WAG A general and hypothetical discussion of the industry's handling of abusive coaches

Geoffrey Taucer

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Generally and hypothetically, suppose a gym's coaches showed a pattern of abuse, and this was reported by a high number of athletes -- hypothetically let's say thirty or so athletes.

In such a situation, those coaches should permanently blacklisted from USAG in my opinion. Any gym that employed such a coach knowing about these allegations should be blacklisted as well, and any parent who would take their kid to such a gym would have to be out of their minds.

I would also want to see those coaches banned from any online gymnastics forums or social media groups in which they may be members.

If (still speaking generally and hypothetically) USAG were to pardon said coaches to return after taking an education course, this would sadly not be surprising given USAG's record. It would confirm that the culture hasn't changed, that USAG is not concerned with the welfare of children in its program, and that the best course of action would be to metaphorically burn USAG to the ground and allow a new organization with new leadership to rise in its place.

Education in positive coaching should not be treated as a remedial solution, but as a preemptive step. A coach with a demonstrated history of abuse over many years cannot be expected to change over the course of a 50-hour online course.

I hope that any parent or coach considering a gym would first google the gym's name. I also hope that if a gym had a history of abusive coaching, some reputable news organization (the OC Register, for example) would have reported on it in order to hold both the gym and USAG accountable.
 
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Radbay

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I'm new here but just watched Athlete A. I had some trouble dealing with USAG in the past and also want the organization to no longer exist or control the lives of young gymnasts. How exactly would you take down an organization like that?
 
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raenndrops

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I think IF they are going to even allow ANYONE to do "remedial" training in positive coaching, the 50 hour course should be done IN PERSON. There should be essay question tests either after every 5 hours of training OR after each topic (that don't count in the 50 hours, but that must be passed in order to move on). And it should NOT be allowed to be done in a short amount of time. When we had child care trainings, one class couldn't be longer than 6 hours in a day, but they preferred to keep them to a max of 4 hours a day ... and we only did them 2 days a week. So let's say 4 hours a day, 2 days a week (plus the additional time for testing, which might make it 6 hours in a day, but since they can't work anyways, that should be fine). That means 6+ weeks of these trainings and testing. The last day (after the 50 hours) would be the final combination essay and multiple choice exam that must also be passed with a 90% or better (and none of the essay questins would be ones they have seen before).

Then, the gym should have to PAY people CERTIFIED as Observers For Positive Coaching Practices to observe ALL practices from the moment the first gymnast arrives for the day until the last gymnast has left for the day ... with certification being done by taking the same 50 hour in person training PLUS an additional 10 hour training in how to properly observe in a gym setting (including filling out the forms, key things to watch for, etc). Certified observers CANNOT be related to ANYONE involved in the gym they are observing at. Observation should be ongoing for at least 12 years (to truly break the cycle of gymnasts and parents being used to the "old" ways).

Also, the gym must have a video system in place that records everything except the bathrooms and locker rooms (but would show who enters and exits), and preferably from overlapping angles (so NO blind spots and no way the coaches could "hide" from view). They have to have a system that stores 12 months of footage (each camera should be motion-activated, so it turns on whenever someone enters and when there has been absolutely no movement for 15 minutes it turns off). This footage must be live-streamed so it can also be recorded and saved off-site too ... like with the SafeSport compliance office at USAG, the State's USAG office, and the Regional office.
 

Geoffrey Taucer

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Also, the gym must have a video system in place that records everything except the bathrooms and locker rooms (but would show who enters and exits), and preferably from overlapping angles (so NO blind spots and no way the coaches could "hide" from view). They have to have a system that stores 12 months of footage (each camera should be motion-activated, so it turns on whenever someone enters and when there has been absolutely no movement for 15 minutes it turns off). This footage must be live-streamed so it can also be recorded and saved off-site too ... like with the SafeSport compliance office at USAG, the State's USAG office, and the Regional office.
(side note, if anybody finds options for currently-existing camera systems to be lacking and wants me to design/code a system for you, hit me up -- I'm looking for more projects to fill out my programming resume, and video processing software is something I've done a lot of so far)
 
