Welcome to our Gymnastics Community
Wanting to join the rest of our members? Feel free to sign up today.
Sign up

I know it's old news but I gotta ask.....

Status
Not open for further replies.
B

Bella's Mom

Guest
Someone in another thread mentioned that a certain book should be required reading for gym parents. So I checkout out Pretty Girls in Little Boxes....or Little Girls in Pretty Boxes.... I don't know. Some chick is in a box.

Anyway, I read this book and even knowing very little about elite gymnastics, this book seemed very inflammatory and sensationalistic. Seriously, was this book vetted at all. Fact checked, whatever it's called.

I did a little research on the internet and found very little support of some of the more outrageous stories.

Anyway, I know the book is about a jazillion years old and has probably been hashed another trazillion times but if anyone else has just recently read this book or if someone has a more balanced opinion about the topics, I'd love to hear.

Sorry if this book is no longer "relevant." It was just new to me.
 

bookworm

Well-Known Member
Proud Parent
Oct 3, 2009
3,077
On my couch either reading or doing nothing...
Country
USA
I wouldn't discount the stories in that book just because they are old. I read that book and I also read "Chalked Up" by Jennifer Sey and while they had some horrifying incidents in them, after being around the sport for a while, I do believe it happens unfortunately...
 
B

Bella's Mom

Guest
I wouldn't discount the stories in that book just because they are old.
No, I'm not discounting them and especially not just because of the age of the book. I was just curious...... how does an author writing a book about someone (cause let's be honest, this book was pretty much about taking the Karolyis down) sort through stories for truthfulness and spite. And I find it hard to believe that no one had anything positive to say about the Karolyis. Or was it selectively excluded?

I just like truthfulness and balance and I'm curious how much of each of these were in this particular book.

I guess I'm just hoping that such harsh situations are the exception rather than the norm for elite gymnasts or at least that these things don't happen anymore with improvements in USAG.
 
B

Bella's Mom

Guest
I'm getting ready to read the Jennifer Sey book as well. Is it similar in tone to the girls in boxes book?

What were your thoughts about that one?
 

GymGirl's Mom

Active Member
Proud Parent
Jun 3, 2010
582
I also believe it happens-- especially at certain gyms with certain coaches in all levels- not just elite
 

gym law mom

Active Member
Proud Parent
Dec 23, 2006
2,527
Country
USA
I'm getting ready to read the Jennifer Sey book as well. Is it similar in tone to the girls in boxes book?

What were your thoughts about that one?
Obviously the book written by Jennifer Sey is her view of her experiences in gymnastics. Some parts may be more inflamed than what really happened, but its as she remembers it and how it affected her. This book also looks at gymnastics about the same time as Pretty Girls.
 

sportzmomov3

Member
Proud Parent
Jan 6, 2009
156
Metropolitan USA
Country
USA
I haven't read either book so can't comment on whether the situations detailed are accurate.

I will recommend however, that another perspective can be found in Shannon Miller's biography as it details training through injury, the impact her training had on family and just the day-to-day of gymnastics life for her. It's a good "rags to riches" sort of story in that her coach Steve Nunni(?) hadn't had that caliber gymnast before, and the book goes into their journey. If you want balance, stop reading the negative perspectives and get another angle on the sport.

And unfortunately yes, unhealthy coaching practices and training philosophies still do exist at all levels, not just elite. Our job as supportive parents is to sift through all that and make sure DD/DS is at a place that will nurture their potential and keep them healthy so they can stay in the sport for as long as they want. This is far more important than sitting at practice intently watching and commenting on other people's children or worse even - trying to coach your kid from the sidelines! (yes, this is a reference to that thread on the crazy parents commenting; made me laugh, b/c it happens EVERYWHERE!)

As with everything, good and bad exist simultaneously.
 
