SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The fate of high school gymnastics is up in the air as the Sioux Falls School Board works to finalize the FY2024 budget.
Current and former gymnasts and coaches have been told the program will be cut due to mandatory decreases in the district’s budget. The Sioux Falls School District did not provide an answer when asked directly about whether the gymnastics program would be cut as the board adopts a final budget.
“The FY24 Budget is currently in draft form and will be presented at the work session on April 5,” Community Relations Coordinator DeeAnn Konrad said via email. “The work session is a time for board members to review all recommendations, ask questions, and make any suggestions for changes. The Board votes for tentative adoption April 10. Tentative adoption means changes can still be made before final adoption on July 10.”
Last month, Rapid City Area Schools cut the gymnastics program due to a decline in participation and if Sioux Falls cuts their program, it could significantly alter the gymnastics competitive landscape for the entire state.
“Now what this is, in my mind, going to be a domino effect,” former Lincoln High School gymnastics coach and South Dakota Hall of Famer Lolly Forseth said Wednesday.
Forseth said without the Rapid City program and the potential cutting of the Sioux Falls teams, the ‘AA’ class would be down six teams meaning that either other schools have less competition or smaller schools may get added to a larger class.
“Now, Mitchell and Yankton and Watertown, three outstanding gymnastics schools for example… Now, who are they going to compete against? And is it fair bringing up a small school and putting those schools in with these kids that are at a different level?” Forseth asked.
Participation in the program hit a peak for Sioux Falls schools during the 2015-2016 year with 133 gymnasts. On average, there were approximately 22 gymnasts at each Sioux Falls high school and 7 gymnasts from the middle schools that year. Since then, participation has steadily declined with only 44 gymnasts across the four high schools during the 2022-2023 season.
“I don’t see any part of gymnastics being promoted to get more students to attend, or helping to raise money for gymnastics, but yet every other sport is promoted and overrated and we don’t complain of how much money those sports cost us,” former Rapid City gymnast Kendra Mastel wrote on Facebook.
Forseth thinks that part of the reason the program in Sioux Falls is struggling is due to where the practices are being held. Currently, Roosevelt High School and Jefferson High School practice together at one school while Lincoln High School and Washington High School practice at a separate school.
“When a kid has to now, after school every day, travel to another school for practice, you might lose some kids because they don’t have rides to get there. They can’t afford transportation there,” Forseth said.
Coaches within the program told KELOLAND News that last fall the district was considering contracting with All-American Gymnastics Academy to host all of the school’s practices. There was pushback from both coaches and gymnasts who said that traveling to southern Sioux Falls wasn’t an option for all gymnasts and would cause the sport to lose even more athletes.