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Ginger

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I'm new here but just watched Athlete A. I had some trouble dealing with USAG in the past and also want the organization to no longer exist or control the lives of young gymnasts. How exactly would you take down an organization like that?
USAG can be decertified - and if they are, they won't be National Governing Body anymore. If so, I imagine another organization would take their place as the NGB member of the FIG (International Gymnastics Federation) to prepare gymnasts for international competitions or Olympic Games.
This law was signed a few weeks ago

(just a side note - I used to be a big fan of USAG, I believed they could move past Nassar, learn from their mistakes and carry on. I was so wrong, and this past week was such a rude awakening for me. Anyway, I am glad this law exists and I hope it will help to take USAG down)
 

MuggleMom

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In this day and age its surprising more gyms dont have and WANT extensive video recording systems for their own protection (since there are so many false accusations against upstanding coaches right **eye roll**) We had an issue at our gym where a girl was bullying other kids and cameras helped to show this kids true colors. The hard part would be blind spots and probably no audio recording (for verbal abuse) but cameras would definitely be a move in the right direction in my opinion.
 

TumbleTimes4

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I’ve been thinking a lot about this after the Haney NYT article and the return of the Azarian coaches. Obviously there will always be parents out there who care more about results and scholarships than the well being of their child. I think the best way to stop it or at least drastically reduce it would be for college coaches to stop taking recruits from known abusive coaches and gyms. Then results would no longer matter if a college won’t take take a gymnast from that coach. Hopefully it would encourage those parents with ambition to seek out healthy environments if that’s their only option. But with the pressures of winning on collegiate coaches, I’m not sure how to get them on board with this, especially with some of the things that have come out about college gymnastics. A change has to start at the highest level with a NGB with integrity and then college programs with backbone and integrity that are willing to say no to those gyms, even if it could cost them some wins, because ultimately it’s for the best of all gymnasts. But I’m afraid it’s an uphill, if not impossible, battle when parents are no longer willing to place the health and safety of their children above prestige and scholarships.
 

LJL07

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I think IF they are going to even allow ANYONE to do "remedial" training in positive coaching, the 50 hour course should be done IN PERSON. There should be essay question tests either after every 5 hours of training OR after each topic (that don't count in the 50 hours, but that must be passed in order to move on). And it should NOT be allowed to be done in a short amount of time. When we had child care trainings, one class couldn't be longer than 6 hours in a day, but they preferred to keep them to a max of 4 hours a day ... and we only did them 2 days a week. So let's say 4 hours a day, 2 days a week (plus the additional time for testing, which might make it 6 hours in a day, but since they can't work anyways, that should be fine). That means 6+ weeks of these trainings and testing. The last day (after the 50 hours) would be the final combination essay and multiple choice exam that must also be passed with a 90% or better (and none of the essay questins would be ones they have seen before).

Then, the gym should have to PAY people CERTIFIED as Observers For Positive Coaching Practices to observe ALL practices from the moment the first gymnast arrives for the day until the last gymnast has left for the day ... with certification being done by taking the same 50 hour in person training PLUS an additional 10 hour training in how to properly observe in a gym setting (including filling out the forms, key things to watch for, etc). Certified observers CANNOT be related to ANYONE involved in the gym they are observing at. Observation should be ongoing for at least 12 years (to truly break the cycle of gymnasts and parents being used to the "old" ways).

Also, the gym must have a video system in place that records everything except the bathrooms and locker rooms (but would show who enters and exits), and preferably from overlapping angles (so NO blind spots and no way the coaches could "hide" from view). They have to have a system that stores 12 months of footage (each camera should be motion-activated, so it turns on whenever someone enters and when there has been absolutely no movement for 15 minutes it turns off). This footage must be live-streamed so it can also be recorded and saved off-site too ... like with the SafeSport compliance office at USAG, the State's USAG office, and the Regional office.
Yes, it seems so inappropriate for USAG to recommend that PARENTS be observers for positive coaching practices. I honestly think USAG needs a mental health expert (clinical psychologist??) on staff to advise them.

I don't think the majority of gyms appear to be separating from USAG. People are afraid of change.
 
