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Thursday, January 25, 2018

How to tell if you're a terrible gymnastics coach (or if you have one)

Now that the repulsive pervert Larry Nassar has been locked up for life for crimes against countless young women and girls, we can delve deeper into the culture that allowed this monster to thrive.

The purpose of gymnastics is not to go to the Olympics. The purpose is not to achieve elite status. It's not to win, it's not to get a college scholarship. The purpose of gymnastics is to learn cool tricks. And no matter how much you emphasize the healthy and positive byproducts--discipline! Perseverance! Fitness! Hard work!--the bottom line is, your job as a coach is TO TEACH KIDS COOL TRICKS. So get over yourself.

We are not curing cancer. We are not saving lives. We are not performing rocket science. Get over yourself.

The hubris...the audacity...the VANITY of these coaches who are so egotistical as to place what they perceive as their OWN triumph ahead of the well-being of small children, is what has enabled the sexual, physical, emotional, and psychological abuse to thrive in the sport of gymnastics. Your job is to build kids up. Your job is to help kids have fun. Your job is to make kids love gymnastics.

If you are a coach that screams insults at your kids,
if you make them practice injured or ill,
if you think that constant or chronic injuries are normal,
if you make them feel small or stupid or worthless,
if you talk down to their parents,
if you think a 7 year old needs to practice 25 hours per week,
if you tell a 13 year old she should quit because she's not advanced enough,
if you tell a 13 year old not to even bother starting because she's too old,
if you select kids only for body type or submissive personality,
if you place gymnastics of higher importance than school or family,

but you DO have kids that score high and sweep the awards in every competition, and you feel a burst of egotistical triumph when you see them on top of the medal stand, let me tell you why you have not, in actuality, succeeded as a coach:

                                          BECAUSE YOU ARE A TERRIBLE PERSON.

There is a reason why we do gymnastics. It feels like flying. It feels like a rush of adrenalin at accomplishments big and small. It feels like an optimistic embrace of infinite challenges. It feels like joy and delight and happiness. It feels like being beautiful. It feels like art. It feels like an urge to share with everyone that this is the greatest sport in the world. It makes you want to go again and again and again.

This is why we do gymnastics.

If you are a coach
                or a judge
                or a gymnastics official
                or a doctor
                or a professional
                or even a parent
who has contributed to the sort of toxic environment that left 156 women and girls weeping in a courtroom,

you don't belong.
Get out.