From Inside Gymnastics. The last couple of months have been a challenging time for the sport of gymnastics. The sport has brought so much good to the lives of so many people on so many levels, and to learn that many athletes suffered tremendously from the misconduct of others is nothing short of heartbreaking. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those affected. Their bravery is helping forge a path that should ultimately make the sport safer than ever. The process of putting into place better resources and methodology is front and center in the spotlight, with even the highest levels of government working to ensure a better future. Here’s a look at some of the latest developments and some of the resources that parents and athletes should be aware of…
Senators Introduce Bill Requiring U.S. Amateur Athletic Organizations, Members to Report Abuse
Led by U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, legislation has been introduced that would require Olympic national governing bodies to immediately report sexual abuse allegations to authorities. The bill would also amend the Ted Stevens Amateur and Olympic Sports Act, which governs amateur athletics governing bodies, to make it safe and easy for victims to report abuse and mandate oversight of member gymnasiums to ensure strong sexual-abuse prevention policies are implemented. For example, all governing bodies would implement and enforce policies to ensure coaches and personnel are trained in sexual abuse prevention.
Gymnastics Community Comes Together to Seek Improvement
Former athletes, industry members, coaches and others involved in the sport are speaking out to encourage growth and development in this area of the sport.
Brent Klaus of International Gymnastics Camp penned an open letter to the gymnastics community, expressing: “The gymnastics community is a strong voice and it should not be silent in light of the current news in our industry. Abuse of any kind cannot be tolerated and anything less than putting our athletes’ well-being first, is unacceptable… We need to come together to support the actions that will make sure our young athletes are safe from abuse of all types.”
The United States Gymnastics Suppliers Association (USGSA) also met recently, with the topic being discussed in its spring meeting. The Association released the following statement:
“The US Gymnastics Suppliers Association takes great pride in a sport which we believe offers many inherent benefits to any individual who wishes to participate. We believe the sport has the ability to positively affect today’s youth by helping to increase awareness for maintaining healthy lifestyles, improve balance and coordination, offer strength development, improve social skills, self confidence and instill discipline and a strong work ethic.
Our organization believes the safety of children involved in this sport should be the highest priority of our industry. We strongly support any initiative designed to streamline and improve processes with the intent of increasing protection, awareness and education so that children can continue to reap the benefits of our sport in the safest way possible.”
USA Gymnastics’ Message to the Gymnastics Community
In an open letter to the gymnastics community, USA Gymnastics stated the following, “Thank you for your fierce commitment to and passion for gymnastics. Gymnastics is not just a sport, it is a community, a family, and for many, a way of life. There are tens of thousands of good people who serve our youth every day. For many years, USA Gymnastics has provided safety and education programs to promote a safe environment for our athletes, and this work will continue. Together, we must all do everything possible to prevent the opportunity for abuse and misconduct from happening in gymnastics.” They praised recent developments including “the most comprehensive, thorough and independent evaluation of our athlete safety program to date,” their partnership with Safe Sport and Senator Feinstein’s bill as “significant developments are catalysts for creating a united effort to protect athletes from abuse.”
Safe Sport Initiative / Resources For Athletes and Parents
The United States Olympic Committee has created a SafeSport Parent Course that provides important training about the nature of misconduct in sport and gives parents actionable information to better protect athletes. Developed for parents of athletes, this course addresses important topics around recognizing, preventing and taking action against misconduct in sports, from a parent perspective, and helps parents become active participants in creating safe, positive sports environments for their child. USA Gymnastics, through its Clubs Care initiative, supplies gym clubs with a quick reference guide that can be used as a tool for club owners to implement Safe Sport in their gym. The guide includes the many different resources that have been developed and distributed via the Clubs Care Campaign over the last three years. In addition, the guide provides gymnastics-oriented policy templates that clubs can customize to fit their specific business needs.
You can locate the resources noted above at:
It’s important for parents to encourage an open dialogue between parent and child as well for an athlete to speak up if they feel something is not right.
As we stated, it’s a tough and challenging time for our sport, and quite frankly, it’s been a time of sadness, but we’re heartened that changes, improvements, new procedures, more open dialogue and more resources are in development.
We love the sport with all of our hearts. It’s provided a foundation of so much good for so many, from the recreational side to the highest levels in so many regards. It will continue to be a great sport and it will be an improved sport. To all in the gymnastics family – peace, love, strength, unity, community. We will get through this together.