why did Gabby leave Excalibur?

When Gabby Douglas went looking for a new gym in 2010, I’d heard money was a factor. The article linked below talks $20,000.

Gabby’s Mom says her daughter had been on a club “scholarship” with Excalibur. But that doesn’t seem to be documented anywhere.

Certainly the coaching at Excalibur is excellent. … It had to be something more than that.

… suggestions of subpar coaching sting Dena Walker, who opened Excalibur with her husband, Jim, in 1998, and Gustavo Moure, a pioneer in private gymnastics in his native Argentina.

This is as professional as it gets,” Walker said of her gym.

Hawkins had moved her daughter to Excalibur at age 8 from another local gym.

As Douglas advanced, Walker and Moure shared the work, as they do with other top athletes – Walker focusing on floor exercise and balance beam, Moure on vault and uneven bars.

Under their watch, they say, Douglas developed skills she’s wowing judges with now, including the daunting, 2-1/2-twisting Amanar vault. Chow, in an interview, credited Walker in particular “for bringing (Douglas) up to this level. We just kept building the newer skills.”

Insiders know what’s what, said Sandy Stageberg, mother of an Excalibur gymnast, Randy Stageberg, who reached the ’08 Olympic Trials. …

read more on a Virgina news site – For gymnast with local ties, it’s Olympic dreams and hard feelings

Click PLAY or watch one of her American Cup Bar routines on Gymnastike.

Watch more video of 2012 American Cup on gymnastike.org

She’s a super talent. Both Excalibur & Chows should get heaps of credit for developing one of the best gymnasts in the world.

USA Gymnastics should try to do more to acknowledge the “developing” coaches of their National Team members.

Published by

coach Rick

Career gymnastics coach from Calgary, Canada.

32 thoughts on “why did Gabby leave Excalibur?”

  1. i read this earlier on the use gym website and thought it was insane that this appeared in their news feed. the coaches should relax and not feel like they should have to run to the media now that gabby has gotten some press.

  2. Wow, way to put other people’s personal issues out there for everyone to see. Right now they are not even close to putting Gabby’s needs first.

  3. “the coaches should relax and not feel like they should have to run to the media now that gabby has gotten some press.”

    How do you know the media didn’t run to them? Gabby was probably in the local media before so when she shows up on tv training at Excalibur, I’m sure the local media were interested in the scoop…a year and a half later.

    Also, it may have been an innocent comment on Gabby’s part, but when she said she needed “better coaches” in an interview that’s something the local media also might’ve read and wanted to ask about.

    “…once Douglas started drawing a $2,000 monthly national-team stipend.”

    Wow! That’s something you never hear about! I’m glad the national team gets something. Don’t know why USAG is so hush hush about it. They only mention of money from USAG to the athletes I’ve seen was numbers like $400 a month here and there to certain athletes.

    “It seemed generous far beyond the curve. But what are coaches to do, they ask, when a star athlete’s mother is on long-term medical disability from a financial services company, her income is dramatically cut and she can’t pay for her daughter to compete, say, in Chicago or Philadelphia?”

    You get it in writing.

    “What is she to do, she wonders, when her gifted child reports that her coaches openly bicker so much that she’s lost confidence in their shared approach? When her daughter is falling behind rivals because national staffers say she’s being taught skills incorrectly? And when the gym refuses her direct request to alter the coaching arrangement?”


    “Hawkins said she first tried to move her entire family in with an uncle in Texas, where Gabby would train with an acclaimed coach. ”

    Hmmmity hmmm!

    “But the coach, out of loyalty to Walker and Moure, would not accept Douglas. ”

    Wow! So it’s true that WOGA will not accept high level transfers. I also heard it was supposedly out of respect for other coaches too despite the fact that the gymnasts are not their goddamned property and should be able to go wherever the fuck they want. So what happened that they accepted Atler?

