Texas Dreams and the Problem With ‘Good’ Gyms

ashton

Ashton Kim, with Kim Zmeskal-Burdette looking on

When Ashton Kim, a former elite-level gymnast who trained at Texas Dreams for ten years, posted her story about the abuse she endured at the gym, I was shocked. And I wasn’t.

For years, gym fans have speculated about the goings-on at Texas Dreams. I get questions about their high injury rate for “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered” every other month. I remember feeling like something was shady back when we saw young gymnasts who went through podium training mysteriously not compete the next day at national-level competitions. I saw Ragan Smith in a boot for a year and was like, this is not normal.

But I’d never heard stories about abusive behavior, and if anything the good that I witnessed outweighed any of the negatives I speculated over, but couldn’t confirm. I saw Chris Burdette give a heartwarming little pep talk to Nica Hults after she had multiple falls on bars in the elite qualifier at the WOGA Classic in 2011, and then watched her go on to absolutely kill it on beam. I heard Kim Zmeskal-Burdette joking about her gymnasts farting because the uneven bars were squeaking during podium training at nationals. I’ve talked to both coaches, and to numerous gymnasts and parents, including one young gymnast who just two weeks ago said Texas Dreams saved her life after she escaped the horrors of her old gym, which let her compete with a concussion so bad, she couldn’t remember who her parents were.

And so when weighing on the scale between bad and good, Texas Dreams easily fell onto the “good” tray. I’ve seen coaches scream at, swear at, and berate their gymnasts at meets, throw temper tantrums when their gymnasts fall, and storm out of the arena because a score didn’t go their way. I’ve heard of coaches slapping and shoving kids at practice, and almost no gym is free from stories about psychological abuse, from weighing kids and calling them fat to playing mind games to make them work harder whether or not they’re physically or mentally capable of doing so. But the most I’d heard about Texas Dreams was that Kim was “strict,” and that’s probably why she pulled girls from meets, because she had rules about only those who were “ready” being allowed to compete, and that’s not really a bad thing, is it?

How we think about abuse in gymnastics has changed so much post-Larry Nassar, I can’t believe some of the things I used to see as “normal” or could justify as being “worth” the end goal. Most gyms post about the benefits of doing gymnastics as a child, and whether promising Olympic glory or just promoting a basic recreational program, self-discipline is always high on the list. While that’s not inherently a bad thing, and in fact can be quite useful in life outside of the sport, what I’ve learned over the past few years is that many coaches confuse disciplined athletes with the need to control every aspect of the athlete’s life, and it’s this culture of “control” that not only leads to, but also disguises, abusive situations.

A few years ago, I never remotely questioned something like the implications of having athletes line up in height order while chanting to Martha Karolyi. It was weird and even a bit funny, but was it abusive? I didn’t think so, at least not in a world where physical, sexual, and emotional abuse exist. But now, things like this jump out to me as such a red flag, because there’s a reason Martha demanded soldier-level behavior from her athletes, and it’s the same reason why most coaches don’t let gymnasts wear shorts, or demand that athletes cut their hair to a certain length, or require team-level gymnasts to homeschool as young as six – exerting control in every aspect of an athlete’s life creates a culture where an athlete is unable to think for herself, make decisions for herself, advocate for herself, or even trust that her own feelings are valid, leaving her blindly obedient to and dependent on the person in charge. This is abuse.

All of the measures of control taken to get to this point are also abusive, but because these things on their own are not inherently problematic, it’s easy to overlook them, and that’s why this form of abuse is the most dangerous. It’s barely noticeable to the people experiencing it on a daily basis, let alone to parents or other outsiders, which is why a gym like Texas Dreams can show up all smiles and hugs and rainbow leotards at competitions, and why they can get a reputation as the “good gym” despite everything we now know to be happening behind closed doors.

Relative to gyms where abuse is more obvious, it’s easy to call a gym like Texas Dreams a “good gym,” especially when in addition to what we’re seeing outright, it’s also getting rave reviews from so many current and former athletes and parents. But this is just another cultural diversion, because when the gym’s culture exists to enforce unconditional control, it’s impossible for athletes who are still involved or only recently removed from that culture to recognize that the situation is so unhealthy or problematic. The culture literally blinds them to the reality of their situation. Getting the people you are actively abusing to praise you is gaslighting to the extreme, which is why so many of Larry Nassar’s victims defended him for years before finally coming forward themselves, and is why Kim has long praised the Karolyis to the point of sadly becoming just like them.

