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Olympic medal winner Peter Kormann criticizes decision to cut boys gymnastics

Posted by Your Town  January 31, 2013 01:00 PM

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Olympic medal winner Peter Kormann is adding his voice to those objecting to the decision to stop sanctioning boys gymnastics in Massachusetts.

In a letter to the Globe, published in full below, Kormann makes a number of arguments, including that gymnastics is a good outlet for students who might be too small for other sports.

"Being an Olympic medalist, collegiate coach and Olympic coach has brought me wonderful experiences in the sport of gymnastics,'' Kormann writes. "My most cherished by far, is my time on the team at Braintree High School. I learned everything there. I learned life’s lessons. It’s a shame others will not have that chance.''

Kormann, a Braintree native, won the Bronze medal in the 1976 Olympics.

The Globe reported that the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association decided earlier this month to end recognized competition among the handful of high schools that have boys’ gymnastics teams. The seven schools with all-boys’ gymnastics programs are Andover, Attleboro, Braintree, Burlington, Lowell, Newton North, and Newton South.

Girls gymnastics would continue.

Here is Kormann's letter:

I was saddened to read Emily Sweeney’s article, January 24, 2013, about the MIAA,s decision to eliminate boy’s gymnastics from the Massachusetts state high school championship schedule. Clearly this will eliminate boy’s gymnastics participation at the high school level in the state. This is an unfortunate event for a sport that has produced positive results in not only the athletic achievements of thousands of Massachusetts’s high school boys over the past 50 years but also helped shaped their lives as better citizens.

40 years ago in 1973 I had the honor of being a member of the Braintree High School State Championship boy’s gymnastics team. Gymnastics however was not my first choice of sport. I ran track, cross country, played basketball, soccer and baseball. My problem was, I wanted to be a really good athlete but I was the smallest and lightest kid in my class. I was happy playing other sports but I wanted more, I wanted to excel. I realized after repeated attempts that most high school sports require larger heavier guys and I was out of luck. So, I found gymnastics. You didn’t have to be big and the harder you worked, the better you became. High school sports should not be just for large boys and girls. It should be for everyone who is willing to achieve the benefits of sport through hard work.

At Braintree High School under Coaches Joe Schuhwerk and Dave Ellis, I learned how to work hard. I learned the meaning of TEAM personal sacrifice to achieve your goals. I learned that every day is not always good but if you preserver you can succeed. In short, I learned life’s lessons.

I the end I did excel winning the NCAA Championships and the first Olympic medal for the United States in modern day gymnastics history. I was lucky to have also become a collegiate coach for 20 years and the United States coach for the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Teams.

I am proud to be a male gymnast. In your article, MIAA Spokesman Paul Wetzel said this of boy’s gymnastics; “It’s a girl’s sport. They don’t get on the cover of the Wheaties box”. I never felt I was in a girl’s sport, just as boys who play soccer don’t, even though more girls play soccer than boys. If the MIAA standard for Massachusetts high school sports is the potential to be on a Wheaties box, perhaps they should state this in their rules and policies.

Participation for high school boys and girls in sports like gymnastics has never and will never be high. Sports like gymnastics and swimming require specialized coaching and facilities. This does not mean these sports have no value and should be dropped. Diversity is a good thing. It has helped make America great. In speaking with gymnastics state coaches, athletes and athletic directors, everyone wants to continue their gymnastics programs. I attended the state championship last year and found it to be a quality event. Burlington High won a close and competitive contest. I don’t know if any MIAA board members attended the championship, but if they had, they would have witnessed a quality high school championship.

Being an Olympic medalist, collegiate coach and Olympic coach has brought me wonderful experiences in the sport of gymnastics. My most cherished by far, is my time on the team at Braintree High School. I learned everything there. I learned life’s lessons. It’s a shame others will not have that chance. For a sport that for 50 years has assisted thousands of Massachusetts high school boys in their pursuit of excellence to be eliminated in a single meeting without a valid explanation seems more than unfair, it seems un-American.

Sincerely,

Peter Kormann
Braintree High School
Class of 1973


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