    “Anyway, she said, she has it in writing that Douglas was on full scholarship – with payback necessary only if Excalibur’s coaches got Douglas to the Olympics.”

    If that’s true, the Walkers should not have assumed that Douglas would remain with them for that length of time.

    “That confrontation might yet come, Walker said, but not now, not during Douglas’ most important year.”

    They will look very bad if they go after their money after the Olympics. They need to get this fleshed out now with her mom and then quietly be repaid after the Olympics…if anybody really does have such an agreement in writing. If not, oh well.

  4. Poor Gabby is my overall impression. On top of everything else, this financial stuff is a heck of a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of a high school kid.

  5. Anybody that has read any of my previous posts on the Gabby/Excalibur situation will know this one is very close to my heart, especially since the coaches are my closest friends. Sherm, you are correct in assuming this article was not precipitated by the coaches or the Excalibur parent but it is nice to see Sandy as a parent coming to the coaches’ defense. Everybody there knew, and for Gabby’s mother to openly discount all of the generosity bestowed upon her daughter in and out of the gym for all of those years is simply sickening.

    Any club “scholarships” notwithstanding, nobody can expect their coaches to fund all other activities that those scholarships do not cover, regardless of the athlete’s potential. The coaches/owners of that gym are still also running a business and in this economy that is hardly easy to do. They have more than stepped up to whatever plate has been put in front of them over the years and the parent should have been counting her blessings for all of the financial help towards her child’s development she has gotten over the years instead of slagging the coaches as she is now. It’s nice to see the other gym parents such as Sandy speaking up in the article towards that.

    For myself, most of the contradictory statements have so far come from the athlete and her parent. I rolled my eyes when I saw the interview with Gabby where she claimed that she knew Chow was the one to get her to the Olympic dream when I full well knew her first choice(s) were coaches that turned her away. Chow was hardly the FIRST choice. And for her mom to openly admit to thinking of moving her entire family across the country just goes to show that they apparently had money to do that but not money to pay whatever was owing. All of the other reasons given just sound like an attempt to manufacture a story to support the fairy tale. Hmmm indeed.

    This story is just so similar to the Paul Hamm one for me. The man who got Paul 98% of the way there, Stacey (who?) Maloney has never ever been officially given the slightest bit of credit for the Hamm’s success, either by them nor for the most part by the press. He also sacrificed many of his personal dreams to allow theirs to become a reality only to have the rug unceremoniously pulled out from under him inches from the finish line. Nicely done boys! Nobody really cares what precipitates any of these dramatic changes but one thing is for certain. Stacey never said anything about the situations to harm the Hamm’s image (same as the Excalibur crew keeping professionally mum on the story since it happened and saying they still wish Gabby the best), but how hard would it have been for the brothers to come out and at least publicly acknowledge all he had done for them up to that point? Gym reputations could be built on such acts of sportsmanship! Instead this Olympic sized elephant followed Paul on his entire post Maloney gymnastic journey (and for me still does) and at least for myself really made it hard to care about anything that has ever happened to him, good or bad.

    As for the Gabby situation, in the end again nobody really cares about who did what and who said what and what your reasons are for leaving, but please let’s stop pretending Gabby just fell out of the sky and all of a sudden Chow has made her the gymnast she is today. Please stop pretending like she is swinging anything other than Excalibur bars (Shawn swings Chow bars), and that she just learned the Amanar yesterday, as I have video evidence from years back to prove otherwise. Acknowledge your roots and move on with grace, integrity and dignity. You don’t need your own gymnastic elephant standing in the way of your future.