It’s also why gymnasts like Ashton Kim and Kennedy Baker took years to call out their Texas Dreams coaches. Both Ashton and Kennedy had moments in their careers that felt weird, or even downright wrong, especially as both also experienced racism at the gym. According to both women, Chris reportedly made racist jokes on a regular basis, while Kennedy alleged that Kim once grabbed her and cut off her braids before a competition in an extreme violation of Kennedy’s bodily autonomy, all because her hair was too long (though Kim let her white athletes simply twirl their long hair into buns). Yet despite everything, both ultimately stayed at the gym for around a decade, and then took another five or so years to be able to process and talk publicly about what they endured. 

Part of me is torn now when I hear of current athletes and parents talk about how amazing their experiences are with gyms like Texas Dreams. I feel like it’s not my place to discredit or invalidate people’s experiences by insinuating that they’re brainwashed by the culture when I’m not there on a daily basis to see things for myself. It’s possible that they are victims an abusive culture that they are so ingrained in, they can’t see it from an outsider’s perspective, but it’s also possible that things have changed, or that their personal experiences happen to be wildly different from what others go through.

But using these stories on their own to confidently claim a gym as “good” is irresponsible. Experiences aren’t gospel truth, and NOT questioning things as outsiders is what helps abusers get away with it for so long. When Ragan Smith was in a boot for a year, for example, I and tons of others questioned exactly what was happening, why she wasn’t taking time off, how she was doing hard landings and then going right back into the boot…something seemed really messed up here. Eventually, one of Ragan’s family members tried to shut down the conversation by saying that none of us knows anything about her medical care, and that if her surgeon is clearing her to do gymnastics, we don’t have any right to question it. Fair point, I thought at the time, but now I think that if we as outsiders don’t question these things, who will?

We can believe that athletes and their families are being truthful in how they perceive and portray their own experiences, because maybe they were great. Just as I began writing this paragraph, Ragan – who began training at Texas Dreams in late 2013 and stayed at the gym until she left for college last year – posted on Instagram in response to the recent accusations, saying she’s “never experienced anything but love and support from Kim and Chris” and she “knows in her heart that Kim and Chris do everything out of love and care for their athletes.” This is on the line with absolutely everything I’ve heard about the gym from kids and parents over the years, and while I’m not surprised to hear stories about abuse, I’m also not surprised to continue to hear stories like this. For Ragan, it might be entirely accurate and truthful. With most of the athletes alleging an abusive culture having been out of club gymnastics for years, it could be fair to say that Kim and Chris have made changes, or maybe Ragan’s previous gym experience was so bad, Texas Dreams felt like a safe haven for her.

However, we don’t know this for certain, and shouldn’t jump to snap judgments that a gym is “good” because it is comparatively better than other gyms, or because athletes and parents still enmeshed in its culture say so, especially when others have called them out for abusive behavior. Again, abusive and controlling cultures exist so that the very victims of the culture will defend their coaches and experiences to the death. It takes a lot of time away from a gym like that to realize what exactly you went through, to process your feelings, and to recognize that things that happened to you weren’t right. I hope for Ragan’s sake that she did have a positive experience and that her coaches did change over the years, but I also hope that she and others who feel this way listen to their older teammates’ stories, especially those who are BIPOC training under white coaches, who often have vastly different experiences from their white teammates.

I like to think that I’m generally good at reasoning my way through piles of contradicting evidence to come to a somewhat sensible conclusion. In the past, when hearing a few icky things among dozens of stories praising Texas Dreams, I’d reason that while they had a few questionable areas, who doesn’t? In a sport buried in endless tragedies, being mostly problem-free means you’re practically a godsend, and so I avidly referred to them as a “good gym,” one where I’d send my kids if I had future potential elite athletes flipping around my house.

