ANDOVER — A controversial decision by the state’s top athletic organization to drop boys gymnastics as a varsity sport will be reviewed early next month.
The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association’s board of directors voted 7-2 Wednesday to revisit its January decision to no longer recognize the sport because the participation across the state and country have fallen to all-time lows. The board will take another vote on the issue June 6.
The coach of the Andover boys gymnastics team, Steve Sirois, said that MIAA recognition of the sport is “very symbolic.”
“People understand (gymnastics) is important,” he said. “It’s about more than doing an iron-cross or a handstand. We are coaching kids who are going to be future leaders.”
In February, the Andover team, comprised of just seven students, won the state gymnastics tournament, besting six other high school teams that still field boys gymnastics squads. But the win was tempered by the MIAA decision, due to take effect next season. The MIAA holds the annual state tournament and is the conduit for gymnastics rules generated by the National Federation of High School Sports.
When the national federation announced it would no longer write the rules for boys gymnastics because of the decline in the sport nationwide, the state athletic association voted to discontinue its support of the sport, said Paul Wetzel, a spokesman for the MIAA.
“The national federation is no longer going to write rules, and we were going to be forced to do something,” he said. “Either find a new source of rules, write our own rules or discontinue sponsorship of boys gymnastics.”
He said that given the low number of teams and participants, the decision was made to revoke sponsorship of the sport.
“Simply put, it was mostly a case of saying, ‘If you have a sport with this few participants, maybe we shouldn’t do it anymore,’” Wetzel said, adding that only seven or eight states have gymnastics.