Florida athletes: when was your last period?

Did the Florida High School Athletics Association (FHSAA) vote to recommend that student athletes be required to turn in their menstrual histories to schools?

YES they did.

The FHSAA’s Board of Directors is set to render a decision on the proposal in February.

Gymnastics Canada McLaren Report – my review

By site editor Rick McCharles

  • 974 individuals completed surveys
  • 58 personal interviews were conducted
  • More than 83% of gymnasts who were surveyed indicated their overall gymnastics experience as either “Extremely Positive” or “Somewhat Positive”. For me, over 50 years a member, it’s been extremely positive as gymnast, coach, and judge.
  • 7% of gymnasts who reported their overall gymnastics experience as either “Extremely Negative” or “Somewhat Negative
  • Amongst competitive disciplines, WAG is described as being the most negative and subject to abuse

I did the survey and was one of the coaches interviewed. I immediately called out my interviewers asking if they considered themselves independent, as the Report was being funded by Gymnastics Canada.

Of course they were ready for that question. I came away convinced that Gymnastics Canada had no influence in their findings. For example, Mclaren did a similar report for Canada Soccer, paid for by Canada Soccer, and the report was damning.

IF GymCan had not contracted McLaren, right now we’d have NO report at all on how Gymnastics can be made safer for all athletes.

In fact, McLaren is more a ‘road map‘ laying out the issues as reported by stakeholders, and making recommendations as to ACTION steps. But not setting out targets as did the Daniels Report for USA Gymnastics.

It’s very lengthy (277 pages). Dense reading without any final summing up. I searched for the word “recommendation” in my PDF and there are many hits.

A total of 46 recommendations are made in 13 categories. It’s up to Sports Canada, GymCan and the Provincial organizations to follow-up with ACTION.

Here’s my own summary of key points with notes:

  • single individual (Canadian lawyer) be appointed to lead an independent multi-disciplinary team referred to collectively as the Culture Review Leadership Team (‘CRLT’) of about 10 people
  • Gymnastics Canada Athletes Commission nominate one male and one female member of the Commission to be included on the CRLT
  • dedicated section on the GymCan website communicate the Gymnastics Culture Review.
  • Improve communication

I should note that GymCan has historically had terrible communication procedures. Over the years I’ve complained that Canada is worst of all major Gymnastics nations in communicating their stories.

  • Final report should be posted on the website including a summary of key recommendations. With progress targets.
  • Safe Sport resources, tools, and clearly defined reporting procedures on the Gymnastics Culture Review website. Right now that is confusing.

Firstly — when do I phone the police? And, if not, what’s the procedure for making a complaint?

  • WAG and RG are the disciplines that have had the most number, and most serious, complaints. These disciplines require special focus. But policies should apply to all disciplines, all 222,000 participants, including recreational athletes.
  • All gymnastics clubs in Canada should be contacted for a dialogue on safety and ethics. Some of those Gyms should have personal visits on behalf of the CRLT.
  • Many individuals expressed concerns about the lack of alignment and effectiveness between local, provincial and national governance. Very true. Therefore new policies and procedures should be fixed by federal law or Gymnastics Canada.
  • at every level, transparency and communication is essential
  • we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Other sport organizations are ahead of Gymnastics in this process. The Cromwell Report on Hockey Canada, for example, published October 2022.
  • Gymnastics Canada’s organizational structure should be reviewed including roles, leadership, reporting relationships and employee performance management structures. Recall that USA Gymnastics replaced almost everyone as part of their reinvention.
  • I’ve heard many American coaches state that the 2017 Daniels Report did results in positive changes to USA Gymnastics.
  • And I was in the audience recently when Becky Downie and Danusia Francis both spoke positively about the changes made from the Whyte Review in Great Britain. Both had not been well treated by the system.
  • Is there a ‘win at all costs’ approach within high-performance? Does Own The Podium result in abuse to high performance athlete?

I hope not. For me as a coach it’s the Michael Jordan effect. When Jordan became a huge star, tens of thousands of basketball hoops were installed worldwide. More kids got more active. Healthier societies.

I’m hoping one Ellie Black, one Kyle Shewfelt, one Rosie MacLennan, does the same for Canadian kids.

  • British Gymnastics (Whyte Review) was deliberate in ensuring that recommendations were realistic and actionable versus “wide overarching recommendations.” McLaren feels 10 months is a reasonable time frame for GymCan to initiate many of these recommended changes. Other nations have taken 6 – 22 months.
  • USA (Daniels Report) called for follow-up audits on implementation. These were completed at specific intervals and published on the USA Gymnastics website.
  • Near the end of the report there are summaries of how other nations handled these same issues.

That’s it for now. I feel I’ve just scratched the surface of the McLaren recommendations. It’s well done. And I’m optimistic that changes will be made to make Gymnastics safer into the future — even if not every recommendation can be implemented.

Leave a comment on this post if you have questions or suggestions.

Note. Gymnasts for Change Canada, a victim advocacy group, is calling for an Independent Review of GymCan Leadership + Sport Culture

Some in that group feel the McLaren Report should not be trusted as it was paid for by GymCan.

Personally, I’d most like to see a federal government multi-sport inquiry into how all athletes in Canada can more safely participate and compete.

Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge have made statements sounding supportive, but have yet to do anything concrete other than refer the issue to 2 Standing Committees in the Canadian House of Commons; the Standing Committee on the Status of Women and the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

Best would be if changes could be put into federal law, compelling all National Sports Governing Bodies to comply.

The international Global Athlete organization supports Gymnasts for Change Canada.

Check out the McLaren Report for yourself.

Gymnastics Canada McLaren Report

As promised, McLaren Global Sport Solutions delivered in January.

