Tom Forster – Team Coordinator

USAG announced today that everything is totally fine and fixed, so you should stop asking questions and also bye.

And by that, I mean that Tom Forster has been selected as the new National Team Coordinator. Or, sorry, the new High-Performance Team Coordinator. Because that makes it all different and better. Nothing to see here. The performance is going to be so high. You won’t believe how high the performance will be.

Fans of the 90s will remember Forster of Colorado Aerials as the coach of Theresa Kulikowski, Kristy Powell and Doni Thompson—and Kerri Strug for a hot minute during her whistle-stop tour of America. Since then, he has held a lower-profile and more behind-the-scenes role in the elite coaching scene, and he was not the primary elite coach for the recent athletes from Colorado Aerials who may have been on your radar (Emily Muhlenhaupt, Kiersten Wang, Sharaya Musser).

That, quite honestly, could have been an influencing factor in the decision. He hasn’t had an opportunity to be publicly horrible in quite some time, which already put him on the high end of the list of candidates. And that seems to be the general reaction from within the gymnastics community—”it could have been worse”—what with names like Peggy Liddick floating around, and all. The consensus: he’s the best of the available options. The national team coaches seem to be optimistic about Forster, which means he will be given a chance rather than being thrown to the wolves immediately after the announcement. But of course, the proof will be in the…not being an aggressively ego-driven abusive maniac? Just that. We’re asking so much, I know. Stay cautious, my friends.

It may be unfair, but USAG has taught us to mistrust its process and automatically mistrust anyone it might think is suitable. Kerry Perry likes you? Well then what’s wrong with you?

For me, even the hiring of the world’s most amazing person in this position would be fraught with issues because the position itself is a problem. It puts too much power in a single person’s approach, which leads to tunnel vision and my-way-or-the-highway decision making, regardless of who that person is. Selector and judge and coach and teacher and advocate and hall monitor and dream-breaker all at the same time? Those roles don’t always go together. I’m hoping to see the announcement of some more separation of duties and responsibilities (selection vs. coaching vs. safety) as Forster slides into the role.

The focus of the national team camps should also become less about pouring a dozen more coaches on the problem and more about providing resources the athletes don’t have access to in their home gyms—psychological, nutritional, etc. Camps should be a learning opportunity, not a Hunger Game. If it were only about verification and selection, then just make it a straightforward competition and be done with it. A training camp can (and should) be something different, where evaluation is part of the process, but only part.

In that regard, Forster certainly said all the right words in his initial announcement—teach, support, athletes, positivity, voice—but of course anyone would say those things. That doesn’t tell us anything yet, and there will be concerns about selecting anyone who sharpened his teeth as a member of the elite coaching crew of the mid-90s where “aggressively ego-driven abusive maniac” was like the whole thing. Pretty sure it was in the handbook. Picking someone from that era doesn’t exactly scream “MOVING FORWARD FRESH START.”

(Also, Will Graves asked him about video of verification, and he stayed on that same old nonsensical line about GIVING AWAY THE PRECIOUS AMERICAN SECRETS TO THE COMMIES, which was not ideal.)

For us fans, most of what we remember about Tom and Lori Forster comes from three things that all occurred in 1996, which is a long time ago.

1) His performance after Kulikowski fell on compulsory beam at 96 Trials.

2) Whatever the crap this was.

3) That bizarre fluff piece from the 1996 American Cup (I accidentally said it was from Trials on this week’s GymCastic, but you get the idea) where NBC decided to present him with a narrative of “this nice coach who has this weird strategy where you’re not supposed to be a giant asshole, HOW WEIRD” and where he was Sister Mary Full of Sass about Kerri Strug and also every gymnast.

Hey, that’s my job.

Yeah, this is going to need a full recap. It is such an aggressively upsetting example of NBC’s Cult of the Coaches, Gymnasts as Wind-up Dolls to Do Your Bidding era—one that unfortunately had lasting influence on the attitudes of so many coaches.

These memories we have of that era are why—to gain popular support in this position—Forster will have to prove that the coaching of the 90s and that way of speaking about gymnasts is not what he’s about. He’ll have to show by example a recognition that it is not about him, that it’s not his OLYMPIC DREAM, that the goal of your life shouldn’t be to IMPRESS him, that opportunities are earned by athletes rather than bestowed by his blessed generosity, and that…like…safety and oversight and professional boundaries and transparency are concepts that exist, or whatever.

So yes. We shall see.

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18 thoughts on “Tom Forster – Team Coordinator”

  1. That first video is all kinds of creepy.
    *Forster pouting and acting like a child instead of supporting his athlete
    *That Guy’s brilliant medical opinion that bone was growing back in DM’s leg
    *Bella telling her to stop after collapsing twice. Who wants to bet his “stop” was more about her performance than her injury?
    *NBC’s little girl narrative
    *Dominique herself in Daddy’s lap

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  2. I’m honestly curious:

    The way NBC portrays Forster reminds me so much of the Rybeckis. They just seem so desperate to achieve their own olympic dreams that they forget their job is to support their athletes. Is this just the NBC dramatic slant or are these coaches really so pathetically selfish?