In hindsight now, however, I see why the “good gym” label is an issue in itself. If there’s a possibility that even one child can experience something even remotely off, whether it be outright/noticeable abuse or the rules and behaviors that make up an abusive or controlling culture, then we cannot possibly generalize that it is “good.” Nothing is black and white, nothing should be lumped into “one or the other,” and while we can talk about things being relatively or comparatively okay, labeling a gym “good” becomes an issue when survivors of abuse at that gym do come forward because the “good” label makes it easier for the abusers to discredit or even gaslight their victims, making it even harder for these young women to speak up.

Before, when I’d get those tons of “why does Texas Dreams have so many injuries” questions, I’d reason that they had a lot of elites which means they’re going to have more injuries, that all elites get injured no matter where they train, that their conditioning program needed to be reevaluated, that most of their gymnasts unfortunately aren’t built in a way to be able to handle longevity at the elite level, that they were unlucky to have kids go through growth spurts and get injured simultaneously making the comeback process a billion times harder…there are lots of reasons why elite-level gyms have a high number of injuries, and even the best, most nurturing coaches in the world are going to deal with some of their most promising gymnasts burning out or peaking too soon or having freak accident falls that lead to career-ending injuries.

But because Texas Dreams was always a “good” gym to me, I never once used “because of abuse” as a reason. That’s an issue. I think my reasoning for holding back, or not even legitimately considering it, is because I couldn’t possibly insinuate abuse having never heard actual accusations, and that’s fair. But what I could have done, and will do going forward when people ask similar questions, is talk about how while we can’t say for sure what’s happening behind closed doors at any gym, often the reason for such a high number of serious and repetitive injuries is over-training, and over-training is often related to a culture that uses abusive methods to get results.

In Texas Dreams’ case, based on what gymnasts are now sharing and on a video from years ago that has resurfaced, in the absence of any aggressive or outwardly abusive behavior, the coaches still got what they needed from their gymnasts by essentially bullying them into it. Want a kid to throw ten vaults in a row? Tell her she’s not as good as another girl on the team, and this is totally fine because kids are competitive and want to prove that they’re the best, so she’ll go until she can’t move anymore. Want a kid to finally land the new floor skill she’s been unsuccessfully training? Tell her she can’t go to nationals even if she gets the scores, insinuating that she’d be an embarrassment to the team, and she’ll work on that skill until her bones break or her Achilles ruptures because going to nationals is her dream. If anyone complains, gaslight them by saying you’re just joking, and that everyone else on the team thinks you’re SO funny, so why can’t you just get a sense of humor and deal with it?

Admittedly, I spent a long time unconcerned by behavior like this. I think this is again because it’s not “as bad” as seeing coaches screaming or hitting kids, but also because much of this kind of psychological trickery and competitive culture is so normalized in every aspect of life. My parents taught me to swim when I was three by throwing me in the water and promising to catch me, but instead letting me sink and flail and figure out on my own how to not drown, and when my dad took the training wheels off of my bike, he said he’d hold me up the whole time, but then let go (which I’m pretty sure happens in every family sitcom from the nineties). And competitive culture is literally proven to get results, which is why schools and corporate environments often pit people or teams against each other, so that people will be motivated to work harder and succeed.

Gymnastics is dangerous enough without throwing trickery and competitive culture into the mix, though, and that’s the kind of nuance I’ve learned to recognize over the past few years. My parents pushed me, but were there to pull me back up if I needed it, whereas Kim and Chris were disappointed in their athletes when they got injured while being forced to train skills that weren’t safe, and my workplace has never threatened to stop paying me if I wasn’t perfect at my job. Something that might be okay or normal outside of the sport can so easily be taken advantage of and become abusive within it. Even – or especially – when a gym looks safe and inviting from the outside, we can’t assume that this means all is well, and we have to remain vigilant in questioning behavior that seems strange or inappropriate, otherwise coaches and gyms will continue to get away with it.