E

ek2

Guest
I think any activity that fosters a stronger child/coach relationship than parent/family relationship lends itself to possible abuse issues. I am not saying that every elite gymnast has an unhealthy relationship with their coach, but people are human, and especially if they become too powerful can make very bad decisions. Unfortunately, in gymnastics the "best" tend to be under the age of 16, very vulnerable ages compounded by the fact that children, generally are at the mercy of adults.
I know of situations with gymnasts that are not even on the elite path where the coach is on a power trip. The parents have not stepped in because their daughter has not indicated how bad it is, but most kids would not because of the fear that they would be pulled out of the sport.
 

MdGymMom01

Active Member
Mar 5, 2008
2,236
North America
I haven't read either book so can't comment on whether the situations detailed are accurate.

I will recommend however, that another perspective can be found in Shannon Miller's biography as it details training through injury, the impact her training had on family and just the day-to-day of gymnastics life for her. It's a good "rags to riches" sort of story in that her coach Steve Nunni(?) hadn't had that caliber gymnast before, and the book goes into their journey. If you want balance, stop reading the negative perspectives and get another angle on the sport.

And unfortunately yes, unhealthy coaching practices and training philosophies still do exist at all levels, not just elite. Our job as supportive parents is to sift through all that and make sure DD/DS is at a place that will nurture their potential and keep them healthy so they can stay in the sport for as long as they want. This is far more important than sitting at practice intently watching and commenting on other people's children or worse even - trying to coach your kid from the sidelines! (yes, this is a reference to that thread on the crazy parents commenting; made me laugh, b/c it happens EVERYWHERE!)

As with everything, good and bad exist simultaneously.
I have read all three books and found this one in particular about Shannon Miller to be the best of the three. Definitely a good read!
 

gymdog

Well-Known Member
Coach
Proud Relative
Former Gymnast
Jul 5, 2007
5,118
Well, it's a little unbalanced. That kind of stuff does happen, unfortunately, although also the book is somewhat outdated and there have been some major shifts in thinking and decentralization even within our system (more NTCs, more Olympic caliber coaches and programs). Now it would be uncommon for a kid to move away from their family to stay in another state away from their parents to train. Many elites don't move at all now, others who do move, the family relocates with them.

That said I think there are still plenty of programs that aren't creating positive experiences on net (there are always going to be isolated negative things in gymnastics, misunderstandings, hardships, whatever).

Probably a more interesting source to me is Reviving Ophelia. A lot of these things have to do with innate personality traits that are fueled by environmental factors. Parents have to be aware of coaching that's just objectively bad or abusive, but they also have to be aware that any high level gymnastics is an intensely high pressure environment and sometimes even the best you can do is not enough to prevent the development of self destructive patterns of behavior or emotional and physical burnout (often leading to other problems...). Honestly, around 18, I just kind of burned out of life. Three years later I'm a completely different person, which is fine, but the path I was on was unsustainable for my personality (I take things hard, very sensitive, prone to instability and self destructive behavior). I just couldn't live like that anymore. I think most of the coaches (barring one, who was abusive in multiple ways, but only had him a relatively short time over context of time in gymnastics) wanted the best for me, and my parents never pushed me, but I just wasn't cut out for some of the aspects of it...which is fine, I just stopped doing gymnastics after high school.

So there are abusive coaches, yeah, I've had them. But that's not the only issue. I think it's frustrating and maybe impossible to convey to people who didn't grow up doing gymnastics what it's like. I have an almost instant understanding with anyone who did high level gymnastics and the things they say. But I think people who have never tried it almost kind of have this thinking like it's possible, and it's not always possible, sometimes you just can't do things because you just can't (physically, emotionally, whatever). I think they develop some understanding over the years but I still think my parents don't really understand, they think you can just learn this or that if you want to and you're willing to try. Or I could just go compete in gymnastics now (I could - there are outlets available - but I don't want to. I can't.) It doesn't work that way. I can't even explain what I'm trying to say, it's just like this understanding. Even kids at the lower levels often don't understand, they think going through the levels is just a matter of being taught, and it's so much more than that. Some of it just luck. Honestly. Better hope you don't need career ending surgery by age 12 - I've seen that from girls with easily elite potential.
 
