USAG Clubs are Taking a Back Seat and Merely Watching the Story Unfold…

“The uncontested absurdities of today are the accepted slogans of tomorrow.” – Ayn Rand

What is your gymnastics philosophy? Does it involve paying and supporting a National Governing Body that facilitates and enables the destruction of children’s lives? No?

THEN DO SOMETHING!!

Gymnastics clubs across the country need to demand better from their National Governing Body (USA Gymnastics) and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). Club owner and coaches’ silence and do-nothing attitude is exactly what enabled Larry Nassar to become the serial sexual predator he was for decades and why some upper-level coaches have become the emotional and physical abusers they are still to this day. Too many coaches and club owners support USAG by staying silent: they complain in the background about what’s going on, but they aren’t willing to stand up and do something about it. Why not?

The worst thing that could happen in the world of gymnastics has already happened. So now, what are coaches afraid of? A bad score? A fifth place finish? From where I stand, all I see is a huge group of enablers unwilling to put themselves on the line for the children they supposedly love and want to protect out of deference for a corrupt organization that could care less about 99% of gymnasts who won’t make their national teams (our girls!). It disgusts me. I am so angry with my fellow gymnastics coaches who have decided to “weather the storm” or “see what happens” and stick with USAG. It has been two years now, as one horrible story after another comes out. How much longer will the acquiescence continue? Plastic trophies are not worth supporting an organization that is more concerned with other things…

…than doing the right thing for our children. In fact, had coaches stood up and protected their athletes from the beginning, a great number of girls would have been spared their permanent scars and lifetime of anguish.

One coach in particular, John Geddert, of Twistars in Michigan, stands out. Geddert reached great heights as a coach in USAG and was the 2012 women’s Olympic gymnastics coach. He made videos and sent newsletters to gyms detailing how to train athletes, but a few years later he stands out as a prime example of how not to run a gym and coach gymnasts. According to multiple lawsuits, Geddert allegedly knew about Nassar’s abuse from as far back as 1998. And according to Olympian McKayla Maroney, and corroborated by Aly Raisman and Jordyn Wieber, Maroney told Geddert about being sexually abused by Nassar in 2011. Geddert didn’t stand up then, and he’s not standing up now in support of any of the survivors – many of whom are his own gymnasts.

Hundreds of girls could have been spared if USAG didn’t cultivate a culture in which someone like John Geddert could thrive.

It’s regrettable to me to know that so many clubs across the the country have chosen to remain with and defend USAG throughout this ordeal, especially when a positive and viable alternative (USAIGC) exists. Owners and coaches maintain that they are in this business for the kids. But if that were true, then many more clubs would have ditched USAG long ago. There have been plenty of straws that could have broken the camel’s back throughout the past two years. (Even before two years ago for my club!) At any of these points, gym owners, coaches, and parents could have demanded something better for their kids. I have been trying in Arizona, but so far it is clear that USAG’s grip on the clubs here is still too strong.

So many clubs have taken a back seat and watched the USAG story unfold, insisting that it “has nothing to do with us.” Garbage! It most certainly has everything to do with local clubs – from mobility in their lowest levels to meet sanctions at the elite level. To the club owners and coaches who don’t think that the USAG mess is their mess: you are paying for this right now. Your money is in the form of your annual membership dues, your gymnasts’ membership dues, your sanction fees, your continuing education fees, and your meet fees – they are all going to support this organization and its mismanagement. But it would be one thing if this were only business mismanagement. This is the mismanagement of so many innocent lives. Lives that are supposed to be built up by our great sport, not ruined because of it.

The real behaviors that have caused USAG’s downfall have nothing nothing to do with sexual abuse, but with a culture of treating children with disrespect and encouraging and enabling harmful training practices and regimens, which cause emotional and physical harm, and create the perfect places for predators like Nassar and many others to take advantage of vulnerable children. Many clubs may be scared to stand up against USAG because then their training practices and methods might be scrutinized. They might open themselves up to scrutiny for not putting kids first in their businesses, like they contend they do. It’s not too late to change.

There are many more great gym owners and coaches out there than bad ones; I believe that individually, owners and coaches want to do the right thing for their gymnasts. However, they may feel impotent, like the problem is much bigger than they can change; they don’t know where to start, and so they do nothing. If enough individuals stand up, listen to their gut and remember what drew them to coaching gymnastics in the first place, then they can find the courage to stand up against USAG and the mess it has made of gymnastics. It’s up to the individual gym owners and coaches to pick the sport up and start over in a proactive way. USAG’s not doing it, nor do they have the knowledge or the proper philosophy to start making things right. They may not even have the chance to try if the USOC’s threats are followed through.

What life lessons are we teaching the kids we coach if we sit back and do nothing? Sooner or later the kids will realize that their coaches’ doing nothing is what got us to this point in the first place, but the damage might already be done by then – what a shame!

Have courage to stand up for what you say you believe in; don’t say that you believe in something you’re not willing to stand up for. Too much is at stake here. If good people don’t act, then the good are to blame.

If you need the courage to do it: do it for the kids. Visit USAIGC.com and know there is a choice.

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