Have springboard, will travel

Olympic Gymnastics Center teacher Shawn Ellison watches a young gymnast practice. The facility has become an option for Central Kitsap and Bremerton gymnasts who aren’t offered the sport in each of the school districts. - Mike Baldwin/staff photo
Olympic Gymnastics Center teacher Shawn Ellison watches a young gymnast practice. The facility has become an option for Central Kitsap and Bremerton gymnasts who aren’t offered the sport in each of the school districts.
— image credit: Mike Baldwin/staff photo

D’anne Davidson travels everyday to practice the sport she loves, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Davidson, a North Kitsap High School student who lives in Silverdale, said she loves competing for a private gymnastics club more than for the high school because there’s a more personal interaction.

For Davidson and other student-athletes in Central Kitsap and Bremerton, choices are limited when it comes to the popular sport. Gymnastics isn’t offered in the Central Kitsap and Bremerton school districts, and it’s unlikely to change. But despite the absence of high school gymnasiums, female athletes still manage to compete.

Greg Mutchler, the owner of Olympic Gymnastics Center, has worked at the Silverdale facility since 1993. He coaches Davidson and offers gymnastics as a club sport for Central Kitsap and Bremerton student-athletes interested in competing for the private team. The Olympic Gymnastics Center is 10,000 square feet, and includes tumble trampolines, spring floors and additional gymnastics equipment.

Mutchler said the club team, which currently has 25 girls and trains throughout the year, is a great choice for those who don’t have the option of joining a high school team. He stressed that his athletes must not compete for other squads while competing for the club.

“I look for kids for my team who are very committed,” he said. “Most kids, if they’re really on my team, don’t compete at the high schools because I don’t want someone else coaching them.”

Davidson, 16, is the oldest member on the squad and doesn’t lament not having the chance to compete on a school team.

“I get more time with the coach being on a club team, and I’m able to develop a lot of skills that way,” Davidson said.

Central Kitsap ceased offering the sport in 1975 due to liability and space. Bremerton has never fielded a girls gymnastics team.

Boys basketball, girls basketball and wrestling all take place during the same three-month span as gymnastics, creating a squeeze between the winter sports. Instead, Bremerton and Central Kitsap offer girls bowling.

Mutchler tried to implement gymnastics at Central Kitsap in 2001, a process that he said was very complex. Mutchler said he offered the same amenities as North Kitsap High School, which rents space at the Zero Gravity Family Center in Poulsbo.

He’s told the district that he has a facility and the equipment to provide for gymnasts. The only work by the district would be transportation, Mutchler said.

The offer would have allowed Klahowya Secondary School, Central Kitsap and Olympic high schools to rent space at his facility, Mutchler said, but the district declined, so he continued coaching his club team.

“It was so political and I stopped even trying to do it after they basically told me it was hopeless,” he added. “I had gone through quite a bit of work with proposals and how everything would work, but it didn’t work out.”

Besides club sports, gymnasts are left with the choice of traveling north to perform.

The last resort for Central Kitsap and Bremerton athletes involves the North Kitsap School District. Central Kitsap and Bremerton each have a co-op agreement where students residing in their respective boundaries may compete for gymnastics in North Kitsap. However, roster spots are prioritized for district students first, which could leave more student-athletes out of the gym this season.

North Kitsap High School head gymnastics coach Kris Goodfellow said she has 30 members on this year’s team and she can’t take any more. Goodfellow coached Jessica Lindberg, a Bremerton High School student who trained with North Kitsap from 2002-05 and took advantage of the co-op agreement.

She competed at the Class 4A state gymnastics meet as an individual and was able to use North Kitsap’s resources. However, Goodfellow said she has coached only one other Central Kitsap gymnast.

“It was really cool to give students the opportunity who would not otherwise get it,” Goodfellow said.

Kingston High School head gymnastics coach Sheila Moore was a former assistant for Goodfellow when Lindberg and Forest were on the team. Moore, a 1974 North Kitsap graduate and third-year head coach, said transportation is the biggest obstacle for Central Kitsap athletes who want to compete with North Kitsap.

“I do think it is sad they have taken gymnastics out of most of the Kitsap schools,” she said. “There are gymnasts that take rec programs from the Silverdale and Bremerton area who don’t have high schools to feed into, and they probably choose not to do gymnastics in high school because to come out to the north end every day would cost a lot of gas and time for their parents if they don’t drive.”

Schools choose between girls bowling, gymnastics

Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) Assistant Executive Director Teresa Fisher said there are 35 gymnastics teams in Class 4A, and 49 combined from Classes 3A, 2A and 1A. Those statistics have remained consistent in the past few years, Fisher said.

Schools* that offer girls gymnastics:

Kingston, Port Angeles, North Kitsap

Schools* that offer girls bowling:

Olympic, Klahowya, Bremerton, Central Kitsap, Sequim, North Mason, Shelton, Mt. Tahoma, South Kitsap, Stadium, Bellarmine

*Olympic and Narrows League

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