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MuggleMom

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So we were trying out new gyms and had a parent from the new gym contact our head coach to tell her we were there.

Um that is so bizarre? And she has enough information about you from seeing you around at meets to be not happy you are coming to their gym? Also bizarre she needs a hobby other than her kids gymnastics.....
 

MILgymFAM

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The whole gym thing in crazy imo, looking backwards from the outside. Hindsight and all. The way gyms feel some sort of entitled sort of ownership over gymnasts is startling.

My younger daughter is a dancer. When she was thinking of leaving her first studio because they were lacking in one area that was important to her, she didn’t hide it- she got recommendations from her current teachers! They fully supported her and she was eventually able to train at two schools- the original and a new one with the area of focus she wanted. There were no hard feelings, even after she told the original school that she would choose the new one when small conflicts arose. They have remained supportive to this day. You might think that gymnastics is more high stakes, but I even today, my daughter is on a professional contract with a dance company.. but she was allowed to audition for another company’s ballet.. and allowed to be cast in it. The key is making everyone aware of her situation honestly, and making her priorities clear. In this one way, the dance world is so refreshingly different.

When we were in the thick of gymnastics, I fell into all the crazy with gym changes. They were secret and rushed and terrifying, tbh. I had fake email accounts and refused to share names and it was all just so stressful- and why?? The gyms didn’t own my kid and shouldn’t have been allowed to act like they did. I paid them, they didn’t pay her, and if I wasn’t getting a product worth paying for then I should be free to explore the competition.

Toward the end of my daughter’s gymnastics time, when we’d been through the ringer and were more settled into it and less scared of it all, she once competed for two teams in one season with both fully knowledgeable and on board. She once trained for a gym for a whole year with no plan to compete for them at all. She once competed for one gym and also only trained at a second, again with both gyms knowing and agreeing to the plans. So.. when gyms set aside the notion of ownership of a kid.. they can sometimes work together for the kid’s best interest. It should always be that straightforward. IMO, of course.
 

ReluctantGymMom

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Um that is so bizarre? And she has enough information about you from seeing you around at meets to be not happy you are coming to their gym? Also bizarre she needs a hobby other than her kids gymnastics.....
She had been following our kids scores all season and felt like their scores on the new team would make her daughter look worst in comparison because she wasn’t doing so well. In reality, her daughter is 2 years younger than mine and 3 years younger than her friend - they were never going to be in the same age bracket. It was very weird, she’s very intense, and very invested in her kids gymnastics.
Be ware crazy parents just as much as coaches sharing info!
 

Gymx2

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She had been following our kids scores all season and felt like their scores on the new team would make her daughter look worst in comparison because she wasn’t doing so well. In reality, her daughter is 2 years younger than mine and 3 years younger than her friend - they were never going to be in the same age bracket. It was very weird, she’s very intense, and very invested in her kids gymnastics.
Be ware crazy parents just as much as coaches sharing info!
The weird thing is, it could have made it even more likely that your daughter and her friend would move to the new gym if they felt uncomfortable going back after a parent let the coaches know they were trying out elsewhere. Obviously, the woman is a lunatic, and also willing to shoot herself in the foot.
 

ReluctantGymMom

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The weird thing is, it could have made it even more likely that your daughter and her friend would move to the new gym if they felt uncomfortable going back after a parent let the coaches know they were trying out elsewhere. Obviously, the woman is a lunatic, and also willing to shoot herself in the foot.
Yeah her thought process was not rational. Our head coach had a sit down meeting with us about the ongoing issue with the gym, we told them if they can’t resolve it we’d have to leave but they didn’t kick us out, but they didn’t resolve it in time so we left. This lady though... whew. I’m glad we’re not gonna be on the same level because she was not happy with the way things turned out. Crazy.
 

mommyof1

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After all these years I still find it baffling that a gym would try to sabotage an athlete's chances at another gym. If a gym weren't a good fit for an athlete, a rational coach or gym owner would want the athlete gone almost as much as the athlete wanted to leave. It must be about the desire for an inappropriate level of control over children's lives that seems to be rampant in the sport.
 

kendo348

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It must be about the desire for an inappropriate level of control over children's lives that seems to be rampant in the sport.
Yes - combined with fear. I imagine they want them to stay so that they can keep them down... If an athlete goes elsewhere and begins to thrive that’s proof to all the others still at the original gym that their gym is the problem. Blaming it on the athlete and then creating a bubble to prevent anyone from finding out that that’s not true is the only way to keep power.
 
