Anon My son is now fearful and afraid of a coach

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Anonymous Post

Secret Identity
Feb 16, 2022
563
I’ve been a member of ChalkBucket since early 2021 and have multiple children in team gymnastics. I’m posting this in the anonymous section due to the sensitivity of the topic and to protect my children from any unintended attention.

About a month ago a concerning incident happened at our gym. My son was intimidated and feared for his safety by a coach. This coach isn’t the head coach, but a primary, full-time boys coach at the gym and although he’s not my son’s direct coach anymore, he had been his coach for most of his years as a compulsory gymnast. On this particular day there was a reprimanding of a group of optionals which included my son. The boys were goofing off a bit and it angered the coach. My son saw some irony in how the coach responded during the reprimand and smiled and made a small chuckle. And that’s when the coach seemed to “lose it”. Per my son (and confirmed by other gymnasts) this coach approached my son, got in his face and proceed to yell at him. My son asked the coach to stop and tried to back away…asked for him to give him space…and the coach continued to pursue him in an aggressive, intimidating manner. My son says the coach even bumped his chest against him (this coach is 8-10” taller than my son, so a chest bump would be face height). No other gymnasts reported chest-bump physical contact, but it could be because my son was retreating and the coach’s body essentially blocked the view. But all reports say my son asked for coach to stop…asked for coach to leave him alone and give him space, and some even reported that the coach grabbed my son’s arm and said something along the lines of “get back here, I’m not done with you yet”. My son remained at practice and managed to hold it together until he got home. It took him about 30 min to get the whole story out since he was crying during much of the time.

My spouse and I had a sit down with the head coach and gym owner a few days later. They seemed surprised as to what happened, but did voice that what we described was “crossing the line” and that that shouldn’t have happened. The owner and head coach asked for a few days to gather more info and corroborate the incident. A few days later the head coach relayed the confirmation to us, but said he’d still need to talk with the owner as to what the next steps should be. The head coach agreed that for the time being, my son didn’t have to interact with the offending coach and that the coach was directed to not interact with my son. We asked to be informed if there’d be a practice where the offending coach was the only one in charge so we could hold him back. We’ve asked for a follow up meeting…basically a corrective action…what are they doing to prevent this from happening again and what can be done to make my son feel comfortable again? It’s been 2 1/2 weeks since the 2nd meeting with the head coach and I feel we are chasing the owner to make time for us again.

I’m afraid they want to just sweep this under the rug…minimize interaction b/w my son and the coach and then just proceed as normal. I don’t think that’s enough nor do I think that’s fair to my son. It’s not fair that he needs to skip practices or meets where this coach is the only coach in-charge. It’s not fair that he feels unsafe and in fear when he’s in the presence of this coach. If we pull up to practice and he sees the other coach’s car and not the head coach’s car, he wants me to wait for him while he checks to make sure his head coach is there (understandably).

Outside of this incident I don’t have a personal problem with this coach. Is he grouchy and probably not the best personality type to work with younger gymnasts?…Yes. His personality and temperament have been well known to us (6 years experience with this coach) and although it’s not ideal, it’s been something we’ve tolerated over the years. It’s not like there’s as surplus of qualified coaches for boys gymnastics and this coach is competent physically (skills, spotting, reliable, etc.). But now with this added fear factor…that he snapped and went after my son in an aggressive way…it’s too much to tolerate.

Should my son have been goofing off? No. Should he have smiled and chuckled when the coach did something ironic? No. My son’s immature behavior doesn’t justify how the coach reacted towards my him. At a minimum there needs to be some retraining and/or counseling for this coach.

What I hoped to get from posting this:
  1. What should the gym do in a situation like this?
  2. Are we proceeding correctly?…is there another approach you’d suggest?
  3. Is there a more formal process that the gym should be following to document/record incidents like this?
I don’t want anything like this to happen again, not to my son or any child. And I’m not confident that the gym is going to do anything that will truly make my son feel safe and comfortable again. And in light of the abuse that carried on for decades by Larry Nassar, John Geddert and others, shouldn’t there be a more formal process in place for reporting incidents? I’m not trying to get this coach investigate or fired, but unless there’s a central collection point for reported incidents, how will we identify and catch a chronic abuser?

More about my son:
He’s a young optional, still in middle school, barely a teenager.
He’s a quieter boy, an introvert that avoids attention and prefers to be invisible.
He doesn’t want an apology, he just wants to be left alone and to feel comfortable again.
He doesn’t want to change gyms…he’s been with the boys at his level and the head coach since he was 6.

The past few weeks have been really tough on my son and our family. I’m really torn up as a parent on what to do next. We have multiple kids on team including one that has this coach as his primarily coach. The past few meets have been “awkward” at best. I do appreciate input from the chalkbucket community. You all know how hard these kids work and how many sacrifices we as parents make to support them in their love of gymnastics. Thank you in advance for your replies.
 

skschlag

Staff member
Gold Membership
Proud Parent
Jul 19, 2011
11,235
Region 9
That is quite a tough situation, and I am really sorry you are going through this.

