The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Things Are Happening – May 3, 2019


Well, hm. Let’s just get this over with. This week, USAG continued USAGing all over the bathroom walls with its attempted hiring of Edward Nyman as its first full-time director of sports medicine and science. Nyman has a PhD in biomechanics, was an assistant coach on the Bowling Green team for a hot second in the 2012 season, and has spent time as coach (and co-owner) at New Heights in Ohio with his wife.

So, first of all, mark 2019 down as the year that USA Gymnastics became aware that sports medicine exists, which is very rad and excellent and prompt. The previous approach was just a napkin scrawled with, “Martha says carrots give you the fats.”

Anyway, the press release announcing this AMAZING HIRE was almost immediately destroyed, and a day later he was gone. Another check plus for the winners!

There’s a whole sub-story here with Simone—among others—tweeting displeasure at the pick, but I’m not going to get into those weeds too much because that’s all a red herring that didn’t have anything to do with his one-day tenure. The idea that Simone’s tweeting is what got rid of Nyman fit into a comfortable narrative of “you people object to every hiring no matter what and won’t let USAG move on because you just want it to burn,” but it turns out USAG is continuing to do a pretty good job of burning itself without anyone else’s help since this debacle was solely down to the expected amount of USAG incompetence.

Just after hiring Dr. Nyman and putting out a press release with glowing quotes from Li Li about his amazingness, USAG realized that JUST KIDDING. Turns out, he has a disqualifying conflict of interest for the position. A.k.a. they had an “oh shit, it’s going to look bad for us if people find out about whatever this is, better axe him now” moment. I guess that’s an improvement over “Just lie, they’ll never know.” …….. I guess?

USAG hasn’t released what this conflict of interest is, but the fact that they didn’t—you know—uncover this conflict of interest during the hiring process speaks to a very familiar absence of trying or, if we’re being as charitable as possible, absence of competent communication. Are you a real organization? Because you’ve never acted like it once.

It’s also worth asking what kind of conflict of interest a director of sports medicine would even have, and what kind of conflict of interest it would have to be for USAG not to know about it during the hiring process. Then again, USAG has never exactly shown the ability to reach the third result on a Google search in its employee research, so…

The NEW USA Gymnastics: It’s the same.

Hasn’t been a great month (week) (day) for Li Li.

Also not having a great day, Terin Humphrey. What happened there…I barely even have the energy but here goes.

Terin reposted some awful meme about how great it is when coaches scream into their athletes’ face holes, and deriding the idea that this kind of behavior can constitute abuse, and it was UGH SIGH. Good athlete repping. Very much representative.

The cool thing about Kathy Johnson Clarke is that she responded to this perfectly with her patented combination of thoughtfulness and empathy, so that the rest of us don’t have to try to do it. That. Exactly that. Every word.

Rather than just leave it there like an adult, however, Terin went on to post an MLT-style treatise about how…John Manly was mean to her? I guess? So weird that the lawyer for abused athletes suing USA Gymnastics would pick up on a USAG athlete representative making light of abusive coaching. I know you’re all shocked. So so shocked.

Of course, if she’s receiving actual death threats, that’s very bad. She shouldn’t be receiving death threats. And coaches shouldn’t do dehumanizing screaming at athletes. But MY GOD. Criticism is not cyberbullying. Saying you should be fired is not cyberbullying. Calling you a bozo is not cyberbullying. The first amendment does not, in fact, read “you can say whatever stupid shit you want and no one else can say anything about it.” Breaking news, I know.

The irony of Terin Humphrey vicariously applauding crazy coaches screaming horrible things at athletes and then turning right around and saying she’s being bullied because John Manly did a tweet about her (and by his standards, a fairly reasonable tweet) is so crisp.

B. National team camp

So yeah, everything’s fine at USAG. Fun fun fun.

Time to gather at EVO for a national team camp! This is largely a training camp rather than an ASSIGNMENT camp—the places at junior worlds will be assigned at the June camp, which is also closer to the selection of the Pan Ams team—but nonetheless the entire national team is slated to attend. The national team is quite large right now with 25 members (11 have been added in 2019 so far), but it’s worth noting that there were no other invitations this time. Only the current national team members are present.

We also learned this week that American Classic is returning to Utah on June 22. No word on broadcast yet.

C. All My Coaches

We had an addition to the list of open head coach positions this week with Gail Goodspeed from New Hampshire announcing her retirement after 40 years at UNH. FORTY. New Hampshire has advanced to regionals in each of the last six seasons, and finished this year in 34th place after dropping the play-in meet to NC State.

One head coaching position has of course been filled—Jordyn Wieber to Arkansas—but that still leaves us with seven currently undeclared: UCLA, New Hampshire, Central Michigan, William & Mary, Seattle Pacific, Southern Connecticut, and Cortland. Marsden has you covered with all the updates.

D. What else?

Antwerp is going to host worlds in 2023. I’m on board, but it’s probably not great that worlds continues being bunched in the same basic geographical area. Stuttgart 2019, Copenhagen 2021, Liverpool 2022, Antwerp 2023.

New recruiting rules in NCAA now prohibit contact of any kind until after the sophomore year of high school and prohibit all visits until just before the start of the junior year. This is progress and a much better situation that will hopefully curb the trend of 7-year-olds making verbal commitments to colleges. It won’t completely solve the problem because coaches who want to and have lax compliance oversight will always find ways around it, but it attempts to impose a much healthier schedule.

Because the FIG never met a rule about your appearance that it didn’t want to drop everything to institute, here is a VERY IMPORTANT leo rule for the 2020 Olympics, courtesy of Gretchen Wieners:

WE MUST DISTINGUISH between the plastics and the peasants.

E. GymCastic

If you haven’t yet listened to our NCAA nationals recap episode, you can (and should) do so. We were off this week, but we have a pretty delectable interview coming up soon. I was sick and slightly delirious during said interview and may or may not remember anything that happened, but I’ve been assured it’s a delight.


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