Gymnastics News Network
By Terri Laymon
It comes as no surprise that in the wake of Larry Nassar being indicted with count after count of sexual assault from more than 80 individuals, that USAG would sit up and take notice to other abuse claims that have been filed within their organization.
GNN has acquired information that a prominent team coach from NC has had complaints to USAG filed against him for physical and mental abuse. And, if that is not enough, he has many parents and former gymnasts coming forward finally speaking out against the harsh conditions they endured while at practice.
This particular gym owner and head coach of gym (we are calling him ‘Coach X’ for now) in North Carolina, one that is currently coaching JO and Elite gymnasts, happens to have at least one complaint filed against him currently with USA Gymnastics for physical abuse. The claim indicated that he actually struck a gymnast in the head with his hand right before he shoved her across the floor telling her she was un-coachable, according to documentation filed with USAG.
This was apparently not uncommon in this particular gym. Gymnasts were yelled at every day to the point of crying and becoming withdrawn. Conditioning is sometimes so intense that gymnasts cry through the pain to endure. Frequently, gymnasts are punished with extra conditioning or made to hold a handstand against a wall for 10 minutes or longer.
A former gymnast, (for anonymity purposes we are calling her Sandy), who spent many years at this particular gym, told GNN, “As a gymnast, I experienced things that at the time I didn’t realize were wrong. I was just a child. Now as I am older I look back and realize things were not right.”
“Excessive conditioning was used for being late to practice; you had an extra four minute handstand, extra 2:45 minute suicides or 20 laps of squat jumps. During meet season, an hour our of the four hour practice was dedicated to strict conditioning; ex: three minutes planks with weights on our back, four sets of 25 leg lifts from half, if conditioning was not done properly, you had to start over. During the off season, we had three hours of conditioning out of our five hour practice,” Sandy painfully remarked.
She also added, “One day I was warming up tap swings and accidentally did 19 instead of 20 and had a 10 minute handstand for punishment. These are things I and my teammates endured on a daily basis.”
Some parents thought this behavior was normal, but looking back they realize that it was excessive. One also suggested that there needs to be a mandatory parental training class to help better educate what is appropriate and what is not.
Parents and gymnasts are not the only ones who have witnessed harsh training conditions from this same coach (Coach X)…other coaches have as well.
While competing at the same HOPES Championships, gym owner and head coach, Monica Avery, witnessed another gymnast who had taken a hard landing on a tumbling pass on floor. When the gymnast walked off the floor, she immediately fell to her hands and knees, practically curling into the fetal position. She had injured her back. Coach X briefly spoke to her and with tears in her eyes, all she could do was nod along.
Coach Avery went over and asked this gymnast if she was ok, but her voice clearly indicated that she was scared to speak up. That’s when coach Avery decided to speak up on behalf of this injured girl.
As the meet went on and the girls rotated to the vault, the injured gymnast could barely stand let alone walk or run down a vault runway. Coach X was yelling at his gymnast to go and that she was loosing turns.
Avery could see that this child could barely stand and that her legs was vibrating from pain. She walked up to her and told her that she absolutely would not be vaulting and that her injury would only become worse if she continued. Coach X kept yelling at his gymnast to take a turn at vault warm-ups and the gymnast turned and told coach Avery that her coach would get really mad at her if she didn’t continue.
Coach Avery, point blank, told the girl, “Who cares? This is your back we are talking about! This could be a career ending injury not to mention pain for the rest of your life!”
The young gymnast bravely walked down the runway and told her coach she needed to scratch. Coach Avery went on to comment, “I could only think about the safety of that young athlete and the fact that this was her back. Any further injury could have been enough to cause a fracture or possible even paralyses.”
The injured gymnast’s mother actually took the time and energy to tract down coach Avery at her gym, sending her an email thanking her for looking out for her daughter.
Even after the one gymnast that was struck and several other gymnasts left this gym, transferring to another gyms, this type of behavior has been said to be continuing.
The question in this situation is why did so many girls stay and why would parents let their children stay in this type of environment?
I know that this is not the only case out there that has gone unnoticed. It is probable and entirely possible that within the USAG system, there is more than a handful of similar cases where nothing is being done.
Parents, co-workers, or gymnasts themselves may realize that something is wrong, but do not want to stir the pot or report the abuse because they feel this is normal and it is what it takes to become one of the best gymnasts.
This is NOT normal and it is NOT okay!
My question is, “WHY?” Why are coaches still allowed to coach within the USAG system even though they have been part of, witnessed, or have actually been the person who abused young girls, whether that abuse was sexual, physical, or emotional?
If a report has been filed within the USAG system or in a court document, these coaches should NOT be working in this profession!
I have made suggestions in the past that the USA Gymnastics governing body needs to have a list that is accessible to gym owners, coaches, parents, and gymnasts of those that have had any type of complaint filed against them. This should be made public and easily accessible. Each state’s medical board has such a system where you can look up a physician to see if they have had any type of complaint filed against them or any type of malpractice claims.
Because we know that there are so many cases of abuse happening right now with the majority afraid to speak up, GNN has created a “tip line” for any to call at any time. We will research the claim and report the abuse and the abuser.
Since our tip line has opened-up, we are troubled by the number of calls, texts, and emails we receive regarding abuse in our sport. We hope that as more gymnasts, coaches and parents come forward and report this particular coach, on the record, we will definitely identify the coach and gym.
GNN TIP LINE:
We also have resources available to those that need to reach out and seek extra help. Courtney Keihl, Attorney and Executive Director and Founder A.C.H.E. (Abused Children Heard Everywhere), is willing to speak with anyone who needs her help.
Courtney Kiehl, Esq.
A.C.H.E. Foundation | Co-Founder
+1 (510) 552-7508
Our goal is to help make this sport fun and safe!
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