For Parents “A Letter I’ll Never Send”

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Proud Parent
Feb 6, 2014
Twin Cities
My DD is still working through her stint at a terrible gym.. and I thought I would share how she felt/feels in her own words, which I find more powerful than anything I could ever say on the subject. My mom input is this: when you know something is wrong in your gut, take action. Always trust your kid, right away. Better to err on the side of caution even if it hinders gymnastics.

“A Letter I'll Never Send

He said, "Everyone thinks you're a little angel but you're actually a devil. Everyone thinks you're really smart but you're actually very dumb. You don't try hard and you're not doing good enough. It's a good thing I don't have to like people to coach them because I wouldn't coach you. I honestly don't know why I waste my time on you. And don't even think about switching gyms because no one else is ever going to want you."

It’s been two years. So why do I remember every word you said and the way you said it? Why do I remember the the look in your eyes and tone in your voice? Why do I remember exactly where we were standing and the way you seemed to look over me? Why do I remember how I bit my lip so I wouldn't cry but did anyways? And why did I start that conversation never having cried in gym because of hurt feelings and then left it doing the exact opposite?

Who do you think you are? Who told you that it as okay to treat a kid that way or treat anyone that way for that matter? You created a gym so toxic that your gymnasts envied injured athletes because they didn’t have to deal with as much pressure. You brainwashed us into treating every word that came out of your mouth as the gospel, everything you did as a just action. And I revered you. With that power, you could say anything and I would believe you. You could manipulate my emotions, watch them play across my face, then humiliate and penalize me for having them.

That kind of power must’ve been intoxicating for you, wasn’t it? You created a bubble where you were always right, therefore making me always wrong. All my problems were my fault. You must’ve loved that, didn’t you? You must’ve gotten some sick satisfaction from watching me give more than I had to this sport, only to fall apart because I wasn’t meeting your standards. That’s all I ever wanted, was for you to like me. I feared you, I dreaded eye contact, I had to be forced to talk to you, and yet I still spent my time seeking your approval. You knew this, you wanted this, you liked feeling powerful. I was your favorite, so that meant you wanted the best for me, right? Well, thats what you said. When there were other people around you praised me, saying how hard I worked and how far I’ve come. But when we were alone you made sure I knew that I was lazy, not good enough.

My anxiety got worse and worse, OCD coming with it, but that was my fault, right? It didn’t matter anyway, that’s just how gymnastics was. Right? I dealt with it, I dealt with all of it. But imagine staying through all of this. All the days where your favorite sport was turned into something to be dreaded. Staying with all the girls who hated you. Staying through the days where you felt increasingly trapped. Ignoring all this because I was just being dramatic, right? Imagine staying through all of this, slowly breaking yourself in this sport to impress you, only to have you tell me that not only was I not good enough, you didn’t even like me. You thought I was stupid. You thought I was a little devil. You thought no one else would ever want me again. You used your power to put this in my head, and to make me think gymnastics was worth more than I could give. And I was oblivious to the fact that this was all wrong.

Well, it’s been two years. I still think about my time at your gym. I still have that exact conversation run through my head at times. Sometimes I wonder what you would think of me now, what you would say to me, or what I would say to you. I doubt you even remember my name; yours is forever etched in my mind. I still go through periods where my heart hurts a bit, and my mind stays on this. I still go through periods where I fear feeling that trapped again, trapped by the anxiety that you taught me was normal. I still don’t really trust coaches to spot me, and I have to actively not get invested in gymnastics like I was because I fear letting someone have control over my feelings like that again. I still go through times when I want to tell people about my time with you, but they don’t understand it. They weren’t there, they didn’t see, and they didn’t live in my head. Even this letter can't explain the full extent of it.

