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Greening your Meet
By Lainy Carslaw - Pittsburgh Northstars

Has this ever happened to you:
You’re at the State Meet, huddled into a circle around the vault table for your fourth consecutive coaches meeting in one day, struggling to pay attention. The meet director passes out rotation sheets and then asks if there are any more scratches. Turns out there is one: Alexis Smith, in squad D. The meet director grumbles and then proceeds to re-print thirty more rotation sheets to hand out, without Alexis Smith’s name on it.

Have you ever thought about this:
Why on earth did every coach need an entirely new rotation sheet when only squad D was affected? In fact, why did squad D even need a new sheet? Couldn’t the coaches simply have used a pen to make any small adjustment that was required? Or how about this for revolutionary: couldn’t the meet director just post one rotation sheet and the coaches who want a copy can just screen shot it onto their phones, saving hundreds of sheets of paper (and money) over the course of an entire weekend?

If you haven’t thought about the paper we waste on rotation schedules at meets there is probably a good reason. Because this behavior is normal. This is how we’ve always done it. Because we have not evolved enough when it comes to being environmentally conscious in our industry. Printing less rotation sheets is a good place to start but there are many more things we can do to become more green as a gymnastics community.

For example, here is another doozy…t-shirts! Yes, the ever beloved meet t-shirt. Gymnasts love these things! But unless Grandma likes to sew and is willing to patch them into a handmaid quilt someday, they are, most likely, going to end up rotting in a landfill within the next few years. According to an article in the Huffington Post, “The production of one t-shirt uses up to 700 gallons of water. Aside from the harmful chemicals used to dye and fade, cotton uses 25% of the world’s pesticides.” And if that is not alarming enough, the EPA estimates that the average American throws away 70 pounds of clothes, adding up to 11.1 million tons of textiles each year world-wide.

What can we give-out to our eager young gymnasts instead of a t-shirt, you might be asking? How about a small gymnast charm? A reusable bag with the meet logo on it? Or an inscribed glass that will remind them of your meet each time they drink out of it?

And while we are on the subject of drinking, have you ever thought about the massive amount of water bottles used in just one competition? Between spectators and thirsty athletes, an average meet can go through hundreds of bottles of water in just one session. A few years ago, Mary Lee Tracy gave the coaches reusable water bottles at her meet, The Coaches Spectacular. There were re-fillable water stations throughout the venue saving hundreds of bottles from living out the rest of their toxic filled existences in a landfill somewhere for the next thousand years because, guess what, very few meet-sites even recycle. This was generous and conscientious of Mary Lee, but you don’t have to wait for the meet directors—you can bring your own, or get water bottles made up with your name on it for you and your team, because let’s be honest, how often do you take one sip of your water and then forget which one was yours after watching your team warm-up beam? Sometimes you play a germ-filled version of Russian roulette, guessing which one was yours, but most of the time, (admit it) you just end up grabbing a new one.

The last thing to consider is the awards themselves. I don’t know about you, but as a gym owner, the thought of adding one more dust collecting trophy to our shelves just gives me a head-ache anymore. And as a gym mom, the thought of finding a place to hang one more medal gives me an even bigger one. I understand trophies and medals are tradition, but is there another way we can make the kids feel special other than giving them something shiny to hold above their heads or around their necks for thirty seconds?

Here are some ideas: The Steel City Invitational in Pittsburgh used to hand out only one award banner over the entire meet weekend to each team. The level and placement were attached to each banner at the end of the weekend. Or how about this? MONEY! Who doesn’t love money?! I know, it might not be as fun to gaze at as a polished trophy, but you could use that money to take that winning team to dinner or purchase a piece of equipment and have the kids who helped buy it graffiti their signature on it somewhere. Or how about things we could actually use like equipment- mats, beam covers, or chalk! If you are thinking, “girl, you cray-cray, we love our bling” then don’t forget—there are places that will recycle your old trophies so please look on-line before dooming them to an eternity in your nearest land-fill.

When I asked my students for their ideas, their answer: chocolate! Come to think of it, when is chocolate not the answer?

These are just some ideas on how we can work together to become a more environmentally friendly industry but I am sure there are many, many more. Change is hard. And we, as coaches, know more than anyone that old habits are hard to break. As former President Obama said, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we have been waiting for.”

I would love to hear what you all have done in your own gyms to become more environmentally conscious. Please email them to and we will list some of the top ideas in next month’s issue of Technique.

Lainy Carslaw, Pittsburgh Northstars
3069 Navajo Ct
Gibsonia, PA 15044