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Mass. athletics should restore boys’ gymnastics

Massachusetts athletic officials voted to drop a high-school sport last month. It wasn’t football, where head injuries are increasingly linked to permanent brain damage. It wasn’t hockey, which got so brutal at a game in Kingston last year that a hard check ended up in court. Instead, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association voted to eliminate boys’ gymnastics.

The body cited low participation rates — only seven high schools in Massachusetts offer boys’ gymnastics. Many top gymnasts participate in privately run gymnastics programs, instead of their high school teams.

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Still, the MIAA’s move is a shame — and not just for the student-athletes who may not have the means to participate in private programs. Some of those athletes may have the option to join girls’ teams instead, but that can be unfair to girls. The association should find a way to preserve the boys’ program, especially after USA Gymnastics volunteered to write rules, sparing the state body from that task.

Massachusetts high schools have produced two Olympic medal-winning male gymnasts, Pete Kormann of Braintree and Tim Daggett of West Springfield. Boys who want to follow in their footsteps should be encouraged, instead of having their opportunities eliminated.

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