USA Gymnastics Names Tom Forster to National Team Coordinator Role

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After a lengthy search, USA Gymnastics has just named Tom Forster as the new women’s national team coordinator.

The national coordinator position had previously been held by Martha Karolyi from 2001 until her retirement after the 2016 Olympic Games, upon which Valeri Liukin, who had been in charge of the developmental program for three years prior, was named as her replacement. Liukin served in the role for just over a year, leading the U.S. women to four medals at world championships in Montreal before resigning in February.

We participated in a conference call with Forster this afternoon, who said:

“I’m humbled and excited for the opportunity to lead the elite community in a forward, positive direction. It’s an exciting time, but we have some challenges ahead and I’m excited to tackle those. I’ve been helping the coaches through the elite development system for the past six years and I’m happy to have a great relationship with them.”

According to USA Gymnastics president and CEO Kerry Perry, Forster “has a training philosophy aligned with a culture that supports and hears our athletes.” She noted that athletes and coaches needed to be part of the hiring of the new head of the women’s national team, and so the board spoke with current and former athletes and coaches, included their questions in the interview process, and incorporated their feedback into the selection process.

In his interview just after being announced, Forster talked about the culture within the national team and the sport in general, and said his main priority is making sure gymnasts know that they can some forward and trust the leaders of the women’s program knowing that there will be no retaliation for speaking up.

Forster wants athletes to not only be able to complain about anything they want to complain about, but to also feel heard and know they can make a change if they feel something isn’t right. “The whole purpose of my job and the national team staff is to support them in their quest as athletes. Their voice matters. They have the right to speak up.”

When asked about his coaching style and history, Forster said: “I’ve been coaching at my own club for 35 years and my style is to try to inspire and motivate athletes using positive reinforcement. My goal has always been that when gymnasts walk away from their experience at my club, they’ll say ‘what a great experience that was.’ I want the same experience for our elite athletes.”

“My role has always been about education, not team selection,” he continued, “so I’m looking forward to bringing that into the role and coordinating everything in a positive way so athletes and coaches feel heard. I want to make the selection camps about learning. That’s what makes the sport exciting — you can still learn things, rather than being stuck doing the same things over and over again. Learning makes gymnastics exciting and fun.”

Forster mentioned that he feels he has the respect of coaches, and says he has no conflict of interest between his club and his new role, as he hasn’t had an athlete on the national team since Natalie Foley in 2001.

In addition to coaching at his top-ranked club, Colorado Aerials, Forster has been on the USA Gymnastics staff since 2010 at the developmental stage, helping out new coaches who hadn’t yet qualified kids to the national team and needed guidance, and feels that many of the current elite athletes, Hopes athletes, and developmental athletes have grown up with him and respect him as a leader.

USA Gymnastics hopes to announce an interim training site for national team camps in the near future, and noted that parents will be allowed — and encouraged — to observe training sessions at camps. The permanent center is still in the developmental stage, but will be “much more than a training center,” according to Perry.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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17 thoughts on “USA Gymnastics Names Tom Forster to National Team Coordinator Role

  1. Oooh, this is exciting! I didn’t think Aimee would want the job, and I’ve heard good things about the culture at Aerials and Forster as a coach in general. I’m pissed off for the girls’ sake that Valeri had to leave but I think they’re in good hands with Forster.

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    • Yeah, he was really who the coaches and athletes were pushing for after Valeri left, so I’m happy USAG seemed to have listened! He also came across really friendly and knowledgable in this quick interview, so fingers crossed that he’ll be a great fit.

      Like

  2. FINALLY SOME GOOD FUCKING NEWS!!!

    I’m really happy about this. Colorado Aerials got a reputation in the 90s as a gym that was taking kids to the top with a positive, caring approach rather than the authoritarian one that had dominated elite gymnastics since the 60s or earlier. I hope Tom is successful in bringing that philosophy forward into this role and restructuring the national program into something that protects the athletes and helps them grow into happy, confident and strong gymnasts and young women.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Taking kids to the top with a positive, caring approach? The Forsters?
      Yeah OK.
      Doni Thompson quit gymnastics after the 1995 Worlds, Kristy Powell fled Aerials after the 1996 Olympic Trials to Mary Lee Tracy, and Theresa Kulikowski who had a chance at Worlds in 1997 got slightly injured and decided to retire from elite before heading to Utah in 1999.

      Tom Forster threw tantrums when his gymnasts weren’t hitting. He also had an attitude/sarcasm problem. After Kerri Strug left his gym, Forster was interviewed by NBC and stated “Kerri always had the opportunity to LEAVE” (instead of lead)….

