SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The Sioux Falls School District pays less than $100,000 per year for all four public high schools to have a gymnastics team.
The district told KELOLAND News Tuesday that the cost of the sport is just one element of current budget considerations. Last week, coaches and gymnasts were told that the district would be cutting the sport as with the current budget being drafted this spring.
“The annual cost for gymnastics is approximately $95,000, with an estimate of approximately an additional $260,000 – $300,000 of new equipment needed in the short term and more over the next several years if offered at each high school,” multimedia specialist Tory Stolen told KELOLAND News.
Sources inside the gymnastics program said that last fall the district was in talks with All American Gymnastics Academy to pursue a $200,000 contract for all four high schools to use the training facilities.
In addition to cost, the district is comparing the attendance of gymnastics to other new sports being offered. According to the district, several “high-interest” sports have been approved for middle schools including girls’ soccer, performance dance and wrestling.
“Softball has shown strong participation rates. Because of the increased participation of over 60 students this year, the Board will consider approval for a girls’ wrestling coach,” Stolen continued.
The district said that the decline in participation seen in gymnastics has not been seen in other sports, “before, during, or after the COVID pandemic.” Additionally, sports that don’t offer transportation to and from practice such as cross country, golf and softball have not seen similar declines that gymnastics has, the district said.
Several gymnasts told KELOLAND News that a lack of transportation to practices is driving the decline in participation.
KELOLAND News asked the district for the number of athletes for other sports offered by the district and the allocated costs from the annual budget for each sport but have not received any of that information.
Another factor being considered by the district is the lack of interest in coaching positions. During the 2022-2023 season Jefferson High School and Roosevelt High School shared a head coach with each school having separate assistant coaches. Similarly, Lincoln High School and Washington High School shared a head coach with an different assistant coaches for each team.
“The need for adequately trained coaches and the low number of participants has required the programs to be combined,” Stolen said.