- Feb 26, 2007
A UK gymnast speaks out on her abuse.
I guess my question is why are they achieving results? I would think it would be so much better to have a coach that lifts you up and helps you through the bad times to reach higher levels. But it seems there is a school of thought that thinks the only way to achieve a high level of gymnastics is to control, belittle, and create an atmosphere of extreme compliance. Unfortunately this method has achieved results so it is copied. I would be interested to hear how Simone's experiences have been besides the Larry Nassar issues. I just assumed that she was not raised in a gym that had the emotional abusive behavior, but I don't know. It seems like all we hear about are the stories of elite athletes enduring abuse but also being successful. Are there any gymnasts who are successful and at the elite level that have had positive coaching experiences?? If so I would love to hear about those stories.
Your response is exactly right, so patience is a virtue. This is exactly the reason why I have suggested that the minimum Olympic age for women's gymnastics get moved up to 18, maybe even all sports. You see far more gymnasts turning 16 and competing in the Olympic year than any other sport. There have been some in swimming and perhaps track and field, but that is all I can think of right now, but I am sure there are other sports that have younger kids, but 16 year old's are the exception not the norm as in gymnastics.in my opinion a lot is self fulfilling. These methods get kids to the top quickly, they get on national squads, are given the attention, the money, they physios, told they are going to the olympics etc. Parents, coaches, NGB, officials all invest a lot in a select few and it becomes hard to stop.
If coaches try a healthier approach the success comes slower, kids are ignored by national teams, don’t get the international experience as juniors, confidence is shot as they don’t appear to be “as good”
it takes a lot of faith and trust to stay with a club that builds slowly, when you see other athletes steaming ahead and being picked for everything.
you end up taking a squad of near broken kids to the olympics. All injured, all hanging on painkillers and physio.
thing is everyone else is the same. The ones who get there are the ones who are least broken.
if you change the culture you will have fewer drop outs, fewer burn outs, and a greater number reaching the top. More competition.
catherine lyons for example. All she had to do is stay healthy. Instead she was pushed to breaking and GB lost arguably one of it’s most talented gymnasts. And there were a lot that broke before she did.
Look at the UK’s junior success over the last 10 years. Even in 2014 was it when we had a huge pool of junior talent and won junior europeans And world medals, everyone was excited for 2016. Except only two made it to senior.
Those coaches base their worth on the success of their athletes, so they push and overwork and burnout kids so they can have the honor of having an elite or x number of scholarship athletes regardless of how many kids are destroyed in the process.
You make a lot of really great points. I think a lot of coaches do get into coaching for reasons other than a genuine passion for working with children- unfulfilled dreams of their own or gymnastics being the only thing they know so it seems like the only option are pretty common ones I've seen. Unfortunately there isn't much coaching education, at least not in the United States. Coaches who really desire education can find it, usually at their own expense, but you can get pretty far without it, especially if you were a high level athlete yourself.Just thinking out loud here, about this ego and abuse issue... and maybe this has been said often before but I’ve missed it... While there are many factors that affect emotional intelligence, I imagine some of the egotistic coaches define themselves by the numerical success of their gymnasts partly because numerical success in gymnastics is the only way they’ve ever known to define themselves. If the culture and structure (re: CB’s most recent SHIFT thread about training intensity) changes to where gymnasts are more able and encouraged to hold other identities as well, perhaps the next generation of coaches would be more able to have a healthy relationship with their job because they wouldn’t hold gymnastics as their only valuable identity. Maybe a higher percentage of coaches would be coaching because they are skilled and passionate about both the sport AND teaching, while the ones who are only passionate about the sport but really shouldn’t be coaching would be more likely to self-select out and join other fields (rather than coaching solely because the gym is the only world they know.)
I’m not generalizing that all abusive coaches don’t have other mediums for self-definition (some coach negatively just because that’s the way they were coached, or various other unfortunate reasons.) Rather, I am speculating that there may be cases where coaching by default rather than love of coaching is a contributing factor to the use of negative methods.
I am also not saying that high-quality, respectful coaching technique cannot be learned by those to whom teaching does not come naturally - it can and we should expect it. Just pondering an additional reason to pursue structure change. Letting gymnasts be more well-rounded is not only what athletes deserve but it would also likely produce a more emotionally healthy and self-weeding coaching pool.
There are required certification courses for USAG coaches, correct? Do any of these focus on the communication/emotional health/child development aspects of coaching, to train good TEACHERS, or are they solely about safe skill progression/technique oriented?