In thinking of and referring to Texas Dreams as a “good” gym or the “fun” club in the years I’ve been writing about gymnastics, I’ve unknowingly contributed to a culture that controls, abuses, and ultimately silences athletes, and that has to change. It hurts knowing that yet again I’ve fallen into the trap of people I once trusted and respected, to the point of not only supporting them, but also amplifying them as being proponents of healthy attitudes and behaviors in gymnastics. I admire many other coaches in the sport, but am now wary of taking them or their public personas at face value, because what do I know about how they behave when it’s just them and their athletes inside the gym? Nothing.  I’m trying to find a balance now between sharing my opinions of coaches and gyms in a positive way, but also remaining cautious about making it clear that my opinions are based on my knowledge and experience only, and that I cannot definitively say whether something or someone is “bad” or “good.”

I’m endlessly saddened by the recent allegations against Kim, Chris, and their gym, but I’m inspired by Ashton and Kennedy sharing their stories. Not only are they helping themselves and other gymnasts at Texas Dreams come to terms with what happened to them, but they’re also alerting the world to a type of abuse that often goes so unrecognized, and forcing people to change the way we think about how athletes are treated in this sport. None of what Ashton, Kennedy, and countless others endured at Texas Dreams is okay or justifiable, and no athlete should ever have to feel like this culture is normal.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

31 thoughts on “Texas Dreams and the Problem With ‘Good’ Gyms

  1. Great article. Responsible journalism. I was involved in gymnastics from the 70s to 2016 as an athlete then coach then parent. The actions you describe in your article are exactly why I have been referring to the gymnastics world as a cult for the last few years.

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  2. Excellent article. I think every time a gymnastics journalist wants to praise a witnessed behavior they should just be really precise with language and speak to the witnessed event/action and not the person. I had many “good” coaches and was never abused. Still, looking back, every coach but one consistently engaged in highly problematic behavior. They all contributed to the problematic culture where controlling, comparative, WIN-oriented coaching is the focus over wellbeing and individual growth of CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS (and I was only ever a mediocre optional gymnast). One of those is a current gymternet fave. So I think your reflections here are really important for gymnastics journalism going forward and I hope you keep it up!

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  3. Well said. What resonated most with me was the part about the teasing and subtle put downs, then laughing it off as “just kidding” or as a tool to motivate kids to compete with each other. As adults working with young girls, you have to be so careful not to cross lines and that kind of behavior, while on the surface might seem just good-natured and fun, conditions kids to accept put-downs as normal, to internalize it and say nothing.

    While I’m glad to hear Ragan say her experience at TD was positive, I can’t get the images out of my head of her at 2018 nationals, with her ankle and foot wrapped in miles of tape (I think I read that in addition to the ankle injury she also had a couple broken toes), landing her floor passes in obvious agony. I remember at the time thinking WTF is she doing here? We know she is a driven and competitive kid, but she had no business landing a triple full on that foot.

    Thank you Lauren for this. I think we all have a lot to learn and need to keep open minds, and accept that we can;t make assumptions when we are not in a particular situation.

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  4. Oof. At first I thought the issue with Texas Dreams was just bad luck. After a while, the growing pattern of super promising gymnasts getting injured to the point where they had to drop down from elite, if not quit gymnastics altogether began to make me think that there had to be something wrong with what Kim and Chris were doing and unfortunately Kennedy, Ashton and the growing list of former Texas Dreams gymnasts speaking out confirmed it. It’s disheartening to see so many gyms and coaches that we as outsiders believed to be genuine and good turn out to be part of this problem, but I hope that this leads to a massive and sorely needed culture change within the sport in the coming years.

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  5. Well said. Keep it up! I switched dance studios when I was growing up and in comparison to my first studio, the second was so much better and felt like a safe space. After being out of the sport for 6 years, I have finally been able to come to terms with some of the psychologically damaging things that were happening there. I couldn’t see it when I was there or even for a long time after I left because it was so much better than where I was, but in all honestly, it was just different. Problematic cultures like this can be really hard to see and it truly does take a lot of introspection to realize what has happened. Thank you for acknowledging that.

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  6. Pingback: Around the Gymternet: Did you get any beads for this? | The Gymternet

  7. Lauren, nicely written. Ashton and Kennedy told us their respective experiences at TD, which were jaw-droppingly horrible. After reading about TD and Maggie Haney (and other gyms/coaches), if I have a daughter, I would never put her in gymnastics. How is gymnastics going to be appealing to future athletes/fans when all anyone hears are horrible stories about the sport? I’m not saying we should bury the ugliness, but there is no redemption on the horizon. The fire that started with Larry Nassar is still burning, and soon everything will burn down.