I do think you need to continue to pursue this to a resolution that is acceptable to you and your child. I am not 100% sure that the coach and your child remaining at the gym will be a reasonable expectation, as it sounds like your son does not want to be around this coach at all, and that it could happen that this coach is in charge at some point.

So, I would keep after the owner and/or head coach for another meeting to see where things stand. But, in the end, if the resolution is not to your liking you may have to escalate it to Safe Sport, and/or find a new gym.

But for now, with season wrapping up, I would continue to ask for a meeting with the powers that be, and to see what is occurring with the situation.
 

Anonymous Post

Secret Identity
Feb 16, 2022
563
That is quite a tough situation, and I am really sorry you are going through this.

I do think you need to continue to pursue this to a resolution that is acceptable to you and your child. I am not 100% sure that the coach and your child remaining at the gym will be a reasonable expectation, as it sounds like your son does not want to be around this coach at all, and that it could happen that this coach is in charge at some point.

So, I would keep after the owner and/or head coach for another meeting to see where things stand. But, in the end, if the resolution is not to your liking you may have to escalate it to Safe Sport, and/or find a new gym.

But for now, with season wrapping up, I would continue to ask for a meeting with the powers that be, and to see what is occurring with the situation.
Thank you for your thoughtful reply. My spouse is reaching out to the head coach again to try and set a meeting for Thur or Fri.
 

gymgal

Gold Membership
Proud Parent
Aug 22, 2008
4,659
I am so sorry your son and family are going through this. To have him on edge at each practice clearly is not good for him and even if he doesn't have direct contact with that coach, I am sure he is still overly aware the entire time as to where the coach is in the gym. As a parent, I would want to know the plan and yes you should continue to push for answers. Unfortunately I don't see this resolving itself to the point where your son will feel comfortable moving up the levels if that coach will be part of that training. And the gym is not likely to fire the coach over one incident, especially if the HC/owner view this as old school coaching/teaching.
 

Anonymous Post

Secret Identity
Feb 16, 2022
563
I am so sorry your son and family are going through this. To have him on edge at each practice clearly is not good for him and even if he doesn't have direct contact with that coach, I am sure he is still overly aware the entire time as to where the coach is in the gym. As a parent, I would want to know the plan and yes you should continue to push for answers. Unfortunately I don't see this resolving itself to the point where your son will feel comfortable moving up the levels if that coach will be part of that training. And the gym is not likely to fire the coach over one incident, especially if the HC/owner view this as old school coaching/teaching.
Thank you for replying and for your thoughts. My spouse and I are pushing for the sit down on Thursday. Otherwise we’ll probably have to wait until after spring break.

I don’t think the HC has an old school coaching mindset, thankfully. And the owner? I’m not sure, he’s not around or involved in the boys team at all (the girls JO teams are the priority). I think if this coach did the same thing to a girl on the JO team, that it would be handled a lot different. Just b/c my child is a boy, does’t mean he’s still not as vulnerable as a girl…girl, boy, it shouldn’t make a difference. I know you didn’t say anything about boy/girl…it just came to mind as I was writing. I think this realization is a good one to bring up during our meeting if we aren’t happy with their path forward. Thank you again for your input.
 

Aussie_coach

Staff member
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Coach
Proud Parent
Gymnast
Club Owner / Manager
Jan 4, 2008
3,946
The boy/girl mindset can be a reality.

There is still often the expectation in society that boys will just take it on the chin or that they respond to authorities approaches.

While girls are often expected to be more emotional.

Consciously or sub consciously coaches may treat them accordingly.
 

Aussie_coach

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Coach
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Club Owner / Manager
Jan 4, 2008
3,946
No idea how your gym will respond to this but as a gym owner myself I can tell you what I commonly see in these situations.

Quite often the gym will err of the side of supporting the coach over the gymnast. Coaches are a precious commodity and can be hard to come by.

Many gyms will let it be swept under the rug because it would be a greater loss to them to lose a coach, than a gymnast.
 

Anonymous Post

Secret Identity
Feb 16, 2022
563
No idea how your gym will respond to this but as a gym owner myself I can tell you what I commonly see in these situations.

Quite often the gym will err of the side of supporting the coach over the gymnast. Coaches are a precious commodity and can be hard to come by.

Many gyms will let it be swept under the rug because it would be a greater loss to them to lose a coach, than a gymnast.
Thank you for your perspective. Gosh, I know that good coaches, especially for MAG, are tough to find. I don’t want this coach fired. Rehabilitated or something…anything really, to help my son and us parents feel something is being done is all we need for now. Only time will tell if my son will be ok there, mentally/emotionally. He’s a tough kid, he’s stubborn which can be a good thing (at times)…and he’s a loyal kid, so he’s going to want to stay with his friends and HC. Thank you again. I’ll update this post when we have some progress.
 

Geoffrey Taucer

Staff member
Gold Membership
Coach
Jan 21, 2007
4,504
Baltimore, MD
So I have two perspectives on this.

If I as a coach find myself resorting to intimidation as tool to get kids to do what I want, that means I have screwed up as a coach. Coaches (and other adults working with kids, but especially athletic coaches) should keep their cool and always strive for an atmosphere of mutual respect.

