SportsEvents Magazine

SEP 2018

SportsEvents is edited for those who plan tournaments or other sports events.

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September 2018 36 t SPORT Report AAU is the largest youth multi-sport organization in the United States and its gymnastics program is healthy and vibrant. Currently, AAU has close to 21,000 gymnastics memberships, including both athletes and coaches. "Our gymnastics membership continues to grow each year as our grassroots program is primarily geared to recreational and small competitive pro- grams," Nichols said. AAU hosts a number of events every year, from small invitationals in each dis- trict (or state) program to large invitationals and regionals, all the way up to the AAU Gymnastics National Championship, the organization's biggest event of the year. The national championship is an inclusive event and is composed of 14 skill levels for athletes from across the country who qualify by competing in their local district (state) championship. Approximately 1,300 to 1,800 gymnasts attend the event each year. A highlight of the national champion- ship is a program called AAU Gymnastics Kids Helping Kids, which is held in con- junction with the event and raises money to support local children's charities. In 2017, the initiative raised and donated $8,000 for Down syndrome research. In 2018, the initiative raised and donated $9,000 for Together We Rise in support of foster children in the Tampa (Fla.) area. "It is the goal of AAU gymnastics to create aware- ness among its participants of supporting others who are not as fortunate or are in need," Nichols said. In addition to hosting fun, exciting and competitive events while also finding ways to give back to local communities, AAU is also doing all it can to be a valuable resource to its membership and improve the sport. Among its top concerns is the safety and well-being of athletes, and multiple initiatives have been established to address this serious topic. All coaches in the AAU program must pass background checks before AAU membership is issued. The organization also has a concussion policy aimed at limiting athlete participa- tion if it appears a concussion has been sustained. In addition, AAU has a youth protection handbook that provides guidance to its members on effective athlete welfare strategies. The organization also offers – free of charge – Positive Coaching Alliance online courses for coach education. Lastly, AAU offers low membership prices for athletes, coaches and club memberships that include comprehensive insurance cover- age while partic- ipating at AAU licensed events and practices. "AAU continues to have open discussion on effective ways to implement safe sport initiatives for all of its athletes, not just in gym- nastics but in the many other sports offered by AAU," Nichols said. The National High School Gymnastics Association (NHSGA) focuses on the growth of the sport at the high school level. The association celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2017. "Our goal is to maintain a quality associ- ation and a quality meet that always puts the gymnast first," said Bethany Mihaly, NHSGA vice president. "We exist for the kids." The NHSGA's top event is the Senior Showcase Invitational, an event for high school gymnasts during their senior year of high school. The invitational is set up as a competition between states, each of which brings their "best of the best," and typically features about 150 participants each year. "There aren't many colleges that offer college-level gymnastics that are attainable for the bulk of gymnasts," Mihaly said. "You must be performing at a high level to make it in college gymnastics so, for many kids, the Senior Showcase Invitational is the last meet they will ever participate in. We try to make it fun and exciting." The United States Association of Independent Gymnastics Club (USAIGC) is another organization that is striving to provide a competitive program for gymnasts across the country and around the world. In addition to the United States, the orga- nization is currently located in Australia, Bermuda, Canada, Dubai, the United Kingdom, India, South Africa and Wales. Currently, USAIGC has approximately 150 clubs with more than 3,500 gymnasts. "We try to grow very slowly because we want to make sure that our members believe in the same values as our organization," said Paul Spadaro, USAIGC president. AAU is the largest multi-sport organization in the U.S. with 21,000 gymnastics memberships. AAU USAIGC has approximately 150 clubs with more than 3,500 gymnasts.

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