    We have heard enough of what is wrong with the sport. Can we share ideas about what a positive (but challenging and accountable) environment would look like? How should coaches handle: weight, injuries, mastering difficult skills, hair, team dynamics? These are difficult and sensitive issues (and especially so when the athletes are young girls). However, since gymnastics coaches don’t know how to handle these issues, I think we have to crowdsource some “best practices.”

    Here are some of mine:
    1. Gyms should work with reputable dieticians in their area. Refer high-level gymnasts to dieticians. Leave diet and body weight up to the dieticians. The coaches shouldn’t say anything about body shape and/or weight directly to the gymnast. The gymnast, coach and dietician can discuss performance goals and work together to achieve those goals.

    2. No screaming at gymnasts ever. Coaches need to monitor each other in this regard. No coach can want something more than the gymnast. If the gymnast wants to be lazy, then it’s her loss.

    3. A coach can point out if a gymnast’s appearance does not meet competition standards. A coach can offer suggestions about how to meet the standards. But a coach cannot force a gymnast to meet those standards. That’s up to the gymnast and her family. If a gymnast shows up with unacceptable hair or leotard, then the gymnast will take the penalties.

    4. Injuries. I honestly have no idea how to address this one. It’s so complicated.

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    • Well said! I think with injuries, listening and believing the gymnast when they say they’re hurt is an important step. Immediate medical attention and allowing complete rest. If a doctor says “ready in 4-6 weeks” wait until the six weeks. If anything, the pandemic has proved that gymnasts can take months off and come back performing better than before. And look at Chellsie! Years away from gymnastics and she looks terrific. She’s taking it slow and steady, repeating drills and not chucking skills before they’re ready. Very smart training. Injuries will happen (even in “quieter” non-contact sports like golf there are injuries) but I don’t think dozens of various injuries just to one gymnast is normal. At all.

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    • Thanks for this comment. I agree that we need to hear more about how to positively coach gymnasts to a strict, competitive-ready form without crossing over the line. It’s a tough balance. Imagine military boot camp where the drill sergeants didn’t scream and berate the soldiers and force them to do pushups to exhuastion. I’m not saying that behavior is always appropriate (and I know we’re dealing with grown men and women rather than kids), but the behavior has been used for soooo many years to produce well-trained, disciplined soldiers. At some point, I wonder if there has to be some kind of a “cost” if someone wants to go all the way in gymnastics. I, for one, do not want to take that risk for my kids, and so have no desire to put them into gymnastics. But here are some additional thoughts on how to navigate these tricky waters:

      1) Parents are welcome to watch ALL practices (even if it has to be from across the arena). If anybody has the option of working closely with my kid, you better believe I want to know everything that’s going on. I know my kid better than anyone. If, at any point, I think the coach has crossed a line, I will immediately talk with them about it and shut it down, if necessary.

      2) Parents need to know how to ask the right questions constantly of their kids. I know it gets tedious talking to a teenager everyday who shrugs and says their day was “fine,” but communication has to improve, so that parents can be better advocates for young people who don’t always know what they’re looking for.

      3) “Fat” needs to be addressed. It doesn’t have to be ugly or insulting, but it needs to be honest. Encouraging women to “embrace their curves” and “love the full-figured you” might sound nice and affirming, but it also makes people complicit in the diabetes and heart disease they will soon enjoy if they don’t stop their self-destructive habit of overeating and lack of exercise. In the same way, a girl with some extra fat on her hips on arms might be normal in the “real world,” but it’s not going to help her get that triple full around, or have that extra pop she needs on her tkachev. Coaches need to learn to be kinder, but also need to be given the freedom to address body composition that is unhelpful for gymnastics. Again if girls feel embarrassed because of their bodies and talk about them, perhaps the “gymnastics cost” is too high for them.

      I guess I have nothing to add except “thanks for your comment–I agree we need more positive talk, and I wait eagerly to hear those who have the wisdom to offer it.” I certainly am not qualified. If you need snark though, I might be your man. 🙂

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      • Hi, maybe consider how horrifically fat-shaming and triggering, as well as continuing unfounded speculation about “health” your third point is. You know nothing about what’s going on with any person’s body from the outside.

