Gymnastics - Master Class

Gymnastics: The Ultimate Master Class

I can’t stop thinking about the 158 victims who came forward to give their impact statements in the sentencing of Larry Nassar. It is remarkable that every single survivor who spoke embodied the same indomitable spirit of courage and poise. While there were many tears, harsh anger, and obvious emotional pain reliving the horrific memories in speaking their truth before a worldwide audience—and coming face to face with their abuser—not one… lost her cool. Not one lost her poise. Not one faltered in her mission to deliver her truth. Not one gave Nassar a single moment of power over her. Not one. That is truly remarkable.

I know we all saw it and felt it. This intangible yet unequivocal energy of courage and unshakable strength. When you raise an army you seek to instill a common doctrine of purpose. They had it.

I have been asked many times, “Why would parents put their kids in gymnastics now?” The answer is crystal clear. Gymnastics is not the culprit. Gymnastics is a master class on life skills. Gymnastics teaches discipline, focus, and attention to detail. Gymnastics hones courage to face fear head on. Gymnastics teaches the importance of thorough preparation. Gymnastics teaches perseverance, as there’s no one to pass the ball to when things get tough. Gymnastics demands that one learns how to finish. Gymnastics teaches one to dare to dream as none of the skills learned in gymnastics are innate in us. Gymnastics is the perfect combination of athletics and performance. Since I’ve personally never done gymnastics I imagine gymnastics makes one feel like a super hero.

Gymnastics is not the culprit for the current fallout surrounding athletics. It was adults who encouraged and cultivated an environment of abuse. It’s the adults who got so caught up in medals that they didn’t take care of our athletes. This has nothing to do with the sport of gymnastics. Instead of protecting our athletes, the people in power protected the system because it “worked.” To which I’ve replied many times, “At what cost?”

We can reign supreme as the world’s best, most innovative and exciting gymnastics army in the world without verbal, emotional or physical abuse of our athletes. However, we must respect the magnitude of the difficulty of the sport.

Gymnastics is hard. This is one reason it reigns supreme in teaching all of the above mentioned life skills. Because it’s so tough this is also a reason young athletes aren’t allowed to talk a lot or participate in frivolous activities during training. Most young athletes lack the mental discipline to be able to relax and dance around one moment then flip it to razor sharp focus the next. Collegiate athletes are able to manage this because they’ve already mastered most of the skills they are competing.

I am so excited for our future. The veil has been lifted. We are finally coming into a new era where our youth can expect to be coached with discipline, civility, and respect. They deserve to earn the benefits and joy of our beautiful sport without the trauma. Parents can feel empowered that they have an outlet to voice their concerns—and if your concerns aren’t being met or responded to I recommend seeking another gym—this country is packed with outstanding coaches and facilities.

I am so proud of our sport. It produced a resolute army of women who took on a global powerhouse and said, “Enough. Times up. We’re taking back our sport.” I stand and applaud everyone of you and say thank you!

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Mary
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Mary

Awesome article!!!!!! I am 34 years post gymnastics and the sport has had a profound positive affect on my life. Thank you.

Linda Johnson
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Linda Johnson

Thank you so much—so well said! Powerful and inspirational…

Patti Rice
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Patti Rice

Thank you Coach Val. Your words ring true for decades of former gymnasts. None of us are ever really ‘former.’ As you said, gymnastics is a master class on life skills. So for those of us who have aged out of the ability to flip our bodies as we once did (for me, that is 33 years ago), we still draw on those life lessons even today. I am grateful for beautiful, caring and talented people like you who are in positions of leadership in the wonderful sport of gymnastics. All the best! Former US National Gymnastics Team Member and… Read more »

Susan Ott
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Susan Ott

Well sqid miss val. I pray ypu are part of the solution

Anonymous
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Anonymous

They need to put you on the new USAG board of directors. You Kathy Johnson Clarke and a host of others that embrace the changes needed. Thank You!

Kirk Mango
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Very well written GREAT post…Val. You are right on point with everything said. I especially like this: “Gymnastics teaches discipline, focus, and attention to detail. Gymnastics hones courage to face fear head on. Gymnastics teaches the importance of thorough preparation. Gymnastics teaches perseverance, as there’s no one to pass the ball to when things get tough. Gymnastics demands that one learns how to finish. Gymnastics teaches one to dare to dream as none of the skills learned in gymnastics are innate in us. Gymnastics is the perfect combination of athletics and performance.” And would only add that the word gymnastics… Read more »

A.J. Ward
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Great post Val! My daughters are currently level 6 and 7 gymnasts, I’m also a professional photographer (part-time) who specializes in action sports photography. All of us that have any connection to gymnastics, including parents, coaches and medical staff, need to ask ourselves if we are nurturing an atmosphere of trust and respect – particularly, starting with our youngest athletes. This scandal has ignited candid discussions in my household about a wide gamut of topics to help our girls understand what kind of behavior from adults is deemed acceptable versus what they should not have to accept. I always try… Read more »

Lori Forster
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Lori Forster

Yes! All absolutely true in my book!

Brittany
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Brittany

I have thoroughly enjoyed your posts both last week and this week. I watched some of the statements online and was very impressed with the poise and candor that these women showed. Thank you for being a voice of reason among so many others and here’s to change in USA Gymnastics.

Sarah Patterson
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Sarah Patterson

Great words for all Val…. I’m so proud of these women and many more! ❤️