I’m back in my home town Calgary, Alberta.
Over the past few days I’ve spoken with a dozen or more coaches regarding the two Canadian coaches recently suspended, one of them from Alberta.
Kim Shore and Maya Patrie are former gymnasts and parents of gymnasts. I’d like to share a letter they are circulating:
We stand with you. You are not alone. The recent disclosures of misconduct have left the entire gymnastics community feeling shaken, vulnerable and questioning trusted mentors.
All this hits very close to home for those who grew up in sports and witnessed uncomfortable things or for those who have their own heartbreaking stories of abuse. It also hits hard for coaches who have worked tirelessly to ensure that their conduct is always above the line and who choose to do things the right way not the easy way, because they know how important their role is to the health and well being of children.
Coaches, you are not alone. The dark cloud that has descended affects current athletes, former athletes, parents of gymnasts past and present, administrators, board members and judges. We feel it too, but you are the ones on the frontline. With so many unanswered questions, scrutiny and judgment prevail, from both within and outside the gymnastics community. It weighs heavily.
We watched in horror as the allegations in the U.S. proved true, and now we are faced with the possibility that dreadful conduct may have occurred in Canadian gymnastics. Parents everywhere are asking themselves, “Am I a good parent if I let my child participate in gymnastics?”.
We can work together to reassure everyone that, YES, gymnastics is an amazing foundational sport, that serves kids emotionally, physically and mentally in abundantly positive ways. Get with your athletes and their parents. Help kids use their voices to express their thoughts and feelings, empower them to own their sports experience. Educate parents, partner with them. Together, you are raising children who deserve to become healthy, happy adults. Confirm that their children are safe in your care. Don’t leave anything to rumour or speculation. Explain your club’s child safe policies and reasons for doing what you do. If you don’t have existing policies, enlist professionals and your parent population to help you create them. Help parents understand their role in keeping their children safe in sports. Empower them with purpose. Parents can focus on reinforcing the important life lessons learned in the gym and you can focus on developing great athletes. Shared wisdom is our greatest asset as a community.
The time has come to join together, to lean on each other for support, to dissolve old rivalries and forgive past misunderstandings. We need to do this for the safety of our athletes, to retain the trust of our members and to heal the holes in our hearts. You coaches have given too much of yourselves to let the very few steal your credibility and professionalism.
For those of you who consistently coach from a positive, respectful and safe place, your actions will carry you forward with integrity and your athletes and their parents will stand beside you.
You are not alone.
Men’s National Coach Tony Smith echoed some of those sentiments.
We need to pull together. Support each other while at the same time denouncing anyone who has abused the position of power and influence they have as a coach.
When asked what Gymnastics Canada must do at this time, Keith Russell recommends: Educate, Educate, Educate, Legislate.