Emotional abuse is often misunderstood or overlooked. And that’s what you were, abusive. And I realize now that I’m mad. I’m furious that I left you thinking that I was still that nervous girl, trapped. I left you thinking that I still revered you. Well, I have news for you. I’m not that girl anymore, and I stopped having respect for you a long time ago. Now it’s my turn to say it- I don’t even like you. You’re pathetic, and I hate you. And this time, I’m not saying sorry.”
What to say. This is an Amazing letter brought tears to my eyes. You should be proud of your girl. If I were you I would give her a big hug. I would then send this letter to Kerry Perry and ask her to consider these feelings and these precious thoughts of a "normal" gymnast. Tell her this is what she needs to fix. Coaches need to learn to treat any girl giving her all with the proper respect that every athlete deserves the problems with elite teams would also disappear.
I would encourage her to send it, and if that coach isn't the gym owner I'd also send it to the gym owner.

I had a horrible teacher in high school. He seemed to hate me from the day I walked through the door. He taught a class that opened itself to subjective grading and he always graded me insanely hard, other students noticed that work I did to only earn a "C" would have been a high B if not an A for them. He said some awful things to me. I wish that I knew if he was still teaching today and if he was I would absolutely get in touch with the school and tell them the type of teacher they were employing. I even tried to find him years ago; but I never did.
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Breaks my heart what some of our kids have to go through with coaches. If these were schoolteachers, it would never be tolerated, so why do we tolerate it from coaches? I am so sad for your daughter.

I agree though that you should send it. It's therapeutic to write the letter, I'm sure, even without the intention of sending it, but on the other hand, I feel like there is so much talk like this, that never actually gets addressed with the person it applies to. What if we all told coaches how we felt about how our kids are treated? We can't expect things to change for the kids that come after, or even for our own if we aren't willing to say anything to those mistreating/abusing the kids, right?
So powerful.
And I'm so sorry she is fighting his evil, but I'm so glad for her that she has found her spot right where she is. I hope her remaining years in gym are full of excitement and happiness!
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I love your kids. And they are both amazing and brave and strong. And I am so proud of her for being able to articulate this. <3
Thank you! I feel like that silly momma that people laugh about, but I honestly think that anyone who knows my girls in real life would see the absurdity in the things he said. My kids are filled with light. They are truly good humans. I know I’m supposed to think all the good things about them, but I don’t think it’s rose colored glasses.
Thank you! I feel like that silly momma that people laugh about, but I honestly think that anyone who knows my girls in real life would see the absurdity in the things he said. My kids are filled with light. They are truly good humans. I know I’m supposed to think all the good things about them, but I don’t think it’s rose colored glasses.

No kids are perfect. And I know you know that. But remember you are the one whose daughter sought me out, a relative stranger except via text to her mom, at a meet, to help her with her friend's hair for competition. She's a good soul, articulate, and kind. This coach clearly cared not one iota about her or any other athletes as humans, which should be their first priority.
I agree, your kids are awesome, as are you as a parent, and it is clear even having only “known” your family through words over a few years. This coach was a despicable prick, and also a moron. This letter shows great maturity, far more than the “coach” it addresses. I actually love the idea of sending it to Kerry Perry, even anonymously. It is important that USAG understands it is not just sexual abuse that we parents are going to be on the lookout for and hold this organization accountable for. I hope you’ll tell her how the CB community thinks she’s wonderful and insightful and strong to be able to articulate her feelings and not let him own her thoughts anymore.
Heartbreaking. But also makes me livid! Having met you and your girls I completely agree with they are filled with light and are amazing humans. And even if they weren't a Coach should never abuse their position of power to inflict that type of abuse. I am so happy at least through words she is taking back her power and hopefully he will never Coach again.
If I didn't know where he was , I would send it to Perry, the new USAG head , basically telling her , it's not only the big guns like Valeri who engage in this and mention that you "heard the gym was out of business and he was no longer coaching but that you want this ON RECORD AT USAG that you told them about this abusive coach by name, and your hope that he never coaches again under the USAG auspices."....and leave your name and number "in case you'd like further information on this particular individual" ...hopefully, you'd get a response.
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Best I can do. I have emailed the safe sport director and was shackld t ge aa fe replies.
Wow, I bet writing that letter was very therapeutic for your dd. I am so sorry she had to go through that. I truly hope she can put it behind her at some point and realize that that horrible man's opinion of her was wrong.
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