    As for whether Gabby’s recently acquired consistency (giving her the benefit of Pac Rims) is due to Chow’s influence, or simply due to maturity or whatever the reason, God only knows. And he’s not talking…

  6. you know its not all about the olympics many would take pride at getting to the world just as much as the games..doni thompson anybody…

  7. Getting burned by someone you’ve invested in sucks. It’s like putting a lot of time in a relationship, only to get dumped later. Or hiring someone that stays with your company for only a few years and gets the training and then they jump ship for more money or greener pastures. It’s life. It happens. But publicly speaking ill of a teenager during what is undoubtedly the most stressful and crazy time of her life is poor judgment. Sure, it sucks for the coaches because Gabby might have been their shot and getting an athlete to the Olympics, but you can’t fault Gabby for wanting to go to a gym that has a proven track record of Worlds/Olympic success.

    To publicly disparage her family is just flat out wrong. If I had a child looking for a gym in the area, I would never send them to Excalibur after reading this story. It sounds like jealousy. If there was an agreement for repayment then there’s absolutely no reason to talk to the media. Contact a lawyer (if you run a business, you already have one) and file a lawsuit. Simple. It sounds like they don’t have a formal agreement at all for repayment and for that they have no one to blame but themselves. Maybe Gabby’s mom did say at one point she would repay them, but to not get it in writing is their own fault. I’m not saying Gabby’s family is perfect and blameless in this situation, but the coaches are sure pointing a lot of fingers and it seems they are equally to blame, if not more.

    In short, it looks like Gabby’s family decided to seek out a coach with proven Olympic success. You can’t fault them for that. It sucks for the Excalibur coaches, but that’s business — people leave to go to the best and everyone is always trying to climb the ladder.

    Coaches and gyms don’t own these kids or their families. Maybe they don’t get the recognition they deserve, but heck most people don’t. How often do you complete a big project at work that brings excellent results and get appropriate recognition? How often do you put in a lot of effort and work into a group project and get the respect you deserve? That’s life. You aren’t always recognized for everything you do, but whining about it and publicly speaking ill of others is definitely the wrong approach. Next time you make an “agreement” get it in writing.

    Not to mention, telling someone they’ll have to repay you if you get their child to the Olympics seems wrong to me. Is that normal? They aren’t lawyers working on a contingency fee. And I’ve never once heard of contingency fees in sports. Sounds absolutely wrong, especially in a sport of teenagers and children.

  8. I think plenty of people of people achknowledge that Maloney got the Hamm’s to the top and many will probably also give most of the credit to Excalibur for Gabby.

  9. All I know is that if every coach got that bent out of shape every time a kid switched gyms on them, there would be no coaches left!

    I don’t know much about the inner workings of either of the gyms, but if Gabby and her family felt it was time for a change, then they had every right to do so. There’s no point sticking it out with a coach you aren’t 100% connected to.

    Seems like this article was just a bad, bad idea- this happens at all levels in gyms all over the country…. Gabby just happens to be one of the more high profile cases right now… I don’t think there are too many elites who have never had a gym switch at some point…

  10. If you actually read the article on the whining comes from Gabby and her mother. The comments about the situation at the gym are NOT quotes by the coaches.

    So Gabby trained for free then sold out her coaches? That is so classy, not.

  11. Agreed Jenny. Up until now the Excalibur crew said nothing, comments seemed to have been made publicly only after the family leveled some accusations at the club, not before. The media obviously thought it was “newsworthy”, when asked to comment, probably very difficult not to respond to the media and not be made the villain. At least now there are both sides of the story.

    Responding to some of the other comments, being 16 hardly exempts you from acting professionally, especially when you are in the media spotlight. If you don’t want to be painted in a negative light learn not to say bad things about others. I was held to those standards by my parents at a considerably earlier age than Gabby and I had no problem understanding that concept. She IS old enough to know better.

  12. “If you don’t want to be painted in a negative light learn not to say bad things about others.” Same can be true about Excalibur.