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Carly

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We were very fortunate when my dd made her gym change that the old gym understood why it wasn't a good fit for her. It was about practice hours, scheduling and meet flexibility that they could not provide. It was not about the coaching. They said that she was welcome back if she ever changed her mind. The head coach/owner was so nice. DD and I still miss her.
The new gym has a policy about calling the old gym if you commit to them but I'm not sure if they actually did. We spoke to the old gym before that to let them know.
 

mommyof1

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We were very fortunate when my dd made her gym change that the old gym understood why it wasn't a good fit for her. It was about practice hours, scheduling and meet flexibility that they could not provide. It was not about the coaching. They said that she was welcome back if she ever changed her mind. The head coach/owner was so nice. DD and I still miss her.
The new gym has a policy about calling the old gym if you commit to them but I'm not sure if they actually did. We spoke to the old gym before that to let them know.

We were very upset by the circumstances that led us to switch gyms, but there was zero drama about the switch itself. My daughter wasn't going back no matter what, so I went in and picked up her things and told them why she was leaving and where she was trying out. Later on they contacted me about selling her old competition leo used. A couple months later the old coach invited her to come in and say hello to the girls because everyone missed her, but she didn't want to. The whole thing was perfectly civilized, even though the treatment that led us to pull her was pretty lousy (not abusive, but not the right way to treat a child or a business's loyal customers). The gym didn't have any reason to want to keep her or to sabotage her, and no one wasted any effort on it. They just let her go, which was as it should be.
 

LemonLime

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It's a violation of law to use coercive tactics - such as interfering with obtaining services from another service provider - in an attempt to collect a debt. It can also be criminal depending on the tactics. Gyms are not immune and no contract can contravene applicable state law, particularly as it relates to services related to a minor. I'm all about paying bills, but there is an elaborate legal system in the United States geared solely toward collecting debts. That system works and is intended to neutralize these situations. Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES is it legally permissible to try to collect a debt by sharing information about a debt with a third party, interfering with the debtor obtaining services from another, or communicating about the debt to the debtor by any means other than highly restrictive mail and telephone contact rules. Gyms that work together are conspiring and risk other criminal and civil legal violations such as Conspiracy, Antitrust, TCPA, FCRA, Reg B, state Consumer Protection, child abuse, and stalking.

If someone does not or cannot pay their bills, withhold services. Next, send a bill in the mail. Wait 30 days for them to contest it, and then turn it over to a licensed debt collector.

I've always been disturbed by billing and debt collection practices in USA Gyms. It saddens me that USAG does not promulgate best practices or standards in this area because it is part of its managerial mission.

You can see I'm annoyed. 90% of the time I've personally been billed overly fairly, but below are some real stories that bother me. Most parents have no ability to speak up about anything, let alone questionable charges. I appreciate coaches suffer when their athletes walk out the door whether they are behind on their bills or not, but improper debt collection and billing practices doesn't help.

1. Coaches incurred a room service bill for 2 people for 2.5 days for over $1000 ($1300 in today's dollars). Among other things, they ordered a catered buffet. They passed the bill on to the parents of the 3 athletes at the meet.
2. Being charged for both gas and renting the coach's personal car to drive athletes to a meet. That's a tax violation. "Team travel" was required and the parents were following along 10 feet behind the car.
3. Ex coach handing an athlete a bill on the actual floor of US Elite nationals right after warmup and immediately before march-in. Child was 13.
4. $750 ($839 in today's dollars) white competition leotards (for one season because the coach didn't like them) for JO optional gymnastics. Actual cost was $430 to the gym.
5. $650 per optional athlete advertisement annual fee for ads in the gym's program.

Not bill related, but my all-time favorite was an athlete on team travel eating a croissant outside of meal-time hours. She and her teammate were disciplined by being taped into their hotel room with duct tape by the coaches. This was almost 20 years ago and I was a wee hayseed at the time, but I can't get past it.
 

gymgal

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How a gym reacts to a gymnast wanting to leave is often based on why they are leaving. If it is because of a program the current gym doesn't have, it likely is not going to cause issues. If it is because the gymnast isn't moving up fast enough or the parent/child doesn't like the coaching style, that is a lot more personal and seen as attacking the gym or coach (correctly or not) and that's when you are likely have problems with the transition. I saw several exits during my dd's time at her gym and for the most part, the owner handled them s well as could be expected, to the point where they welcomed the girls back, even some several years later.
 
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gymgal

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It's a violation of law to use coercive tactics - such as interfering with obtaining services from another service provider - in an attempt to collect a debt. It can also be criminal depending on the tactics. Gyms are not immune and no contract can contravene applicable state law, particularly as it relates to services related to a minor. I'm all about paying bills, but there is an elaborate legal system in the United States geared solely toward collecting debts. That system works and is intended to neutralize these situations. Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES is it legally permissible to try to collect a debt by sharing information about a debt with a third party, interfering with the debtor obtaining services from another, or communicating about the debt to the debtor by any means other than highly restrictive mail and telephone contact rules. Gyms that work together are conspiring and risk other criminal and civil legal violations such as Conspiracy, Antitrust, TCPA, FCRA, Reg B, state Consumer Protection, child abuse, and stalking.

