Looks like the sport of gymnastics could use some crash pads. Or maybe a million of them. I don’t know about you, but I’m sickened looking for gymnastics news only to see the first whole page of results be entirely about the ongoing investigation and trial surrounding sexual abuse of young gymnasts, both male and female.
Unfortunately, crash pads won’t keep those gymnasts safe from what’s already happened. So what are parents to do when their child wants to begin or advance in a gymnastics program? How do you not let the fear of the obvious overwhelm you and put you in the position of having to say no to a gymnastics dream?
When your child has spent hours, maybe hundreds of them on tumbling mats, balance beams, vaults, and other gymnastics equipment, learning to control their balance, learning to focus and be disciplined, how do you take that all away because of the very present danger of abuse? I think the answer is in your involvement. Have you done due diligence on the coaches and trainers and even support staff at the gym at which your child takes classes? Do you attend the practices and observe with a hawk’s eye the interaction between the kids and the coaches? Are you content that there is no inkling of fear in the kids toward their coaches? If you’re a good observer, you’ll be able to tell. Only you know how your child behaves around a stranger, or someone they don’t trust or feel safe around. You know that look. Do you observe it in your child at practice? If you do, yank that child immediately. Don’t offer reasons, just do it because you’re a good parent.
If you’re like millions of gymnastics parents, you’re probably very confident that you’ve chosen the right gym and coach or trainer for your child, and that the kids’ time on the tumbling mats is safe, constructive, and respectful. If you’ve found the right place and people, kudos to you. Gymnastics is a wholesome sport and shouldn’t be feared because of the abuses of some sick individuals. But like any activity, you as a parent are responsible for the safety of your child, so double- and triple-checking the leaders of any of your child’s activities is paramount. When you commit to gymnastics, like any other sport, not only must your child be committed, but so must you, to hours watching practices, competitions, transportation, and celebrations. In other words, when your child chooses the great sport of gymnastics, so must you.