    I haven’t heard Gabby come out and say anything horrible about her old coaches. I’ve heard say she went to Chows and was looking for someone who can help her grow and make the Olympics. That’s hardly horrible. People say the same things when they are looking to change jobs or change schools all the time. And I don’t think trying to finding a program that’s right for you is unprofessional AT ALL. It’s her decision and her family’s decision. Period. The coaches might feel screwed and maybe they did cover her training, but that doesn’t mean they own her and make her stay at their gym or even pay them back for the training. If there’s no contract, there’s no contract. It sounds like they’re just mad about a bad business decision they made providing Gabby free training. If it was a good deed made for solely for the benefit of Gabby’s future, they wouldn’t be seeking out compensation from her right and they would be happy for her success. Instead they exude jealously. If anyone comes across as unprofessional it’s certainly the coaches and employees of Excalibur who are making comments about Gabby’s personal and family life. Who cares how many times her mom has been married? The fact that was in the article was sickening (and maybe that was the journalist’s input, but either way there was no place for it).

    The coaches and honestly the supporters of Excalibur are blowing this way out of proportion. Gabby has had success. Excalibur was right for her at a certain point of her life, but Chow has also helped her out and is a great coach. Saying Chow has done a great job does not take anything away from Excalibur.

    I didn’t hear Gage complaining to this extent when Ivana Hong transferred to WOGA and there was some serious bad blood for that transfer.

    Also, to the person who said her family commented first. That doesn’t mean Excalibur coaches and supporters need to come out and attack Gabby personally. They could easily say that they disagree with Ms. Douglass’ comments and they wish Gabby success.

  13. Ok – being from VA Beach, and a frequent visitor in Excalibur, no offense, but they weren’t going to get Gabby to the Olympics. Come on now…. We ALL know that, and they do too. They lack both the coaching skill or the politics involved to get a kid on the Olympic team, and EVERYONE knows that.

    I’ll tell you EXACTLY what happened. Gabby finished 4th at Jr. Nationals, when suddenly, she became someone with noticable talent. And then someone told her to switch gyms. WOGA didn’t take her because she didn’t have the money, I’m sure of THAT, as well. Besides ALL of those coaches talk. And once they saw the little girl from this gym they barely heard of place 4th up there with WOGA and AOGC and all the rest, someone pulled them to the side and told them in no certain terms that a gym change was necessary. We will never know that for sure, but let’s be real here.

    As for Douglas, the girl is 16. I’m betting my ENTIRE paycheck that someone told her she needed a new gym, and she jumped on it. I don’t blame her at all. as for the mother – someone needs to tell her to keep her mouth shut and play along with the USAG media game before Marta decides to keep her ass home.

    And no offense to Sandy Stageburg, but her daughter was another gymnast who could have benefited from a gym change back when she won floor at Nationals in 2006. Again – Raw talent that could never put up 4 for 4 when it counted. It’s easy for her to jump to the coaches defense when her daughter was hot shit around that gym once they dumped Morgan Evans down to level 10.

    I’m not bashing Excalibur, let me make that clear. They have an excellent gym, and an excellent program, IF you want to go to Florida, IF you wanna be a top level 10/Jr. Gymnast. A LOT of talent has walked through those doors (Marcia Newby/Morgan Evans) to name a couple of examples. However – Excalibur isn’t a Olympic gymnast ready program just yet.

    As for the 20K loan?? While I believe there was some “discounted training” involved, I don’t believe that there was a guarantee that she was going to the Olympics. I think it was more of a “Hey, since your daughter is on the National Team we won’t worry about these little here and there costs because we are focused on the Olympics” and then since the mother sent her off to Iowa, it becomes more of a “You owe us money” Which stinks of a handshake agreement which won’t be enforceable. Sucks for Excalibur.

    In the end – this will all become mighty ironic if she gets injured or tanks at Nationals again. Only time will tell. Is she a Olympic Contender, yes?? AA gold?? Ehhh…. Guess we will find out soon enough.