      He was NT bars coach from 2010 onward…this was the US’ weakest event during his tenure, which does not bode well to me.

      Guess he was the best of what was left as virtually no one wanted that position.

      No thank you.

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      • You can’t just spread misinformation. Doni Thompson did not “quit” gymnastics, she stopped doing elite. She went on to become a superstar at UCLA. She is still very involved in the sport and has her own gym. She has never said a negative word about her experiences with gymnastics.

        Also you say that Kristy “fled”, do you know why she left? Nor do I, but to paint it as evidence that the Forster’s are bad people or caches is not fair, especially considering Kristy went to about 5 different gymnast as an elite. Do you think it probably had something to do with MLT having two kids on the Olympic team that Kristy just missed out on???

        I do not know how Tom Forster will do in this role. For the girls sake I hope it is positive, but this kind of “trial by fluff piece” and attempting to vilify someone based off of nothing is definitely not helpful.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Uh, it’s not misinformation that Thompson quit gymnastics … It’s a fact. She walked out of the gym, took up diving and most definitely quit the sport and said it was forever. She later CAME BACK to compete at UCLA. But, yeah, she for sure quit. Kristy also left, and then quit the sport due to injuries while at the height of her competitive career. Judging him based on what he actually did and said is far, FAR from “nothing.”

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  3. I’m so happy that they didn’t go back to one of the old coaches! I totally thought they were going to pull back Mihai or something.

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  4. Thank you so much for writing this up in a neutral way. The news and majority of comments on facebook I have seen so far about this topic have been pretty negative based on a 3 minute fluff piece from 1996… I believe it is great and important to be critical, but some people seem to not want to give him a chance even though the athletes and coaches were involved in this decision. I am sure that unfortunately from almost any coach it is possible to dig up some dirt from past behaviour and of course he will have to prove himself, but lets not discart him from the beginning. Also, I am a level 10 gymnast myself and have had some coaches who have changed tremendously within a few years, going from emotionally less tactful and old-fashioned strict to being a lot easier and very pleasant to work with. As gymnasts learn and grow, so do coaches. Everyone grows and changes over time. I can’t wait to see what he does for the program and hopefully he will prove himself to be a positive change during this poisonous time.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, I have my opinions and am thinking of doing a more opinion-based reaction in the future, but my opinion is that I find it bizarre that pretty much every single national and developmental team athlete and coach LOVES and respects Tom but people are ignoring that and are instead focusing on the 1996 video, as if that has anything to do with who he is now as a coach/person. He has been in a position with USAG since 2010 with ZERO complaints and has TONS of respect from people at every level in the sport, and no one in the gym community gave a crap about him being there, so now that he’s NTC suddenly everyone needs him away from gymnasts? Buddies, he’s BEEN THERE. FOR YEARS. He deserves a chance to do his job here before people start judging him.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I would love to see an opinion piece! You’re by far the source I trust the most in the current USAG upheaval because you show your strong criticism of their failings while also not seeming to come from a standpoint of rejecting any decision they make because it’s a USAG decision. I feel like some people keep moving the goalposts with what they demand from USAG. Which isn’t to say “Larry Nassar’s out so why are you complaining” or that we shouldn’t be vigilant in watching their behavior, but that when they do make strides in acting more how we demand, some seem unwilling to acknowledge any progress, where I feel you have a more balanced outlook. I was super happy to see that the athletes and coaches had finally actually been included in a major decision at USAG.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. We’ll see, but seems relevant that of the four national team elites he personally coached, 3/4 left and/or quit the sport: one quit at the height of her career in an Olympic year (Doni Thompson), one left after less than six months (Kerri Strug) and he then made passive aggressive jabs at a teen on national TV, one left after two years (Kristy Powell) and then quit the sport, and one he acted like she’d personally failed him when she feel at Olympic Trials (Theresa Kulikowski). Disappoint at an error is normal, but he was still flapping his arms and hiding his head when she was done with the routine, which I’m sure was comforting to the devastated teen who had just fallen in the biggest meet of her life. And his public comments about Kerri and Doni were all about him. So, yeah, hope he’s changed.

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    • Exactly right.

      Kulikowski had a legitimate chance at Worlds in 1997, maybe even becoming national champion. However she got slightly injured and decided not to bother coming back, retired from elite in and headed off to Utah for the 1998-1999 NCAA season.

      Like

  6. Pingback: Around the Gymternet: Get used to disappointment | The Gymternet

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