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Gymnastics Coach Maggie Haney was suspended for 8 years. I had a handful of parents reach out to me after the news to say thanks for doing my part. I reported her to USA Gymnastics and SafeSport after I heard the sixth complaint in 2019. (USAG / SafeSport Policy: Any adult under the jurisdiction of USA Gymnastics who becomes aware of an incident of child abuse or sexual misconduct involving a minor must immediately report the incident to law enforcement and the U.S Center for SafeSport.) When multiple families tell you the same story on different occasions, you know there is truth in it. I wish more coaches would help rid the sport of the abusive coaches that remain in gyms. We are now required to report abusive behavior. I expect more abusive coaches will be flushed out in the near future.
Please understand that not all gymnastics coaches are abusive. There are so many great coaches here in the tri-state area and throughout the USA. Be sure to visit a few gymnastics clubs before you sign your child up for training anywhere. Make sure you are very comfortable in the atmosphere, talk to the other parents, observe the team kids and learn whether they are happy, goal-oriented, injured, sad, or otherwise. Allow your child to be part of the decision on which gym you commit to.
Your child must be comfortable with the coaches, atmosphere, and equipment. If there is ever a day your child does not want to go to the gym find out why. There is always a reason and it is usually a very good reason. And believe your child if they say they are being abused, but also know that gymnastics coaches must be demanding, while respectful, because of the safety factor involved.
When your young child is on that balance beam or swinging on the uneven bars, their safety is literally in their hands. They must be clear-minded, able to focus, strong, agile, and able to follow directions to remain safe, progress, and be successful. So talk to your child, allow them to be coached, encourage them to try their best, but pull them out if there is any sign of misconduct or abuse, and report any abusive coach to the proper authorities.
Please remember, asking a child to perform to the best of their ability is not abuse. Asking your child to focus is not abuse. Lack of focus causes accidents. Hard work is not abuse, but extreme numbers of repetitions may be. Leaving a child on an event while fatigued until they perform a skill after the team has moved on is abuse.
Yelling at a child for unsafe behavior (such as horseplay) after they have been told nicely several times not to do something dangerous is not abuse because their safety is in jeopardy.
Asking a child to take a break after several unsuccessful repetitions is not abuse, it is a safety measure to be sure your child can refocus when they return.
Yelling at a child for a mistake, putting a child down, screaming in their face, going overboard-punishing kids for mistakes, cursing, forcing them to remove medical devices, improper touching are all abuse.
You’ll know it’s abuse if you see it. Don’t be afraid of a good work ethic, but do remove your child from abusive situations. Just follow your gut instinct when it comes to your child’s training.