    1. Hi!!! This is Morgan Evans: for some reason I am just now seeing this article. I really appreciate what you said about me! Makes me feel good knowing someone recognized my talent. Just wanted to say Excalibur didn’t dump me to level 10. I actually chose to move down to 10 because after so many years of being Elite and seeing all the politics and not receiving assignments after out scoring/performing other individuals, it became clear to me that it wasn’t about my talent/hard work/performance. I chose to do level 10 because I wanted to go back to high school and try to be a normal teenager before college. I was tired of sacrificing my teenage years for an outcome I knew I could achieve but was not given the opportunity. Sometimes I wish I would have just stayed with Elite my last two years but in the end I feel like it was the best decision at the time and I am still VERY happy with the path my decision led me down :)

  14. How many talented girls end up quitting because of money. Those parents have no pride and took advantage of the situation. They really believe that it takes a village to raise ones own kids. Shame on them-They taught their kid that she doesn’t have to pay her own way.She will one day flounder and she can blame it on her parents who relied on others to raise their kid.

  15. What a great line of comments! I am not in gymnastics in any way, have no kids in gymnastics, and know nothing about gymnastics (other than I enjoy the competitiveness of the sport).
    My point is that this comment line is a perfect microcosm of life as a whole.
    Point 1 – how many up and coming kids have pure raw talent in a particular field (gymnastics, science, academics, etc), yet are unable to rise to their FULL potential because of circumstances that have NOTHING to do with their ABILITY. Look at some of the Asian and European gymnastics teams. The athletes with raw talent are identified very early, and are “guided” into programs of training right away. Their parents aren’t told, “Well, yes, your son/daughter is extremely talented, but your FINANCES aren’t.”
    Point 2 – Our American society is so caught up in the acquisition of money that we will see a dollar bill on the ground and make such an effort to grab it that we overlook the box full of money sitting two doors down. Yes, from what I have read, I believe that the Excalibur
    Gym did a superior job in taking Gabby to the mountaintop. But, they are missing the box full of money trying to get the dollar bill. Excalibur provided the rock solid training that resulted in an Olympic gymnast. Rather than squabble over the dollar bill ,
    how about realizing that the added recognition they will receive from training Gabby Douglas is worth hundreds of times more in new business!
    Again, I know nothing about gymnastics, but I now know about the Excalibur Gym, and I know who Dena and Jim Walker are. If I were to have a child who showed interest and talent in gymnastics, that’s the gym I’m calling!

    1. Excalibur is an excellent gym, no doubt.

      In the many, many interviews where Gabby says she needed to move to another club to “get to the next level”, she’s been unfair.

      … It may be that she’s so young she doesn’t realize what a good gym developed her BASICS.

      On the other hand, it certainly didn’t hurt her to go to Chow. She may well be the next Olympic Champ.

  16. Excalibur is a good gym but it is NOT producing OLYMPIANS. Walker has been in the local news boo-hooing because she claims money is owed. If someone owes me, I let lawyers and courts handle it, I don’t go on t.v. or to newspapers putting that info out there.

    Walker cannot possibly think Excalibur is at the same level as Chow’s gym and her skills are not on the level of the Karolyi’s. She comes out in the press the moment this CHILD begins to shine with negativity and a desperate grab at getting the gym’s name “out there” in hopes of getting more athletes.

    Her demeanor is very negative on t.v. and in the Virginian Pilot article which was between 3 and 4 pages long, detailing things that would only be said when someone is hurt and jealous. Gabby’s mom did the right thing for her by allowing her to go to a better gym that is run by PROFESSIONALS that can keep their attitudes in check.

    Gabby has an Olympic GOLD medal. Surely Walker cannot think that she can do that. She has already been coaching for at least three decades and hasn’t gotten anyone that far. Maybe if she changes how she handles herself she can hang on to athletes long enough to do so.

  17. After reading all of the comments, I pray that God will bless her with enough endorsements and monetary compensation that she will settle whatever is owed to Excalibur and move forward. It is clear that this family is very spiritual and rely on God to direct their paths. Saying that, I believe they will do what’s right.

