Waukesha YMCA discontinues competitive gymnastics program | Waukesha County News

WAUKESHA — Competitive gymnastics, a longstanding program at the Waukesha YMCA, has been discontinued.

Chris Becker, CEO YMCA of Greater Waukesha County, said as a not-for-profit organization, the YMCA is committed to providing relevant programs and services. During the height of the pandemic that became even more challenging. Becker said program participation has varied and labor shortages impact the ability to provide some specialized programs and staffing costs have increased dramatically, putting a strain on an already tight financial plan.

Stay up-to-date on all the latest Waukesha County news with a subscription: Click here

“Due to extreme staffing difficulties in the highly specialized field of competitive gymnastics and the reduced number of participants by more than one-half, we have made the difficult decision to discontinue the competitive gymnastics team. We are fully committed to rebuilding a quality and consistent developmental and instructional gymnastics and dance program and feel confident we can secure and retain the staff leadership to manage the programs. We take these operational decisions quite seriously and have an experienced and dedicated staff leadership group that thoroughly analyzes key operational matters,” Becker said.

Parent’s response

Thirteen-year-old Lucy Reed has been part of the Waukesha YMCA Team Gymnastics program since 2019.

The competition program provided Lucy with friendships outside of school, which her mom thought was important as it gave her an outlet from all that was going on at school and girl drama issues, according to her mom Leah Reed.

“My girls have been in so many team sports and clubs and the Y provides the girls with the ability to compete and enjoy doing what they love without a lot of the pressures that other teams tend to put on the girls,” Leah Reed said.

Leah Reed said she has been pretty upset as her family feels they will be losing a second home.

Melissa Starner has two children (ages 9 and 12 years old) in the competition program at the Y. Her children had been taking gymnastics classes through Waukesha’s park and recreation department. The girls outgrew the program and joined the program at the Y. “It allowed growing their gymnastics skills and both tried out for the team and made it on the team,” Starner said.

Like Lucy, Starner’s daughters made many friends and provided an outlet if they had a rough day. Starner said there was so much growth in their social skills and learning good sportsmanship. The Y’s program allowed her daughters to have balance in juggling school, competition, practice, family and friends.

Starner said she was devastated after hearing the news about the program going away. A private club isn’t in her family’s budget and has different time commitments.

The West Bend YMCA offered to take members of the Waukesha competitive gymnastics team. Starner said the drive time wasn’t a feasible option as it is a 45-minute ride one way.

“They were heartbroken as a club wasn’t going to be an option. We don’t have an option for them to compete now,” she said.

Becker said over the years the participation in the program has been stable and averaged 120 kids on the team. In 2019, pre-COVID, there were 105 kids enrolled. This year the organization anticipates enrollment to be in the 30-40 range.

“It is a significant reduction in the number of gymnasts,” Becker said.

Starner said a big reason for the decrease was the pandemic. The first season back was last fall and Starner said perhaps the kids felt uncomfortable returning. She added there could be people who didn’t know they had returned post-pandemic.

“We needed to rebuild the program and get the word back out there to schools and other YMCAs in Waukesha County. We needed to say we have space for more girls and boys to join,” she said.

Starner said she agrees there was a struggle over the past year with staffing shortages.

“We did lose a number of coaches right before COVID and during COVID for different reasons and not due to the program itself or YMCA,” she said.

When word got out about the program being eliminated, Starner said, four coaches stepped up to come back and the team had a tentative practice schedule.

Information was presented to Becker and other YMCA staff. Starner said the decision was made to eliminate the program in September regardless of that.

“If we were able to continue the program, the gymnastics director (vacant position) would have to have a high level of competition, experience, be able to coach and train at that level and physically be able to spot or assist,” Becker said .

Becker acknowledged the gymnastics parents did make a proposal and said parents spoke to coaches who would be willing to work part-time, “We can’t build a program around a few part-time staff,” Becker said.

He added the YMCA needs to have a qualified competitive gymnastics director to be able to lead the program and department.

“We could not commit to magically being able to find someone throughout the summer. That is why we notified parents two weeks ago that we did search both within the YMCA and gymnastics contacts and we were not able to find a qualified director,” Becker said.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.