..... but that's not always how it plays out in the moment, and I would be lying if I said I never lost my cool with an athlete. Coaching is physically exhausting, but even moreso, it's emotionally exhausting. Sometimes you've already been coaching for six hours, you're running on adrenaline and fumes, some kid says or does the wrong thing, and you lose your cool.

The scenario you described was absolutely not appropriate behavior for a coach. I'd say if it happens once, talk to the coach about it. If it happens more than once, talk to whoever is over that coaches' head (head coach, owner, whatever). If it happens regularly, you're dealing with an abusive coach and you should bail without hesitation.
 

Anonymous Post

Secret Identity
Feb 16, 2022
563
So I have two perspectives on this.

If I as a coach find myself resorting to intimidation as tool to get kids to do what I want, that means I have screwed up as a coach. Coaches (and other adults working with kids, but especially athletic coaches) should keep their cool and always strive for an atmosphere of mutual respect.

..... but that's not always how it plays out in the moment, and I would be lying if I said I never lost my cool with an athlete. Coaching is physically exhausting, but even moreso, it's emotionally exhausting. Sometimes you've already been coaching for six hours, you're running on adrenaline and fumes, some kid says or does the wrong thing, and you lose your cool.

The scenario you described was absolutely not appropriate behavior for a coach. I'd say if it happens once, talk to the coach about it. If it happens more than once, talk to whoever is over that coaches' head (head coach, owner, whatever). If it happens regularly, you're dealing with an abusive coach and you should bail without hesitation.
Thank you for your perspective. And yeah, even as a parent you have your less-than-proud moments. No one is perfect and adults make mistakes. We have no malicious intent for this coach or the gym. We just want to make sure that this is addressed and have a reasonable assurance that it won’t happen again.
Technically this isn’t our first concerning incident with this coach. About 4 years ago a milder situation was happening. At the time this coach was my son’s primary coach and he was “handling” my son when he was frustrated. He would grab him by the shirt or arm and move him here, or there…like “you’re not listening, I need you here”…or “you need to go stand here”…while dragging him around in a condicending manner. He didn’t hit him or do the intimidating situation I described above, but it didn’t seem right to my son nor did it seem right to us parents. We called a meeting with that coach and the HC and talked it out. The coach has remained short fused and grumpy, but we felt comfortable enough with proceeding, especially since we knew our son would be moving up to an optional about a year later (i.e. HC coaches the optionals).

Since my last reply yesterday, the owner is resisting a follow up meeting with us unless we have our son join the meeting. We don’t think that’s necessary at this point, we still need to know what the path-forward will be before we expose him to anything that would be intimidating to him. We’ve asked the owner to help us understand what he hopes to accomplish by having our son in this meeting of 4 adults. We are waiting for his reply.
 

Anonymous Post

Secret Identity
Feb 16, 2022
563
Hello again, it’s the anonymous parent of the optional boy that was intimidated by a coach. Nothing much has happened since I last posted. My spouse and I, along with our son, decided to pause any decisions or actions until after his season was over. He made nationals (yea!), so we won’t be making any next steps or decisions until after that is complete in May. In the meantime, my son has been going to practice regularly and seems mostly happy again. Once we get thru nationals I’m sure I’ll be back to post again.
Thank you to all that have weighed in and for the positive support.
 

Anonymous Post

Secret Identity
Feb 16, 2022
563
Sounds like a pretty good outcome so far. Are one of you going to your son’s practices? I think either I or my wife would be hanging around A LOT to make sure everything is cool.
 

Anonymous Post

Secret Identity
Feb 16, 2022
563
Sounds like a pretty good outcome so far. Are one of you going to your son’s practices? I think either I or my wife would be hanging around A LOT to make sure everything is cool.
I hope all will turn out ok. But no, we don’t stay for the practices…the boys equipment is so far in the back that there’s nothing to see let alone hear. Additionally my 3 kids spend 30 hrs in practice per week…that would be almost a full time job. Fortunately I’m pretty close with several of the parents for each of my kids’ teams and I get feedback/intel from them via their sons/daughters. Whelp all I can do now is wait for nationals to be through and then we’ll pick this back up again.
 

ReluctantGymMom

Proud Parent
May 11, 2020
313
32
I know boys programs and boys coaches are in desperately short supply but I just want to note, that if this post was referencing a daughter and not a son, the responses would be completely different. TOTALLY.

People will immediately say to move gyms if a coach so much as raises their voice at a girl, but this boy had a physical confrontation and was afraid of being alone with this adult and… so many excuses were made.

I hope your son is happy and comfortable with his team again, but this was just a wildly different response to what I would have expected to see
 

Anonymous Post

Secret Identity
Feb 16, 2022
563
I know boys programs and boys coaches are in desperately short supply but I just want to note, that if this post was referencing a daughter and not a son, the responses would be completely different. TOTALLY.

People will immediately say to move gyms if a coach so much as raises their voice at a girl, but this boy had a physical confrontation and was afraid of being alone with this adult and… so many excuses were made.

I hope your son is happy and comfortable with his team again, but this was just a wildly different response to what I would have expected to see
Thank you so much for noticing that. I completely agree. We are talking this 1 day at a time.
 
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