    We should all be rejoicing because she is representing our country and dong a fine job. Her dream has come true and not only does she have 2 Gold medals at present, but her Gold also counts for USA. Don’t overshadow the historical moments with negativity. As Gabby stated Thursday night, all the Glory is owed God and the blessings are coming to her.

    Be blessed and enjoy the rest of the Olympics

  18. I live in the City where the Golden Girl currently trains. Her current coach has always given recognition of the training that Gabreille received before she came to learn from him. I was disappointed for this champion to read of the seemingly “sour grapes”. Coach Chow groomed a former Gold medal winner here as well, Shawn Johnson. Now that you have put it out there, I am certain that her agent will send you the money that you say you are due. Our unassuming Coach Chow now has two clients who have won gold medals under his watch. Had you been more gracious, I am sure that all of the networks would be knocking down your door. I am a former military officer. One of my primary duties was to identify and help train tomorrows leaders. Civilians could learn a great lesson from that purpose. I am also disappointed for this young girl. Very rarely do children not see the truth of life events. While you still may be a hero to her, I feel sorry for you because you could have been a GIANT in her eyes!

  19. This happens all the time in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. People changing gyms/teams to get better training are labelled Creontes (traitors) who wave two flags.

    At the end of the day though, Gabby got the gold and is world champion so she made the right decision.

  20. I also think that Excalibur made a huge mistake in giving free handouts. This meant that Gabby and their family invested nothing monetarily in Excalibur so it was easier to leave since they made no commitment.

    You also see this in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, where a no name blackbelt trains a phenom for free and gives him a job teaching from white to brownbelt, and then the phenom leaves when he is a brown belt and gets his blackbelt from a bigger name.

  21. hmm….Gabrielle said she was bullied by some kids too….I wonder what really happened. She’s so talented, I just hope all this goes away….silly.

  22. This Dens looks like a member if the GoGN a(good ol girl network of amerikkka) and does not look like the type to do anything for free. There had to be something in it for her like extra money for her business if GABBY won at these competituins cause if you did it out of the kindness if your heart then you would not expect money and if you knew she was going to win the Olympics 2years down the road she is in the wrong business not to mention violating some olypmic rule. Point blank dens is jealous and delusional to think that is she had not produced an AA CHAMP IN OVER 25years she could have helped GABBY. GABBY’s excellent God given talent plus Chows Olympic experience and ability to trNsfer skills in coaching is what achieved best gynast in the work status for GABBY. Dens get over yourself and acknowlege you could only take GABBY so far and that Chow has proven for a SECOND time he knows how to get the gold. Period.

  23. George N please stop you are digging an even bigger whole for the Excalibur “your friends.” Not sure what article Jenny or you for that matter are referring to because you both are delusional if you preceive Gabby and/or her mother to be whinning. Also, the article indicates that Ms. Hawkins was going to move to Texas because she has an uncle there that they could stay with (presummably for free). And if the atmosphere of the gym or the other girls attitudes are 1 tenth of what you portray in your post I understand why Gabby left. Stop being so bitter!

  24. Well jojo1802 now we know…2012 Olympic All Around Gynastics Champion!!! And by the way I loved your post. It seems the most honest and sincere and reflects where the truth probably lies with both sides…

  25. Surprised Excaliber didn’t get fired for
    Their blatant racist behavior. Gabby seems
    Like a lovely young lady. You better be
    Glad all they did was whine. I wish someone
    Would call my child a slave or tell her to get
    A nose job!!!

  26. George N says:
    March 31, 2012 at 9:47 am

    Anybody that has read any of my previous posts on the Gabby/Excalibur situation will know this one is very close to my heart, especially since the coaches are my closest friends.

    Response: The coaches are no longer your closest friends and in fact Dena Walker removed you from her Facebook account as a friend. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that your girlfriend at the time was only a couple of years older than their daughter Chase.

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