Long known for girls gymnastics, Wilton gets a new boys program

Largely through the success of the high school team, Wilton has become known as one of the hotbeds for girls gymnastics in Fairfield County.

Nearly 260 girls ages 3-18 take part in the Wilton Family Y’s thriving gymnastics program, with 60 of those competing for the Y’s competitive gymnastics team.

But boys gymnastics? Virtually non-existent.

“We’ve had boys in girls classes,” said Tom Jagelka, the Y’s director of gymnastics, “but only a boy here or there.”

In an effort to change that, the Y is launching a preschool (ages 4-6) boys-only gymnastics program this fall. The class will meet on Fridays from 11 to 11:45.

“We’re not sure where we’ll go with this, but it’s something we wanted to get off the ground,” said Jagelka. “If we see that the interest is there then we can grow the program.”

Due to increasing enrollment for girls programs, the Wilton Y moved its gymnastics training to a separate location on Danbury Road (in the upper floor of the former Stand Firm Fitness building) earlier this year. The added space in the new training center is also making it possible for Jagelka to introduce the boys program.

“Space was extremely tight before,” said Jagelka about the previous training sessions in the Family Y gym. “No way we could have considered starting a boys-only program.”

The boys preschool gymnastics program will focus on teaching fundamentals, with participants practicing tumbling and vaulting and working on a mini set of parallel bars.

“We may even walk them on beam for balance and motor skills,” said Jagelka.

Men’s and women’s gymnastics both include vault and floor exercise, with men also competing on pommel horse, parallel bars, still rings and high bar for a total of six events. Although most of those apparatuses won’t be necessary for the preschool program, Jagelka said the Y would have to add a pommel horse, still rings, and a set of regulation parallel bars if the program expands to include older gymnasts.

“We’re still in the infancy stages,” said Jagelka. “But we will add equipment if the boys program turns out to be a hit.”

A former gymnast himself, Jagelka has witnessed the steep decline in boys gymnastics over the past few decades. Area boys-only programs are rare, with only a handful of private clubs offering classes. Jagelka said the Lakewood-Trumbull YMCA was the only other area YMCA he knew of that had boys gymnastics.

“When I competed in high school in New York City, there were lots of boys gymnastics teams,” said Jagelka, who went on to get a scholarship at Long Island University. “Now it is rare for high schools to have a boys team.

“In Wilton, the boys who try gymnastics usually leave to do another sport,” added Jagelka. “But it’s a great way to develop strength and balance and coordination. We’re hoping it can catch on here.”