    Because it seems like he has too much personal agenda to be supportive of a group of athletes that need a mature, emotionally stable team coordinator.

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  3. I think you’ll find that the majority of the up and coming elite coaches chose Tom. They respect him, the kids that are in the camp system love him, and he has a wealth of knowledge to contribute to the sport. I’m hopeful that people can give him a chance before they start tearing him down.

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  4. Are there links that explain why nobody likes Peggy Liddick? I don’t really get that – I know Australia had a peak and decline, but I don’t really know if/why that’s directly atttributable to her being bad in some way.

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    1. Liddick was very emotionally and verbally abusive to her athletes.
      If you don’t know about the 2006-2008 years, there is not enough time to type out the full details. Hollie Dykes quit gymnastics because of her. Chloe Sims had issues with Liddick. A dozen or so gymnasts have had problems with Liddick for years.
      Liddick was known for peaking her teams too early (2000 and 2008) and for placing tremendous amount of pressure on the athletes to perform. This caused them to be inconsistent/ not live up to her lofty expectations.
      She had made passive aggressive comments to athletes. For example, when Lisa Skinner nearly fell on her beam dismount in Athens. There were other unfortunate situations too like leading into 2012 she said her team had no chances and so she compiled the team so that they could lift up Lauren Mitchell because she was the only one that had a chance to medal. The next year she didn’t send any athletes to Belgium for Worlds stating that they needed more training time. Then Liddick went off to Belgium herself to watch Worlds. Her constant negative attitude was a downfall for the Australian team. Various athletes have expressed that they felt very negative about their gymnastics and were in fear.

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  5. While I am apprehensive about credentialist gatekeeping, I am really excited they chose someone with actual degrees in physical education, health, and sport. That’s a really good sign, whether or not it turns out to be sufficient.

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  6. I think Tom Forester is a good choice and I have hope that he won’t quit or be shoved out too soon. I am keeping my fingers crossed. I am from Colorado Springs so I have known about Tom Forester for a long time.

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  7. I just keep thinking about the Marx Brothers’ joke, “I would never want to be a part of a club that would have me as a member.” Or to put it another way, the fact that Tom Forester is willing to take the job at USA Gymnastics makes me uneasy. But I don’t know that I would like anyone willing to climb inside that dumpster fire.

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  8. I want the future of USAG to be positive For the sake of the current athletes, I want them to succeed. That’s why, back in January, I wanted to like KP and give her the benefit of the doubt. She made me uneasy from day one and confirmed those suspicions with her May 2018 dumpster fire. I feel exactly the same way about Forster. I want to think he’s a good choice and feel positive about it, but I don’t. I have the same uneasy feeling I had about KP. I get that no one good wants the job, but he’s way too ingrained in the old culture people think needs to change.

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  9. If these videos are the worst there is out there about him, I’d say he’s a good choice!
    A coach caught on tape showing anything besides positive emotion is going to be subject to multiple critical interpretations. And NBC portrays these people however they want.. most of that fluff piece was NBC… only a couple quick clips of Forster’s words. This stuff only has meaning to me if there are people backing up those portrayals, and so far we’re not hearing much besides “athletes like him” across the board.
    So like, NBC could make the Dalai Lama into a murderer, so lets not give their fluff the status of evidence.

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    1. Hmmmm did you also not understand what happened to that group of elites They all fled from Aerials, with the exception of Kulikowski who gave up elite gymnastics in 1997. Thompson retired after making the World team and having a legitimate chance to make the Atlanta Olympics. Powell went running to Mary Lee Tracy after failing to make Atlanta. These three stories alone make me wonder about his capability to lead an entire national team. His reactions after his own gymnasts had issues does not bode well. What is going to happen if a national team gymnasts falls at Worlds? I also think that his snarky remarks about Kerri Strug were ridiculous and childish. His ego was bruised, clearly, and he was pissed that he wasn’t a good enough coach for Strug, so she left.

      I am not surprised Forster was chosen. There wasn’t much competition for this position. No one wants to touch this dumpster fire right now.

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  10. The “culture of silence” in gymnastics. Why does it exist? It is pure evil! Who are the people responsible for this? Has anyone even seriously explored this question? “Colorado gymnastics clubs are like family” ” we stick together” “once your marked, no one in CO will take your kids’ in other words ‘We band together no matter what, who cares about the children!’ Who cares how much that kid loves and lives for gymnastics? Who cares that her heart breaks every day she is blackballed?!!!How many other children have been “blacked out” of gymnastics for telling on the wrong person? Someone Tom Forster for some reason stands by? Even a coach who has been fired from every gym he’s ever worked at in multiple states! Has anyone considered that Mr Forster is most likely one of the main people who are secretely considered at the head of this sick thug mentality of punishing CHILDREN?!!!! I thought the “culture of silence” was supposed to be stopped! I’m telling g you, this man IS this very culture!

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