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        • No but obesity has fairly well proven negative health consequences and those should probably be avoided if you want to live your best life so maybe stop complaining about how science is oppressing you?

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      • Yes to #3! Finding the right way to talk about body composition is difficult, but the conversation needs to be had in many sports. It is no secret that being fit will help athletic performance. It’s just a fact. Those of you who think an honest conversation about health and weight is bad need to put your participation trophy on your shelf.

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        • Do you people really think that someone doing gymnastics competitively will be “overweight” to the point of it being unhealthy???

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        • @CD No, but to do competitive gymnastics you have to be at the peak level of physical fitness, and if a girl isn’t, coaches need to be able to address that in a healthy way because excess weight – even if it would be perfectly fine for a normal person – could increase risk of injury, whether by making skills harder or putting increased stress on the musculoskeletal system.

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  8. Her name is Marta not Martha. If you are going to write an article with peoples names get it right. This is an opinion piece which is fine but it still needs to be correct

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  9. Several years ago, Kim Zmeskal publicly described Dominique Moceanu as being “from another planet” because Dominique talked about the abuse she endured while training with the Karolyis. I felt physical anger upon reading what Kim said: her response to hearing a story of abuse was to publicly subject the victim to yet more verbal abuse. I was absolutely appalled that Kim was able to get away with this, and not face any backlash or damage her own reputation or coaching career in any way. It should have been obvious to everyone then that Kim was an abuser herself, and I have long been disappointed and frustrated by the Gymternet’s positive portrayal of her. I’m relieved that people are finally speaking out about her.

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    • Wow…I never saw that she said this about Dominique! I had always heard she was strict but “so nice” and never considered that she was abusive unfortunately. My impression from seeing her in person was never anything but good, but I also wasn’t considering that some of the things that made her “strict” were actually really controlling (and even when I got THERE, it was then more work to see controlling behavior as abusive). It’s hard to go from really loving someone as a coach to finding out things about them that are so horrible, but this isn’t the first time it’s happened, and sadly won’t be the last. I think all we can do as fans of the sport is be on alert and try not to give anyone so much benefit of the doubt that we find it hard to believe that they’d be capable of abuse. People now while saying “stop calling a gym GOOD!” are simultaneously pointing at current fairly popular coaches and saying stuff like “SHE IS PERFECT AND NEEDS TO TAKE OVER USA GYMNASTICS!” It’s just not healthy to put anyone so high on a pedestal because it only gives them more power and makes it harder for anyone who had a rough experience to feel comfortable talking about it.

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      • The quote is from a 2008 LA Times article.

        “I don’t know where she’s coming from,” Zmeskal Burdette said. “From my personal experience, she’s coming from a different planet. It’s a difficult process and there are a lot of pieces to becoming the very best in the world.”
        “It’s not a walk in the park. Bela was always very clear that if you want these results you put in this kind of work.”

        Its interesting to go back and read the article. In hindsight, it very telling.

        Plus it has the Steve Penny refusing to add a comment on the issue of over training and abuse allegations but did quote

        “I do want to say that the Karolyis have contributed a great deal to the success of our athletes over the years and continue to do so.”

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  10. We need solutions as we point out the problems. Education is key. Maybe some coaches don’t even realize that their actions and words can’t affect a kid. Every child is different and will react differently to any given situation. Throwing people under the bus doesn’t help. Kim trains her kids as she was taught cuz its what she knows. Maybe mandatory classes on child development would help. Let’s find the solution and stop creating fear in every gym.

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    • I’m not a coach so while I have ideas, some of which I pointed out in this post (e.g. not using controlling behaviors), it’s not my place to reinvent how gymnastics coaches work. There are plenty of experts who have years of coaching experience behind them, so while I have some common sense ideas, like “just stop abusing kids please,” I can’t really tell coaches how to run their gyms because who am I to do that? That’s why I focused here on a solution for ME, and for others who write/talk about the sport or just watch it as a fan. I don’t think I or anyone else discussing this are here to throw Kim under the bus. And as many of her gymnasts alleging abuse are saying, she actually can be a really nice and kind person, so this isn’t about Kim as a person…it’s about her coaching style, which is archaic and abusive, which she herself went through as a young athlete, but it’s 2020. She’s had the time and has plenty of resources to have learned by now why the Karolyi way is so bad for the health and well-being of her athletes. She needs to take responsibility for her decisions and change. Hopefully she HAS worked on changing, in which case good for her. I’m all for a coach who is willing to put that effort in.

