Gymnastics team faces recurring challenges due to lack of support


Ellie Barnett-Cashman

The gymnastics team practices at North Star Elementary School, where they share a gym with Washburn, Southwest, Edison, Henry, and North high schools. “We go to North Minneapolis, and there’s a facility there called North Star that we got 6 years ago, that’s where all the gymnastics teams go to practice,” said Gabby Stickney.

Fardus Hassan, Staff Writer

The support and acknowledgement the gymnastics team receives is minimal at best, from South administration to district staff, the gymnastics team has had to fight to keep themselves going. Many people don’t even know that South offers gymnastics and are often surprised to hear that South does have this program. There are multiple disadvantages of having less representation for a sport, such as receiving less funding and less support from administration.

“There’s just less [awareness], I never really hear about [gymnastics] being talked about in school or announced on the speakers. Most people don’t even know it exists. It’s not as represented as football, soccer, running and stuff like that. I’ve gotten used to telling people that there’s a gymnastics team and them getting surprised,” said sophomore, Amelia Nelson.

On top of the lack of awareness about the program, the gymnastics team also doesn’t receive many resources from the district, which puts them even more behind. “It’s frustrating, I think we could be as big as any other sport at South if we were given the right resources,” said senior and captain of the gymnastics team, Sasha Gitler.

Gymnastics coach, Gabby Stickney has been coaching the team for 13 years, and began coaching after attending South and being on South’s gymnastics team herself. Stickney wanted to give back to the team after all of the struggles she faced with the coaches as a gymnast. “I wanted to come back and coach just because of the issues we went through with other coaches, I wanted to be a stable coach for the team in the future”. The gymnastics program has gone through numerous hardships while Stickney has been coach that she has had to overcome. “We’ve faced a lot of problems,” said Stickney.

“One of the big problems is that they built this school so there is no space here at the school to do all athletics, so we have always had to travel to do our sport”, Stickney continued. Having to travel to their gym is a problem that stems into other even bigger problems, it means that the team will have to pay for buses with their limited to nonexistent budget. The team practices at North Star Elementary School, a closed school in North Minneapolis, where they share a gym space with all of the other Minneapolis gymnastics teams, and have been for six years.  “We never know if we are going to have the funds to pay for busing, to get to practice. This year they’re telling us there’s a good chance that at the end of the season that the team itself will have to pay [for busing],” added Stickney. “We had to stop using our bus, so now we’re carpooling,” said Nelson.

Over the years, South’s team has switched from competing with Roosevelt, Edison, Henry, and North to practicing with only Roosevelt and competing separate and more. “When I first joined we were competing as South-Roosevelt, so we were all one team. As the years went on, they just started drifting away from each other. They ended up combining [a bunch of schools] as one Minneapolis team… [They said] we can either do that or each school can compete separately,” said Gitler about her experience since she joined the team six years ago.

The district has been very inconsistent with the team, often changing things right before a new season starts, leaving coaches almost no time to adjust. “I think a lot of what we’re facing is push back from the Minneapolis Public School District as a whole, mostly the people in charge of athletics for the district. The district has changed a lot of things for us last minute throughout my time on the team. What they want to do this year is to have each team represent their school and with the budgeting that we’re given and with the [small] number of people that really do join gymnastics it’s all really hard. Even though we are [a joint team with] Roosevelt, we practice together and we still see ourselves as a team, we still have to compete as separate teams which really sucks. We’re one big family,” said Gitler.

Gymnastics isn’t an easy sport, it takes not only a lot of time and endurance, but is very expensive as well. “It’s an expensive sport and it’s hard to get started in it if [a team isn’t] in your community… We want to be able to have anyone and welcome anyone to our team, but if you can’t afford to pay for the leotards or be able to pay the booster fee it just sucks because we aren’t given the resources to support people in that way. It’s just really frustrating when we get girls who quit because they can’t afford it, we don’t know what to do,” added Gitler. Another reason is that the gymnastics team at South is so small is because they lack the financial resources given to other teams that would allow them to thrive. Many students can’t afford the expensive price of being in gymnastics, making girls have to quit.