L

lilgymmie7

Guest
I read the book quite a few years back only because of my interest in gymnastics. There was a movie based off of the book quite a few years ago as well. If you google the gymnasts mentioned in the book you will find a lot of the truth from the book in articles about each one. I didn't so much get the "...bringing the Karolyi's down" idea, but rather that some girls did go through unhealthy careers at the hands of their coaches. We have to face facts, gymnastics, elite gymnastics in particular, is tougher than any other sport out there. It takes a lot of dedication on the part of the gymnast. Plus, parents back then weren't as vigilant as we tend to be now. Past abusive situations could never happen today in large part. That isn't to say that similar things are not going on still today. However, USA gymnastics frowns upon it now as opposed to turning the other cheek. Thank goodness. I do believe some parts may have been blown out of proportion, but mostly it does shine a light on the ugly side of gymnastics. As parents we need to make sure it doesn't happen to our kids or any kids for that matter. It raises awareness. Check out the youth football leagues. There are some wacko coaches out there as well.
 

Aussie_coach

Moderator/Coach
Staff member
Verified Coach
Coach
Proud Relative
Proud Parent
Gymnast
Former Gymnast
Judge
Club Owner
Fan
Jan 4, 2008
3,210
Country
Australia
There is a lot of truth in this book, the book was written a while ago and in the last decade or so most coaches knowledge about child safety and body development has improved significantly so I do believe things are a bit different in most of these gyms today.

The problem is that anything can look like child abuse if it is looked at incorrectly. I'm sure many of you could look at what your kids do in the gym and make it sound like child abuse. 4 hours practices at 7 years of age, pushing them down into the splits, making them do scary things, dealing with bullying from other team mates, coaches refusing to tell parents what is going on with their kids, kids trying desperately to move up a level and then being shot down in flames. Read most of the threads on this site and you could write quite a sensationalist book about them.

What the book fails to mention is the other stuff, the fact that these kids are happier in the gym than anywhere else. The fact that if their parents ask them to take a day off they are dressed and sitting in the car begging to go to practice because they love it. The fact they they usually push themselves far harder than any coach pushes them.

It is a difficult, scary and painful sport but it is also a wonderful, exciting and rewarding sport.
 

Pineapple_Lump

Coach
Coach
Proud Relative
Judge
Jan 31, 2008
1,081
From what I have heard, LGIPB was Joan Ryan out to prove some agenda. Many of the people interviewed felt like she took situations out of context or turned them around, and some felt betrayed by Joan Ryan after reading her interpretation of events.
 
B

Bella's Mom

Guest
Thank you all for sharing your opinions so openly. And thanks to the poster that suggested the Shannon Miller biography. I'll have to add that to my Fall break reading list. :)

I have read the Reviving Ophelia book and it was life altering. Bella was an infant at the time but it really made an impact on me and my parenting style.

I am not so naive to believe that every coach out there is in it for their love of the girls. There's always a few bad apples. I like that statement about each story having three sides. I was just trying to learn about some other sides.

I stayed up way too late last night reading the Jennifer Sey. 2AM...yikes. It felt more "fair" than the PGILB book. Another poster mentioned, several posters really, that elite gymnasts would rather be in the gym than anywhere else. I got that feel from the JS book. I felt there was more acknowledgment of the role she and her parents played in her experience. More personal responsibility and less victimization.

It's so hard isn't it. So hard to encourage our kids without pressuring them. To give them the tools to succeed without making them feel obligated to continue when they want to quit. Parenting balance is like a 2" balance beam!
 
