Shawnee Mission and Olathe school districts consider dropping gymnastics program

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OLATHE, Kan. -- High school gymnastics might be tumbling out of area schools.

Shawnee Mission and Olathe school districts are considering ending the programs, making this the final year.

Participant numbers have steadily decreased over the years. In Olathe, of the 4,200 girls enrolled in school only 28 joined the gymnastics program.

McCracken’s Gymnastics has been open since 1977.

“It seems like a lifetime ago,” says Linda McCracken.

Linda owns McCracken’s Gym where her daughter Amber is a coach.

“I wanted to follow in my brothers footsteps and it was really neat being a part of your high school,” said Amber McCracken.

Amber’s twin girls are now enrolled at the gym. When the time comes, she won’t be able to see them follow her path and join the high school team. The Olathe School District is recommending to end the gymnastics program after 2016.

“I think for Kansas it’s really been hard because of the funding. The equipment is really expensive. The liability, some people are afraid of, just given the sport itself. The coaching is hard to find,” said Amber.

The popularity of high school gymnastics has steadily decreased in Kansas. For the last 15 years, the number of schools with gymnastics programs and number of participants have decreased by fifty percent.

“I don’t think people were really shocked that the recommendation will be going forward, but it does hurt. These are kids. For some of them, this is their identity. They’ve been doing this since little girls, so that part makes it very difficult,” said Tim Brady, the District Director of Athletics.

Brady said more students are turning toward the club route to pursue their gymnastics. Of linda’s four kids, three did high school gymnastics. Amber went on to get a full ride at Oklahoma University.

“It is a lot of hard work, and it is a lot of dedication, both from the kids, and parent, and the club that they're involved with. You know, everybody has to do their part,” Linda said.

Linda said she hopes that ending the high school program won’t stop gymnasts from pursuing their dreams

There was a parent meeting at Shawnee Mission South and Olathe South to talk about the gymnastics program. The Olathe School Board will vote on this issue in November.

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