If someone does not or cannot pay their bills, withhold services. Next, send a bill in the mail. Wait 30 days for them to contest it, and then turn it over to a licensed debt collector.
Fairly certain no one is taping these calls and it would fully be denied if someone asked to verify that the old gym gave information about debt. Protect your own.
 

LemonLime

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@gymgal I'm glad you've had nice gym owners & coaches. I have too. There are plenty that are not as generous.

There are no secrets in gymnastics, especially over time. It works that way for parents and gymnasts, but also for coaches. It's not hearsay if you have a witness and there's always a witness.
 
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gymgal

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@gymgal I'm glad you've had nice gym owners & coaches. I have too. There are plenty that are not as generous.
yes, I meant to say that I felt we were one of the lucky ones to have a gym that did not hold it against the families who wanted to leave. Thanks for pointing that out. I was rushing when I wrote it. :)
 
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TumbleTimes4

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I guess I can understand an owner wanting a heads up to know if there was an issue with unpaid bills or if this child/family could potentially create problems. But @JBS and others who may have insight into this, do you always take the other owners/coaches word, or do you give the athlete coming in the benefit of the doubt?
 

Aussie_coach

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LemonLime, that is very interesting. As here in Australia we are required to ask previous gyms if there are any unpaid debts, and the gym is required to share this information with their new gym. All gymnastics clubs have to sign an agreement, each year, stating they will abide by this practice. But I wonder where it sits in regards to the confidentiality act.

Generally around here when the gymnast transfers to another gym and they have an unpaid invoice, it is for a small amount. $50-$200, generally an amount far too small to bother passing it on to a debt collection agency or following it up in court. So they built this in as a little extra incentive that gyms can use to make sure their bills get paid, ie being able to let your clients know that the final bill must be paid before they can enroll elsewhere. Its quite common for recreational kids to drop classes, and not worry to much about their final bill because they think they want to stop gymnastics, only to take it up a few years later somewhere else and find they have to pay that last invoice after all.

We have already had a few this year who have come to our gym and had the transfer denied due to unpaid invoices, in these cases by the time we got the notification that the transfer had been denied the new family has already paid their first invoice with us, so we were not worried that they were going to be one of those families who don't pay. And in all cases it was a small amount, such as a cancellation fee that may have been overlooked and they quickly fixed it up when the transfer denial came through.

Never have I heard of a gym around here doing things like wracking up huge room service bills and charging it to athletes, or requiring a new $750 leotard for only 1 season, or charging an advertisement fee. Which could come down to the less competitive nature of the sport here. We dont have College scholarships, so there are no scholarships on the line, we haven't qualified a team to the Olympics in quite a few cycles so these parents don't think their kids are going to be the next Olympic champion or world champion. There is no money to be earned in gymnastics, its not a heavily followed sport at the elite level at all. So parents are less willing to allow gyms to get away with charging such ridiculous fees, and duct taping kids into hotel rooms, as they dont feel like their kids future will be at stake if they speak up.
 
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Aussie_coach

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On the other side of the coin, there has been a big shift in recent years in peoples attitudes towards sports and similar activities.

Clients emphasis is often now that they are paying for a service, and they expect to get a particular result for the service they are paying for. Which of course makes a lot of sense.

But gymnastics clubs are very different to stores, selling items, bidding for clientele by offering the lowest prices and best customer service. Gyms are educational facilities/schools, generally staffed by people who have a passion for the sport and for supporting and developing children.

Gymnastics coaching is not a well paid job, the hours are often low, meaning many coaches have a second job. They do it because they love it, and they put their heart and soul into it. They go to bed at night thinking about those kids and how they can help them overcome those obstacles and achieve their goals and dreams. When a gymnast heads for greener pastures its hard, and not because of the loss of the money/income but because you give a piece of your heart to each of those kids and its hard to see a piece of your heart walk out the door.

Of course that is no excuse for treating previous clients badly, and its not a great way to deal with people leaving. When a gymnasts leaves our gym, we always make sure they leave on good terms and they know the door is open should they wish to return in the future (which most of the time they do). But when you throw human emotion in the mix on both sides, its not always going to end nicely.
 
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rjb123

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Aug 17, 2013
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I feel so fortunate after reading these stories that DD had such a smooth transition to a new gym. She had a health related reason for the move, and while it was a hard decision it turned out extremely well. Since she has left I have personally heard from her old HC and other coaches to congratulate her on successes. It is so nice when adults can behave like adults and do the right thing for the kids in an extra curricular activity!