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Athletes inspired by Olympics

Nick Boozang has a theory about the Olympics.

“I think it makes most people feel bad about themselves,” he said. “They see these marvelous athletes, and then they look at themselves and say, ‘Wow, what am I doing?’”

Boozang, this sage from Dedham, is 14 years old.

The Olympics are over, the pictures of athletic grace gone from television sets and the historic accomplishments in the books. And Boozang’s theory is playing out in even truer fashion than he may know, according to those who track sports on a large scale.

The Boston Ski and Sports Club, which runs sports leagues for 47,000 people annually, has seen a 14 percent jump in registration for its fall leagues. The sports with the highest percentage growth were those in which Team USA brought home gold: volleyball, soccer, and basketball. There has also been a jump in registration for field hockey, where Team USA performed dismally, but had cute outfits.

Emmett Vorspan-Stein, 17, practiced backflips during a class at Cambridge Community Gymnastics.Tamir Kalifa for The Boston Globe/Boston Globe

“When America wins, it translates all the way down to local sports teams, and on the field you can feel an increase in the energy level,” said Nancy McGeoghegan, sales and marketing director for the Boston Ski and Sports Club. “People feel victorious, and it’s a conversation piece.”


The YMCA of Greater Boston also had a noticeable jump in people enrolling in its fitness programs, especially in July, the month leading up to the Olympics, when it was more than double the number of people from the previous July.

“There are certainly a lot of factors involved, but the fact that the Olympics were on TV every night led people to say, ‘I’m going to hop off the couch and do something about it,’” said Mark Dengler, senior vice president in charge of membership.

Perhaps the most noticeable impact in the Bay State is the Aly Raisman effect. The morning after the Needham gymnast took gold in the team competition, the Burlington gym where she trains — Brestyan’s American Gymnastics Club — was flooded with parents signing their children up for gymnastics. That was before she added another gold and a bronze in the individual competitions.


Samantha Barnes, 20, jumped on a trampoline at Cambridge Community Gymnastics, where classes have been overflowing with new members since the Olympics began.Tamir Kalifa for The Boston Globe

The quadrennial impact on gymnastics — and those other Olympic sports that only get their due every four years — is nothing new. “The boom is something we know all about, and USA Gymnastics sends out a magazine to members telling them to prepare for it,” said ­Abbie Green, executive director of Cambridge Community Gymnastics.

Their classes — which are aimed at adult beginners; the oldest is 63 — have been overflowing since the Olympics ­began, in some cases four times the typical number.

“We don’t get a World Series or a Super Bowl every year, like everyone else does,” Green said.

For parents, though, the Olympics can trigger other emotions.

“I think we’re too late,” said Nicole Lopez of Blackstone, as she pointed at her 13-year-old son, Aiden Belanger. “You really have to start young.”

At Castle Island in South Boston, Siobhaun Johnson chased her 22-month-old son, Luke, around the playground, and he was showing great sprinting potential every chance he had.

“Now that I’m a parent, you look at the parents of the Olympians and you realize at some point they committed to activities that inspired them,” she said. “And it makes you think about what you expose them to, what could inspire that later.”


But, she said, that choice is up to Luke. Her job, at this ­moment, is to pay attention and watch for smiles. At that ­moment, it was the swing set.

“Let’s just say that if there was an Olympic sport for swings, he would take the gold medal.”

Billy Baker can be reached at billybaker@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @billy_baker.