The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

The End of a Kerry

We’ll always have all the empowerment.

Yes, the longest nine months in the history of the human timeline (it was only NINE MONTHS) are finally over. The USOC has forced Kerry Perry to resign her position as CEO of USA Gymnastics. It’s a massive relief to everyone, including Kerry Perry herself I’m sure.

Kerry Perry’s brief tenure will be remembered (barely) for Perry seeming totally unprepared for and overmatched by the task presented to her. At a time when USA Gymnastics needed forthright, confident, and rapid change—a clear, drastic plan laid out and followed by someone willing to look like the enemy to the stodgy, hidebound gymnastics oligarchy—it instead got the wishy-washy figure cut by Kerry Perry, one that quickly descended into self-parody with each unconvincing burble of nonsensical pseudo-inspirational tropes and self-help maxims. It was the Pinterest Presidency.

As was continually remarked about Kerry Perry, the worst of it wasn’t her fault. She wasn’t even associated with the organization until the very end of 2017, and yet she constantly behaved like a guilty party. Whether it was misleading Congress about NDAs or the as-yet-nonexistent Athlete Task Force, feigning “little ol’ me?” ignorance about every possible thing, or inexplicably protecting the job of Ron Galimore, Perry made the choice to associate herself with the worst that USAG had to offer. She could have fully cleaned house upon arrival and separated herself from the sulfur of her predecessor, but she did not. Instead, protecting the organization legally by never conceding even a shred of wrongdoing was the only rule of this game. It may be pragmatic, but that doesn’t mean it’s not gross. 

At the beginning of Perry’s tenure, there were hints of optimism. She did listen to Simone and did close the ranch—which provided an encouraging contrast to a previous administration that would have done nothing except vilify Simone as “ungrateful” as it did to many others who dared to have opinions and experiences. But as we learned more, the closing of the ranch simply came to typify Perry’s chaotic and reactive leadership style. The move was made only in response to negative press and wouldn’t have happened otherwise (a theme) and was rushed through without foresight and without informing all the concerned parties.

Whether it was closing the ranch in the midst of a developmental camp or waiting months and months to choose to fire Rhonda Faehn, and then doing it right in the middle of a national team camp that Rhonda was running, there was no consistency or timeliness in the decisions made, even when the actual decisions could be justified.

If you were going to do that, THEN DO IT. Right from the start. With a plan. Not because it seemed like the best-looking decision on the day. And who knows what will happen tomorrow?

Perry’s USAG always seemed 6 kilometers behind, and the race was a 5K. Even last week, the decision to ban Kathie Klages—just after she was arrested—highlighted that patented USAG mission statement to always take action…right after it might have been helpful.

It was the bungling of the Mary Lee Tracy appointment, however, that best represents the current era of USA Gymnastics and ultimately last-straw-ed Perry to the great scarf factory in the sky. By hiring MLT, someone whose public statements have made her a standard-bearer for an ignorant and intractable US gymnastics community built on patronage over professionalism and coaches over athletes, USAG once again displayed its inexcusable insularity. How could you not have known about MLT’s past comments? How could you not have known much anger this would produce? How could you not have prepared for that? Have you been paying any attention?

The appointment shouldn’t have been made in the first place, but by asking MLT to resign just three days later, Perry’s USAG proved itself once again to be concerned only with image, haphazardly reacting to a negative press landscape that it should have been prepared for, but wasn’t. No research, no standards, no plan. Only running around in circles, reacting to loud noises. Why are they always so surprised?

So now, USAG is once again left without a CEO, and the search begins anew. Do we have any confidence that the next prisoner at the bar will do any better? Of course not. You would have to be insane to want this job. We will assume the worst, and we will not give you a chance. Welcome to USAG, you’ll have to earn any positive consideration you get. You’re starting position is the bottom of the pit.

But someone is going to take that job. Hopefully, someone angry. With experience in crisis management. Someone who outlines a clear and consistent public plan of investigation and consequences before taking any actions, and then sticks to that plan. And who never, ever says “empowerment” again.

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