Starting an athletics program from scratch is a difficult challenge for any school. And gymnastics might just be the toughest to get up off the ground floor. A floor routine for example, might sound simple, but even having the right floor isn’t a slam dunk. The first-year Chargers gymnastics team practices at Cupertino High School, where floor routines are practiced on a wrestling mat, not the usual springboard floors that are used in competitions.
“It’s a huge difference [compared to] the spring floor,” remarked Wilcox sophomore Shraddha Hardikar. “This doesn’t have the rebound and absorption capacity that a standard spring floor would so it’s often pretty hard on your joints. It’s great to have this space to work out though.”
Despite the lack of ideal facilities, both Hardikar and teammate Elizabeth Forney are extremely appreciative of the opportunity to represent their school. They are the only two varsity gymnasts for Wilcox this season, they practice with girls from three other schools, Cupertino, Fremont and Homestead under Head Coach Garry DeGuzman.
“All of high school I’ve wished there was a gymnastics team,” admitted Forney. “Even though this is my last year, I’m incredibly grateful we have it at least for one year.”
“It’s really awesome,” added Hardikar. “Especially for me because it’s an opportunity to get back into the sport. I had played club gymnastics before high school.”
Wilcox doesn’t have the minimum four athletes needed to qualify for team scores at meets, but the Chargers do also have two girls currently on the JV squad. Eventually, the the hope is to grow and expand the team.
“I would love to expand the Wilcox team,” remarked Hardikar. “And hopefully have it emerge as one of the stronger, better performing teams in the high school league.”
For now, Hardikar and Forney are doing the tough work to pave the way for the program to grow. And it wouldn’t be possible without coach DeGuzman offering to take on another school under his wing.
“It’s hard to find gymnastics coaches, that’s why I’m coaching four schools,” chuckled coach DeGuzman. “I used to coach JV in addition, but this year, luckily, I have some great assistant coaches. There are other challenges as well, if you look at our facilities. Our equipment is old, hand-me-down equipment and we’re tumbling on wrestling mats.”
Even with the various challenges, Hardikar and Forney could not be more thrilled that Wilcox Athletic Director Laura Stott Hardesty has made this opportunity available for them to compete in the sport they love.
“We sent out a survey last year to current students and asked if there were sports that we didn’t offer that people were interested in,” remarked Stott Hardesty. “We sent out another survey this fall, about 20 kids responded and three or four came to the meeting and we ended up having four girls competing in gymnastics this year.”
“[The Santa Clara Valley Athletic League] commissioner confirmed we only needed one athlete to compete, we didn’t necessarily need a full team,” added Stott Hardesty. “I’m really glad we’ve been able to give [Forney] this experience. And there’s more interest from incoming ninth grade parents that have expressed their excitement that we offer the program now.”