IHSA or compete in the statewide contests. Though they can organize their tournaments between schools, the jurisdiction and logistics will be entirely up to each party, meaning they won’t have the same recognition as the state-wide organization.
With the recent victories of our Lancettes, one can hardly imagine cutting such a successful sports program.
But looking at the gymnastics team’s success, it’s clear the IHSA does not see the situation in the same light.
Executive Director Craig Anderson cited the “years of decline in participation” as the principal reason for the cut; gymnastics no longer met the required seven percent participation threshold to maintain its position. But Karl Vachlin (LP ‘24) holds a different perspective.
As a school-record-holding gymnast, gymnastics has been a major part of Karl’s life for years. He feels “disappoint[ed] and frustrat[ed]” by the decision, especially because “they have done absolutely nothing to increase [participation].”
Coach Novakowski feels that if the IHSA aims to support high school athletes to further their playing careers, it wouldn’t make sense for them to drop a sport off the list. That would place the organizational burden on the individual athletes and schools, a burden that the IHSA was founded to carry.
Director Anderson has said that they would “always review” a proposal to reinstate the sport, but doesn’t think they will get back to the required threshold soon. Other sports are on the rise, notably girl’s flag football, which Director Anderson believes will have been officially added as an IHSA sport beginning in the spring of 2025. As a not-for-profit organization independent of government oversight, however, one can only wonder how many sports they are financially able to provide for. Should enough sports get cut, we may see more of a public movement to increase representation for these subtractions.
It was just last year that the Lancers won it all downstate in the gymnastics championship. What a drastic change from today’s feelings of exclusion. So how are they coping?
Open gyms still take place, often at East Campus. They are trying to gather interest in the form of informational meetings, one of which was held on January 30th. Until the IHSA decides to reinstate the former champions, this could be the new reality for Lake Park boy’s gymnastics going forward.
If you’re interested in joining or know someone who might be, reach out to Coach Novakowski ([email protected]).

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Lake Park Perspective

Your donation will support the student journalists of Lake Park High School. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Lake Park Perspective

Comments (0)

All The Lake Park Perspective Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *