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USAG Decertification and Options for MAG Program Restructure

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Apr 11, 2017
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It might seem unfair that a potential USAG decertification could affect MAG as well as WAG, but in the big picture of what is healthy for athletes, it may be warranted. It is a reality that should be considered as the calls for USAG decertification will only increase in the coming weeks as numerous oversight bodies (including congress) react and retrace the actions of USAG and the USOC in their handling of abuse cases and the culture they have created in gymnastics, writ large. I have not known MAG without the existence of USAG, but would the loss of USAG in its current structure to support MAG be that much of a loss? Could this be an opportunity to restructure the current governing body, or create a new one to (1) improve health of the sport and (2) make it more successful.

1. USAG is losing sponsors daily. The Men's program was never funded very well to begin with. If you've ever seen the equipment and facilities at the USOTC -- its not impressive, kind of a letdown when the boys go there for the first time. The 2017 version of JO Nationals was not well produced -- I can only imagine there was some loss of funds compared to previous years. If USAG is not decertified and can financially survive the coming civil suits, the ability for whatever is left of USAG to support MAG in its current structure could be reduced further, in a sport where refreshingly, men are not the main attraction.

2. What does USAG provide the MAG community? I have heard in various forums that its goals are to (1) select and foster development of elite-level elite athletes that can compete and succeed in international competitions and (2) to grow the sport. Although smaller than the numbers in the women's program, numerous people collect a salary in an attempt to achieve these goals. USAG has not been wildly successful in either aspect, although I applaud the recent JD addition to retain athletes and Boys Excel to grow the sport. Great headquarters ideas with varying support from local clubs.

3. To achieve its first goal (in pargraph 1), USAG MAG employs a semi-centralized junior elite development system that selects national teams that gather periodically for training by national team coaches and trainers at the USOTC. At the senior level is a more fully-centralized model used....augmented by NCAA programs. Is this the only model that is available for producing international athletes? Is it the best use of the precious resources that every parent contributes in the meet fees and membership dues? Is it even the best training model?

4. British men's gymnastics , since nearly going broke in the 2000s due to lack of success and interest changed its centralized model to an investment in the local clubs. Club coaches kept tight association with governing body in a "train the trainer" model, but abandoned centralized training. Money was instead spent in the local clubs to improve infrastructure: equipment, coaches training, and increased participation (Grow the Sport!). Athletes gained a trust and comfort level with their personal coach and a positive environment, vice a tug of war with national coaches. Recent world international competitions at both the Junior and Senior level has shown this model can be successful. The British, despite having a vastly lower population than the US, have surpassed the US rather quickly in men's gymnastics in the 21st Century. USA swimming employs a similar model, bestowing funding grants and other incentives to successful clubs in making their sport club-centric.

5. Unlike WAG, most US male olympic gymnasts truly reach their potential and develop into elite athletes at the ages 17-23.....mostly while in College at the few remaining NCAA teams. NCAA men's gymnastics is the training ground that really breeds our Senior Elite gymnasts anyhow....the USOTC to a lesser extent. Naddour and Kimble both train with their clubs, vice USOTC.

6. WAG has had remarkable competitive success, but obviously at the expense of numerous young women's childhood, employing its centralized structure with questionable success in oversight for the overall health of its participants. Although USAG MAG "appears" to have had less of a negative impact on young men; neither has it had much recent success in international competition or growth in sport. An alternative structure might exist....

US MAG could have a governing body merely to organize the clubs, support the clubs with financial endowment, training assistance and organizational help (maintain, train and equip).

The governing body could (a) truly dedicate itself to a #1 priority of growing the sport, providing a healthy environment and educating coaches/gym owners to increase supply ("push") in the sport at the base/root levels. Could this not be the single most important step in making sure there is a pool of talented athletes to draw international success from? It seems like it would also improve the experience for those who will never see international competition and further retain athletes to make great ideas like JD and Excel more successful.

Secondly, the body could (b) also work from the top of the sport to "pull" (1) provide finances and support to college club programs and universities willing to "rebuild" their college programs to potentially increase the "demand" side of the equation, (2) further develop the olympic breeding ground, (3) provide a place for that increase in retained junior athletes to pursue the sport as they reach their true peak performance ages of 17-23, and most importantly (4) bridge the vanishing network of adult male gymnastics advocates and future coaches.

Finally, (c) the body would simply organize and administer a venue for a bi-annual or annual national championship (August and February model already exists) where international assignments were decided upon by pure merit (competition results and/or pre-determined qualitative thresholds and computerized selection models -- big data and algorthims have at it) -- no costly committee structure.

All international assignments would involve participation by personal coaches, vice those from a governing body, with a head coach selected amongst the personal coaches or the college coach ranks -- numerous olympic sports do this -- US hockey, basketball, etc. The beauty of gymnastics is that although it is a "team" sport, the necessity to train year round or even periodically together doesn't exist. Although there are numerous benefits to centralized training), is it a necessity if resources are limited, and are those resources better applied in the clubs? Would two weeks together prior to Worlds or the olympics suffice?

Would like to hear if any are (1) still reading, (2) find merit in this, or (3) have strong opinions why the current organization structure is a better system, or (4) a way to tweak these ideas to improve this model?

I realize I am not anywhere near qualified to comment on what USAG really provides....I'm sure if what I presented was a great idea, it would have already been implemented and I know there must be a lot of good people at USAG working behind the scenes to support the sport in ways I never see as a parent. They must be doing something more than what I can see to justify their expense. The outgoing CEO was reportedly earning nearly $500k per year. But I still have to ask, after observing the culture that persists in WAG and the limited competitive success of MAG, is the current USAG structure the best we can do?
 

rosiekat

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Feb 5, 2016
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I did #1 (read it all, lol), but I'm not really equipped to respond helpfully. I do think you have definitely raised some good thoughts and questions here.
 
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