Braintree Athletic Director Exploring Responses to MIAA Dropping Boys Gymnastics
The MIAA's board of directors dropped the sport from its official roster, though its reasons remain unclear.
Michael Denise, Braintree High School's athletic director and the director of the state boys gymnastics tournament, is among those working this week on a response to the decision by the MIAA to drop the sport starting next year.
Denise said in an interview Tuesday that the vote by the association's directors did not come as a surprise – there had previously been discussion at the state level about ways to address participation in the sport – but that he learned about it first from a Boston Herald reporter and that he is still waiting on more details, expected to arrive from the MIAA this week.
Each year between 115 and 145 student athletes from seven schools participate in boys varsity gymnastics, Denise said. They attend school in Andover, Attleboro, Braintree, Burlington, Lowell, and Newton North and South.
There are 10 Braintree boys gymnasts this season. Through one or more of a variety of options that Denise and others have discussed, Denise said BHS will more than likely offer boys gymnastics in some form next season.
"If we have the numbers to support the program, we should run the program," he said. "Our job as educators is to provide opportunity."
Earlier this school year, the National Federation of State High School Associations declined to write new rules for boys gymnastics, citing a lack of participation by enough states. This, at least in part, lead to the MIAA deliberations, Denise said.
In a letter earlier this school year to the MIAA, Denise said he wrote about the negative effect dropping boys gymnastics could have on the sport by pushing boys, with their stronger power in events like floor and vault, into competition with girls.
He also outlined options for increasing the sport's viability, including creating a coach's association, introducing club sports and/or forming regional teams. All involve their own challenges, especially the latter, which would, for example, require agreements on practice facilities, transportation and funding splits.
"We're looking at a lot of different angles and being creative, but it's up to the individual school systems," Denise said.
BHS boys gymnastics coach Rich Ellis, in a public letter following the decision, said that the "MIAA Board of Directors has no understanding of the impact of this decision" and that Braintree's program has been in place for more than 50 years.
"We, as parents, coaches and student athletes deserve a reason why this is happening," Ellis said.
In addition to learning more about the reasoning behind the decision, Denise said he is looking into whether or not a formal appeal is possible.