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raenndrops

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In this day and age its surprising more gyms dont have and WANT extensive video recording systems for their own protection (since there are so many false accusations against upstanding coaches right **eye roll**) We had an issue at our gym where a girl was bullying other kids and cameras helped to show this kids true colors. The hard part would be blind spots and probably no audio recording (for verbal abuse) but cameras would definitely be a move in the right direction in my opinion.
Totally agree. Lol, blind spots why my plan has all the overlapping views.
 

bookworm

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I’ve been thinking a lot about this after the Haney NYT article and the return of the Azarian coaches. Obviously there will always be parents out there who care more about results and scholarships than the well being of their child. I think the best way to stop it or at least drastically reduce it would be for college coaches to stop taking recruits from known abusive coaches and gyms. Then results would no longer matter if a college won’t take take a gymnast from that coach. Hopefully it would encourage those parents with ambition to seek out healthy environments if that’s their only option. But with the pressures of winning on collegiate coaches, I’m not sure how to get them on board with this, especially with some of the things that have come out about college gymnastics.

Well that's going to be your problem because NCAA has its own elephant in the room with the way they treat their athletes....so if a college coach thinks it's within their coaching prerogative to crap on their gymnasts, I don't think they'd have a shred of hesitation to take gymnasts from coaches who behave in the same manner because they would essentially be calling themselves out.

College coaches need to win and will use whatever it takes to achieve results. It would be nice to think that they would shun misbehaving gyms but a lot of times those same gyms have good gymnasts so there's no way they're going to overlook a good gymnast because her coach is a horrible person.
 

Radbay

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Yes, it seems so inappropriate for USAG to recommend that PARENTS be observers for positive coaching practices. I honestly think USAG needs a mental health expert (clinical psychologist??) on staff to advise them.

I don't think the majority of gyms appear to be separating from USAG. People are afraid of change.
Where else could they go? And would they be given the same opportunities if they switched?
 

Gymnastadvocate

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Where else could they go? And would they be given the same opportunities if they switched?
Yes. I've been wondering the same thing. If USAG were to get decertified would they switch to another gymnastics program like USAIGC or join something like AAU? Or would USOPC create a brand new organization?
 

M2Abi

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In this day and age its surprising more gyms dont have and WANT extensive video recording systems for their own protection (since there are so many false accusations against upstanding coaches right **eye roll**) We had an issue at our gym where a girl was bullying other kids and cameras helped to show this kids true colors. The hard part would be blind spots and probably no audio recording (for verbal abuse) but cameras would definitely be a move in the right direction in my opinion.
Are there gyms that don't have extensive camera systems? All the gyms we've been to have had them. I can't say there were no blind spots, but definitely the vast majority of the gym was always on camera.
 

ldw4mlo

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JMO. It is my job as a parent to make decisions on where and who interacts with my kid.

Give me information and I’ll decide. As far as USAG. Our coaches aren’t fans either. But from a meet stand point they offer the most options. And our small gym is far removed abusive situations.
 

cmg

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Our gym does not have a security camera system, but parents have a place they can watch from above. You can see the whole gym no problem if you move to different spots of the viewing area. I believe with Covid the gym is asking parents to refrain from viewing too long or with too many people (more than 10 or so) but in the past the parent viewing area could be pretty packed. Most of the rec parents just stay during the class because there is not enough time to do a whole lot with an hour class. Team parents usually avoid the viewing area at the beginning of class due to the crowds and most of the time the kids are just doing basics at the beginning of training. A lot of parents would come early for pick up so they can see their kid, but technically they could stay the whole practice time if they wanted. It was their choice which is how it should be.
 

bookworm

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My daughter has been working in a gym that the parents zoom watch all day long....and call and email with "observations" and complaints throughout the day so it's really tough to coach in that atmosphere but in the times of Covid and post Nassar, it's how it is. This gym has a school program for kids (to fill the child care gap with most all of our schools in hybrid mode the kids go to the gym for their remote days if the parents have to work) so parents can see what their kid is doing all day....like a nanny cam. Nice in theory but tough to explain to folks not there why Johnny isn't enthusiastic for his 4th zoom class of the day...