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  11. The problem is so called “good gyms” don’t have many elite gymnasts. So if you really want to go to the olympics in the us or compete internationally and you are searching for experienced coaches who have national team members constantly…. you will have a coach who learned an grew up “old school”.
    Good gyms maybe don’t get the chance, because they are not strict enough in the eyes of parents or Athletes so they don’t trust in them that their child has the same chances to succeed. Or maybe, i am not from the us, if you have thousands of young gymnasts, “only the strongest survive” was a acceptable strategy to sort out the best. And all accepted this.

    If you are just a gymnastics fan like me and you follow gymnasts on youtube it feels like fun gyms dont produce elites. If you follow for example whitney bjerken on youtube, you can see live training sessions in her gym that feels like a nice place, but i don’t think gymnasts there end as elite gymnasts but good college gymnasts…

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    • Andrea, I’ve been thinking about this, too. The gymnasts want the highest level of success while being supported and affirmed. Maybe it’s not possible. Maybe the price of success (at the highest level) is screaming and shame and punishment. Maybe it’s not possible to get the most out of a kid without those tactics. If that’s the case, then we need to be honest about it. National team participation = emotional abuse (on a regular basis) and physical pain (lots of it).

      Right now, we are trying to figure out how to get the most out of a kid while respecting her autonomy as an individual. However, if an abusive gym always gets better results than a “good gym” then no change will be possible in the sport. Results speak loudly. Very loudly.

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      • I disagree, so far Chow’s reputation has stayed in tact. Gabby Douglas and Shawn Johnson were both more successful than gymnasts were typically abused. I think Aimee Boreman (Think that’s her name, Simone’s coach?), Morgan’s coach, Slava, who she describes as like a father?

        In elite, you need to have someone who encourages you and pushes you to try new things, but it doesn’t need to be abusive. When watching Chellsie Memmel train with her dad in her YouTube series, you see that he pushes her to try out new things, but he still lets her draw the line somewhere. She’ll say when she’s done. If she seems extremely reluctant then he’s willing to set up more mats for her and change the pit around. That’s what elite needs to be like

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  12. Here’s the thing, the girls who have come forward to add their 2cents to the conversation with positive experiences aside from Ragan did not train at TD at the same time period of the accusers. KZB has made big changes and if you reread the statements by AK and KB they have stated themselves that discussions and apologies were offered. KZB came from an abusive training situation and unfortunately all too often people will revert to those training methods to find the success they once had in the sport. That was the pervasive culture of gymnastics at that time. This is not an excuse just an explaination. I just need things to make sense.
    One more thing, regarding the red herring racist behavior, just think for a second. Do you think these girls parents thought that they were sending their kids to be coached by a couple of racists every day? Remember the parents over the years have spent time with these coaches in more personal settings. They have parties and host them at their home. I think there’s more to the story but I would bet if asked the question” do you believe your coaches are racists?” I highly doubt the answer to that would be absolutely.
    Relationships are indeed complicated.

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  13. The quote is from a 2008 LA Times article.

    “I don’t know where she’s coming from,” Zmeskal Burdette said. “From my personal experience, she’s coming from a different planet. It’s a difficult process and there are a lot of pieces to becoming the very best in the world.”
    “It’s not a walk in the park. Bela was always very clear that if you want these results you put in this kind of work.”

    Its interesting to go back and re-read the article. In hindsight, it very telling.

    Plus, it also has Steve Penny refusing to comment on the issue of over training and abuse allegations but did quote:

    “I do want to say that the Karolyis have contributed a great deal to the success of our athletes over the years and continue to do so.”

    Like

  14. Pingback: Around the Gymternet: Did you get any beads for this? | The Gymternet

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