I’m just starting to read the full report, but here’s a press release summary:

  • We heard it at every level of the sport: change is urgently needed in gymnastics
  • report provides GymCan with an implementation plan and structure for change
  • 46 recommendations, each with supporting rationale
  • also includes a Safe Sport Policy Review — a comprehensive analysis of GymCan’s current national Safe Sport policies and procedures, including reporting procedures, case management procedures, codes of conduct and educational requirements.

I was one of those interviewed by McLaren, recommending GymCan start with WAG and Rhythmic as those disciplines have had the most complaints — but implement new policies for all disciplines.

Nile Wilson’s TED Talk

Nile informative and entertaining, as always.

He’s going to be on ITV’s Dancing on Ice next season. That should be entertaining, as well. 😀

Olympic gymnast and medalist Nile Wilson draws on his own personal challenges with mental health as a trailblazer in sports to shed some light on the challenges many professional athletes face on their journey to becoming champions.

.. Yet, Nile is so much more than just a gymnast – a YouTuber with over 1.5 million subscribers and 350 million total views; a social media influencer; a highly successful entrepreneur; an advocate for mental health awareness; and a powerful voice within his sport over the historic treatment of gymnasts. …

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

new Gymnastics Canada complaints program

I just sent in my consent form to participate in Gymnastics Canada’s new system for lodging complaints.

The goal is to make the process more independent. Hopefully better — though there are always unintended consequences of any change.

As of December 19, 2022, Gymnastics Canada is a Program Signatory of the Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner (OSIC).

This means that, from the date, any allegation of maltreatment or other prohibited behavior, as defined in the Universal Code of Conduct to Prevent and Address Maltreatment in Sport (UCCMS), against a UCCMS participant of Gymnastics Canada must be filed directly with the OSIC. …

To validate whether a complaint may be admissible to this service, or for assistance in filing a complaint, anyone can contact the Canadian Sport Helpline at 1 888 837-7678 or by email at info(a)abuse-free-sport.ca

Canadians should check their email to see if they have been asked to fill out this form as the deadline is December 19, 2022.

Anyone choosing not to sign on might have to terminate their affiliation with Gymnastics Canada.

reporting abuse while protecting privacy

One of the MANY problems parents have with reporting suspected abuse is protecting the privacy of their children.

It’s more common than not that they decide to stay quiet, rather than risk later consequences for their child.

ProPublica is one of the best news organizations in the world.

Abigail Kramer from that site reflects on her experience:

The Balancing Act of Reporting on Vulnerable Kids While Protecting Their Privacy

Broken: Inside the Toxic Culture of Canadian Gymnastics

Returning to Canada from Europe, I was finally able to watch the full documentary on Crave TV, a Canadian subscription service.

And it was even more damning that I expected from seeing the trailer.

The documentary is well produced. Shared the experience of a number of gymnast victims from a number of different clubs. We should consider this a small sample, not any kind of comprehensive review of all Canadian clubs.

My first takeaway is to admire the courage of the gymnasts, their parents and one coach willing to tell their stories to try to improve things for kids in the future.

Next, was to get more insight into just how difficult it was for families to lodge a complaint about a coach with Club, Provincial Federation and Gymnastics Canada.

Certainly document anything you see right from the beginning. Email or letter. Months or years later you may need to present specific incidents, times and dates.

If a coach or anyone else breaks the law, call the police. Simple.

The dilemma for a family is when misbehaviour at Gymnastics falls short of a crime: bullying, psychological abuse, emotional abuse, etc.

None of the coaches called out in this documentary were willing to be interviewed. Included were:

  • Vladimir and Svetlana Lashin, Omega Gymnastics, B.C. — neither are currently on the GymCan Suspended/Expelled Members list. But neither are coaching in Canada, I believe. And Omega shut down during the pandemic.
  • Dave Brubaker, Bluewater Gymnastics, Ontario. Former WAG National Coach. Expelled from GymCan membership. His wife, coach Liz Brubaker, is currently suspended.
  • Jamie Atkin, Airdrie Edge Gymnastics, Alberta. Jamie was under some sanctions from the Provincial Federation at one point, but is currently coaching and managing the club.
  • Rima Nikishin, Calgary Gymnastics Centre, Alberta. Indefinite suspension.

Have things changed for the better in Canada? Or is the system still protecting abusers?

The McLaren Global Sport Solutions Report should arrive January 2023 — a review of Ethics, Safety & Culture

Critics are suspicious that McLaren might not be critical nor strong enough as it was commissioned by Gymnastics Canada. Having been interviewed myself, I’m optimistic that it will deliver a good list of recommendations.

We were hoping that Sports Canada would additionally launch a multi-sport investigation into Ethics and Safety. It seemed the Prime Minister and Minister of Sport were onboard for that — but it hasn’t happened yet.

I do recommend you watch the 90 minute documentary for yourself. If you can find a way to do so.

No Canadian Inquiry into Abuse in Sport

I’m surprised.

Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge seemed to welcome groups representing Hockey, Gymnastics and others. Yet an investigation was not approved.

24 November: Yesterday, a motion was tabled in the Canadian House of Commons to initiate a national inquiry into abuse in sport. We, representatives of Global Athlete and Gymnasts For Change Canada, were in the gallery as this motion was presented. To witness it fail was devastating.

We are deeply disappointed to see politics impacting an issue that should be entirely non-partisan. Child and athlete abuse is not political and every day that federal leaders fail to act is a day that another athlete is at risk of abuse.

We call on our Canadian political leaders to show a unified front in eradicating abuse from sport and to initiate an independent third-party judicial inquiry to deliver the safety, justice, and accountability that every Canadian athlete, child and survivor deserves.

Global Athlete

WHY gymnasts stayed in the sport