Gymnastics in the balance as B.C. high school sport governing body considers cut

UPDATE May 13, 2023, 5:15 p.m. — ​​​​​​ B.C. School Sports voted in their Saturday AGM to remove gymnastics from its list of recognized activities and cut province-wide competitions. 

“It is important to note that should a school district or zone wish to continue to operate gymnastics programs and provide competitive opportunities in gymnastics they are encouraged to do so, despite the absence of a provincial championship,” they wrote in a press release. 

The organization governing secondary school sports in B.C. may eliminate gymnastics from its offerings.

B.C. School Sports (BCSS) is deliberating whether to cut gymnastics at its AGM this weekend, leaving young athletes and the adults around them shocked.

A motion states gymnastics has “moved away from being a school-based sport to a community-based sport.”

“Because of this disconnect with the school, [athletic directors] are often not informed that students are part of the gymnastics ‘community’ team. Registration is often incomplete and late, resulting in fines that the schools need to cover.”

A man stands in a gym with gymnatics rings behind him.Terry Mitruk says he’s not sure what the future holds for high school gymnastics in B.C. if Saturday’s motion passes. (Nicholas Allan/CBC)

The motion also states that participation in the sport is “heavily proportioned towards Lower Mainland schools and athletes.”

It states the cutting of the sport will lead to “immaterial” savings but “reduces the load on schools, BCSS infrastructure and staff.”

‘It just makes no sense’

BCSS gymnastics advisory chair Terry Mitruk, a teacher and coach at Sutherland Secondary in North Vancouver, rejects those arguments.

He says it’s disappointing and concerning that the sport is in jeopardy, especially when 85 per cent of athletes in the sport are girls.

“We have a problem of teenagers dropping out of sport, especially girls dropping out of sport,” Mitruk said. “It just makes no sense we would not continue to provide an activity that engages a diverse group of students.”

BCSS stats included in the motion show that for 2022-23, there were 453 gymnasts registered in the province. It’s not the lowest-registered sport, but it is nowhere near the thousands of kids participating in basketball, volleyball or track and field.

A chart shows student athlete numbersA chart in the BCCS AGM package lists sports and the numbers of student athletes registered for each sport. (B.C. School Sports)

Arianna Reid, a Grade 12 gymnast at Sutherland, says the sport should stay.

“It’s unlike some other sports in many different regards,” Reid said. “It’s also very inclusive … Everybody’s just really accepting and it’d be a really big shame to take that different community and family out of the high schools.”

Another gymnast, 17-year-old Czech international student Lenk Krizkova, said the sport gave her a sense of connection in a new country.

“The team at the school, for me, it’s the closest of family I have in Canada,” Krizkova said.

Mitruk and the athletes said the alternative to school teams are club teams, but athletes may face prohibitive costs or waits to join.

CBC News tried to contact B.C. School Sports but did not receive a response to interview requests.

The motion is expected to be voted on on Saturday.

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