Bob Lockwood has been on both sides of the youth gymnastics dilemma.
He coached gymnastics when it was a varsity sport at Kansas University, and now he runs the Kansas School of Gymnastics, a joint venture between the Lawrence Parks and Recreation Dept. and KU.
The sport is torn between the two factions. Though private club membership is on the rise, scholastic competition is on the decline.
"It's definitely on the downswing in public schools and on the upswing in private clubs," Lockwood said. "It's just a matter of lobbying, and I don't think the USGF has lobbied very hard for college or public school programs."
The United States Gymnastics Federation is the sport's governing body, and Lockwood blames the USGF for the decline of gymnastics in the schools.
"IT'S GROWING in leaps and bounds in the clubs. That's probably typical of a lot of activities, like little league baseball and swimming and tennis, where the best ones come out of age-group clubs," Lockwood said. "I think the gymnastics community has come to the conclusion, if you're going to build Olympians, you're going to start with little kids, and the best way to do that is through the age-group clubs."
Lockwood's age-group club certainly is prospering. In the same city where the boys' high school program twice has been dropped because of lack of interest, the Kansas School of Gymnastics is prospering.
The KSG just finished its seventh season. Lockwood started the program for parks and rec at the Community Building, where he drew about 95 youths.
Lockwood initiated a marriage between the city and KU, and membership immediately jumped to 300. Now, the school has over 700 members, from preschoolers to high schoolers.
"For a population of this size, we've done really well," Lockwood said. "Fortunately, the cooperation between parks and recreation and the phys ed department has made it affordable. Some clubs charge 10 times as much."
FEES RANGE from $28 for an eight-week session for beginners to $50 a month for competition members of the KSG team.
The school uses Robinson Gymnasium on the KU campus.
Because he's been on both sides of the issue, Lockwood insists the two should peacefully coexist.
"It bothers me," he said. "My background is from the teaching part of it. There is a place for high school gymnastics.
"And at the college level, there are hundreds of guys unable to be on the Olympic team. What do they say to them? If you're not one of the top 24 gymnasts in the nation, you can't compete?"