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!