Gymnast Alliance #gymnastalliance

Dvora posted an article for Vice:

The Gymnast Alliance is forcing a reckoning with abusive practices that have long been at the center of the sport.

… hundreds of gymnasts from all over would post their personal stories of pain and abuse to social media using the hashtag.

They spoke of being forced to train and compete on serious injuries; of being publicly shamed for their weight; of being screamed at and belittled for making mistakes in practice.

Press attention would soon follow, with reports on ITV and other outlets. And the #gymnastalliance would soon spread to other countries, with gymnasts in Belgium, New Zealand, Australia, and the Netherlands speaking up about abuse at the highest level of sports there.

Hotlines have been set up; independent inquiries have been promised; coaches have been suspended. …

“We Won’t Stop”: Gymnasts Around the World Are Organizing To End Abuse

Downie sisters have spoken up about abuse.

Defying Gravity – part 2

Bars is the main theme of the second episode.

Beam will be featured in episode 3, but you need a YouTube Premium account to watch episodes 3-6.

In part 2 there’s a serious discussion of the psychological pressure on girls during puberty, as well.  Kyla Ross talks about the growth spurt she had after her first Olympics.

The great Vanessa Atler talks about the distress she felt when her coaches started weighing her daily.

Steve Rybacki certainly comes off a jerk.

I went back to listen again to Vanessa’s 2017 interview on GymCastic.  Vanessa has many good memories of her main coach, however.  She’s forgiven a lot of people from her past.

Cathy Rigby talks about eating disorders, as well.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.


Blythe Lawrence on Aussie #AthleteAlliance

Rianna Mizzen talks about how being overworked in training contributed to her ACL tear.

“I have had some terrible experiences at major international competitions and national training camps between 2006-2012 that I wouldn’t wish on anyone,” two-time Olympian Georgia Bonora wrote on Instagram.

“There’s training hard and helping your athlete get the most out of themselves, but then there’s also a very fine line that can be crossed into abusive territory,” said Mary-Anne Monckton, a five-time Australian champion who won two silver medals at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

“A lot of girls, some 20 years later, still didn’t realise that that was abuse. None of us recognised it because it wasn’t just happening to us. It was happening to everybody.”

On July 30 the Australian Human Rights Commission announced it would conduct an independent review, led by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, on gymnastics in Australia to better understand why alleged abuse went unreported.

Click through to read the well researched and detailed article in the Brisbane Times:

‘You can’t step out of line’: Medals come at a price for gymnasts

Nick Ruddock on on Athlete Alliance

Nick is eloquent in his summing up of the #AthleteAlliance revelations — gymnasts emboldened to come forward with some of their worst experiences in the sport.

How revealing past abuse can make things better for future generations.

Of course he looks at it from the coach perspective.


impact of sport on LGBTQ youth

Unsurprisingly, LGBTQ youth who participate in sports are better in school.  Do better in life.

Coaches should be encouraging kids who might feel like outsiders.

Sports participation has been linked to higher self-esteem, better grades and lower depressive symptoms among LGBTQ youth, according to The Trevor Project’s inaugural mental health survey — the largest of its kind ever conducted. …

The impact of sports on LGBTQ youth

Uncle Tim’s advice for coaches

Uncle Tim is one of the GymCastic team, editor of the late, great Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym.

When one of your former gymnasts relates some of their worst experiences — #GymnastAlliance — while under your program:

1. Listen
Don’t speak. Don’t tell your side of the story. Don’t try to be right. Just listen. Even if you had good intentions in a particular situation, your actions may still hurt someone. How someone perceives your actions is just as importantif not more importantas your intentions.
2. Reflect 
Before you apologize, take time to reflect on what the person said and really think about what happened with that individual athlete. This is especially important if your initial reaction is defensiveness, and even if defensiveness is not your go-to reaction, reflection will help you in the apology stage.
If you still feel like you were right in this situation and want to explain your point of view, talk to a therapist about the issue and work through the issue.
After reflecting on your experiences with that individual athlete, think about other times that you behaved similarly with other athletes. (This will be important later on.)
3. Apologize
Apologize to the athlete and admit where you went wrong. Remember that “I’m sorry if I hurt you” or “I’m sorry that you feel that way” is not an apology. Your athlete is telling you that your actions were hurtful. Take responsibility for your actions.
4. Reach out 
Reach out to the athletes who may have had a similar experience with you. (Those situations that you unearthed in the reflection portion.) As you reach out to more athletes, listen first. Always listen first.
Remember that everyone perceives things differently. Your actions may have impacted some athletes more than others. Just because the experience of your athletes are not universally bad does not mean that all your actions and coaching tactics are vindicated.
Don’t be surprised if some athletes need time to reflect. Some may have minimized the problem, tucked it away in their minds, and never processed it. It’s a very common coping mechanism.
5. Reflect Again
Once you’ve heard your athletes’ reactions, reflect again. Did those conversations surface additional problems? What are those problems? How can you address those problems in your coaching?
If you don’t know how to address those problems in your coaching, speak to a therapist. It might not be enough to talk to a trusted coach in the gymnastics community. Some problems might be endemic in the gymnastics community.
6. Apologize Again
Apologize to the athlete and admit where you went wrong. Remember that “I’m sorry if I hurt you” or “I’m sorry that you feel that way” is not an apology. Your athlete is telling you that your actions were hurtful. Take responsibility for your actions.
7. Course Correct
If you’re part of a coaching staff, share the lessons you’ve learned. Like it or not, if you’re a senior coach, other coaches in your gym may try to replicate your coaching style. So, the issues that came up in conversations may not just be personal. It could be a problem with your entire staff.
As you share the lessons you’ve learned, respect the gymnasts’ confidentiality. But do explain how and why a certain behavior is hurtful.
Then, work with your staff to come up with solutions. Keep in mind that you are not Atlas carrying the weight of the world on your back. You might not have all the right answers, but other members of your coaching staff might.
For example, let’s say that you used the word “belly” when talking about your gymnasts’ abdomen, and your gymnasts felt like it was a comment on their weight, which made them feel ashamed of their bodies. What terms could you use to get gymnasts in the right position? See if your team has some good suggestions.
Then, make sure that you and your coaching staff hold one another accountable. Create a culture where coaches can give one another feedback on their coaching style, and no one’s actions are considered above reproach.

Thanks Jessica.

Aleksandra Soldatova on eating disorders

Aleksandra Soldatova is the 2018 World All-around Rhythmic bronze medalist representing Russia.  She plans to try out for the Tokyo Olympics.

I’d once starved myself for several days before realizing I was on the brink… that I’d reached my limit. Then I found the courage to tell my coach about my problems,” Soldatova said.

The 22-year-old has currently put her sporting career on hold to allow her the space to deal with her health problems.

She said she has managed to stop her bulimic behaviors with the help of her coach, her friends, and a psychologist, but admitted she still has nightmares in which she gains weight, which remains a fear. …

‘I could have starved for days’: Russian gymnastics queen Alexandra Soldatova on battle with bulimia

Jenny Pinches on Coaches

Jennifer Pinches was an Olympian for GBR in 2012.

Went on to compete for UCLA.

She’s one of the founders and leaders of #gymnastalliance

Thanks Jenny!

Her courage has helped many others come forward with their personal stories.  The sport should emerge more healthy than in the past.

We appreciate Jenny’s opinion, too, that no coaches are perfect.  And not all have been abusive.

Click through to Twitter to read the thread.