B

Bella's Mom

Guest
From what I have heard, LGIPB was Joan Ryan out to prove some agenda. Many of the people interviewed felt like she took situations out of context or turned them around, and some felt betrayed by Joan Ryan after reading her interpretation of events.
Interesting... the book feels agenda-y. I'll have to spend some time seeing if I can find evidence of this.
 

momocay

Member
Sep 12, 2010
50
I have read all of these books. You do have to consider that there may be exaggeration on part of a child who went through an abusive event. There also may not be. When you enter any elite sport there seems to be coaches with a competitive desire that outweigh the healthy balance that is the life of a child. It can be very scary as a parent of a young athlete. I do believe that in some cases the parents are enablers, but not necessarily at any fault. I think there are competitive parents (the crazies) who will allow their children to be treated poorly in the name of a new skill and a higher level. Unfortunately, I have seen children be screamed at in an unreasonable manner.
Looking on the chalkbucket, i have seen posts about children who go to the Texas to train, and they dont use heat or air conditioning. I find that a little disturbing. These may or may not be warning signs. Who knows. I don't think that this abuse is as prevelant because times have changed and people do seem to be more overprotective of their children, or so I hope.

On another note, If you have not already, please read Nadia Comenici's book. It has nothing to do with the USA gymnastics system. It is an amazing story about her life in Romania and a detailed telling of her escape out. It really made me look at her in a whole new light, well beyond the perfect 10.
 

MdGymMom01

Active Member
Mar 5, 2008
2,236
North America
It's so hard isn't it. So hard to encourage our kids without pressuring them. To give them the tools to succeed without making them feel obligated to continue when they want to quit. Parenting balance is like a 2" balance beam!
You definitely got that right!! But you sound like your head and heart is in the right place with Bella so you are that much ahead in the game! I've learned that it is a true "balancing" act and many times, we as parents, do fall off the "beam". But, we get back up and try to learn from the experiences. If you provide your child with lots of choices along the way that further stimulate their interests and creativity, then you can't go wrong. Kids will change their minds and interests so many times in their childhoods and that is ok.
 
B

Bella's Mom

Guest
On another note, If you have not already, please read Nadia Comenici's book. It has nothing to do with the USA gymnastics system. It is an amazing story about her life in Romania and a detailed telling of her escape out. It really made me look at her in a whole new light, well beyond the perfect 10.
Thank you for this suggestion. Another book for the list! And please, if anyone has others I should read, shout 'em out.

I remember watching Nadia when I was a child. Like all other girls in the 70s, it made me want to be a gymnast. Unfortunately, that never really happened other than a year or two at the Y. I knew she was now a commentator and married to Bart Connor but not a whole lot about her life beside the gymnastics.

It will be interesting to hear her version of Bela Karolyi
 

gymdog

Well-Known Member
Coach
Proud Relative
Former Gymnast
Jul 5, 2007
5,118
I have read all of these books. You do have to consider that there may be exaggeration on part of a child who went through an abusive event. There also may not be.
Maybe more common though is to downplay or hide true abuse. And I guess that's at the heart of the problem, because none of us have a crystal ball.
 
B

B Gymnast

Guest
I have all of these books :D (Shannon Miller, Little Girls in Pretty Boxes, Chalked Up, and Nadia) Being 13, I thought some parts in Chalked Up were a little inappropriate :eek:. I also thought Little Girls in Pretty Boxes was kind of unfair.. but it was an interesting book. Shannon Miller: My Child, My Hero is probably my favorite book ever. I've read it 4 times:) (AND I GOT MY COPY AUTOGRAPHED BY SHANNON! :D) It's so much better than a regular Shannon Miller biography because her mom did such a great job writing it. Nadia is also a reeeeeeally great book! I loved how she wrote a lot about how her actual life was like, not just gymnastics. And how she talks about the movie in it :D So anyways, I wouldn't say that all gym parents should have to read LGIPB. Because that stuff rarely happens, especially now. But I'll have to say it was interesting :D
 
Status
Not open for further replies.

Similar threads