High school varsity gymnastics is a gymnastics program that is fully sponsored by an individual high school, not a private club. High school gymnastics operates similarly to other high school sports programs you may be more familiar with, such as football, soccer, or swimming. Though some high schools may have equipment on campus, other programs partner with USA gymnastics member clubs and travel off-site to use their facilities. All costs of participation are covered by the school. Coaches are paid by the school district as employees of the high school but are also required to be certified coaches with USA Gymnastics. Participating in gymnastics through your high school is a great way for families without the financial means to participate in gymnastics.
This pathway was extremely prevalent in the 1970s and earlier, when high schools with gymnastics programs were common across the country (check out the movie “Grease” for an example!). From 1971 to 2001, there was a decrease in high schools offering gymnastics from 1,881 schools to 176 schools. This is due to a large number of factors, including the cost of gymnastics equipment (at least $20,000 to start), the dedicated space required for gymnastics, the cost of liability insurance, and the lack of qualified instructors. This is the reason for the large number of private clubs in the United States.
Currently, the only states with high schools offering gymnastics are:
If you live in one of the states listed above and are lucky enough to attend a high school that already has a program, then you can sign up for gymnastics the same way you would for any other high school sport. You can find more information on your school’s athletics page. If you attend a high school in a state with boys gymnastics, but your high school does not have a program, then you can start your own program! All you need to do is:
If your high school had a program in the past or offers gymnastics as part of its PE curriculum, then you may already have equipment at your school. Additionally, if your school has a girls’ gymnastics program, then, due to the overlap in several apparatuses between women’s and men’s gymnastics, they have ⅓ of the equipment required for boys’ gymnastics or may already have a partnership with a local private club.
Participants may have prior gymnastics experience (even as high as level 10) but could also choose to begin their gymnastics journey in high school. Though a small number of high schools may have equipment on campus, the majority of programs partner with USA gymnastics member clubs and travel off-site to use their facilities.
Because gymnastics in high school is a winter sport, some programs offer their team members the flexibility to participate in other sports during the off-season. Athletes in Fall or Spring sports could use gymnastics as an opportunity to improve strength and balance to gain a leg up on other athletes in their sports.
All states follow USAG level 7 rules, which are tailored for beginner gymnastics, but can also allow for higher-level athletes to excel. Each state will have different modifications to the rules, such as the level of a deduction for small, medium, and large errors, but they all try to stick closely to USAG level 7.
The season lasts from November to March, with practices for about 10hrs per week. The number of competitions varies by state. In Massachusetts, where there is a small number of schools, there are 2 regular season competitions plus a State Championship each year.
High school gymnastics differs from many other high school varsity sports in that the programs do not generally feed into collegiate programs. For high school athletes who had prior gymnastics experience (USAG level 10), it is possible but rare to continue to an NCAA or GymACT program in college. For most other participants, you can continue to train/compete in gymnastics at a similar level with an NAIGC club. Many colleges and universities have existing NAIGC clubs, or you can start your own!