The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Things Are Happening – August 22, 2020

A. AGREE TO DISAGREE

Yesterday, Alyssa Beckerman posted the Google Doc we’ve been waiting for our entire lives, her account of some of the emotional manipulation and callousness she experienced during her time as a cast member on The Miss Val Show and what went down prior to her much-discussed removal from the team.

At this point, I just want to know where I can preorder the hardback.

Alyssa’s account illuminates some of the inherent contradictions of the Miss Val Positive Coaching Retirement Tour (smyoosh that like button if you’re old enough to remember when Miss Val wasn’t considered “the warm and fuzzy healthy coach”) and pulls back the curtain on how the power dynamics and inherited bad advice in college gym can lead to equally toxic environments as elite. But in addition to that, it’s simply nice to get (part of) the story of Alyssa’s gymnastics saga from her own perspective, rather than from all the other very not-Alyssa, antagonistic perspectives we got during her competitive career.

We’ve been through this before, but the gymnastics-NBC-complex’s treatment of Alyssa was among the worst ever. And that’s a really deep category. The way she was spoken about—in public, on television—during the 2000 process was flat-out ugly. I mean, “sometimes Alyssa has too many windows open, and she leaves the drapes open as well” is branded on my brain forever, but actually what the hell kind of thing is that to say about someone during your trials broadcast? We, as viewers, were told many things about Alyssa’s personality and behavior and what was wrong with it by a lot of people—MLT, NBC, Val—all of whom weren’t Alyssa.

At the time, she didn’t have much avenue through which to tell her own story and say, “Hey. Wh–. Hey.” Not the case anymore.

As for Miss Val, her recent outspoken criticism of the current culture in gymnastics, as well as the acknowledgment of her own coaching failures, has been as welcome as it is rare among those actually entrenched in the US gymnastics community. You hope the sentiment is genuine, but either way it doesn’t change the experience of athletes like Alyssa, who clearly needed Miss Val to be a different coach than she was and didn’t deserve to be simply the fodder for Miss Val to learn whatever coaching life lesson she’s telling us she learned in the aftermath.

Val posted an apolog-ish on twitter, and…it’s a thing that’s there.

So, I know it would be petty and unhelpful, but I also really need Alyssa to reply “agree to disagree.” I NEED it.

B. Gymnast alliance

Athletes sharing their stories as part of the gymnast alliance shows no signs of slowing down (almost like the sport has a widespread problem!), and we’ll see if Alyssa’s statement prompts even more college athletes from different eras to speak. I’m sure the interpersonally toxic Gretchen Wieners of it all that Alyssa described in her time at UCLA is sadly par for the course at the top college programs.

It can be difficult to keep track of everyone’s statements, but I did want to highlight this one in particular. Reminder: Dan Baker from Stars is the current elite development coordinator, the one who replaced MLT after her 3-nanosecond tenure.

C. It’s getting baddddd out there

Over the last couple days, two college gymnastics programs have received the ax.

Sadly unsurprisingly, Alaska announced that it will be cutting the women’s gymnastics program at the end of the 2021 season. The gymnastics team has been on life support for the last couple years, and the mass exodus of gymnasts and coaches this summer seemed to indicate that things were moving in a specific direction. We’ll always have M’rcy Matsunami and Sophia Hyderally.

An identical fate will befall the Iowa men’s program at the conclusion of the 2021 season, a devastating blow to men’s college gym since Iowa is one of…you know…the few remaining large DI gymnastics programs. It emphasizes that there are no safe men’s NCAA programs—and really only a handful of safe NCAA women’s programs.

I’m sure everything will continue getting worse. Happy Saturday.

D. Wang Yan retires

Wang Yan announced her retirement this week.

Wang was part of the 2015 worlds and 2016 Olympics teams for China, winning team medals at both events. She burst onto the scene as a new senior in 2015, bringing much-needed, high-scoring VT/FX options to a team that was feeling very “what’s a floor routine,” reaching the AA, vault, and beam (!) finals at that first worlds. At the 2016 Olympics, Wang finished 6th in the all-around final and reached the vault and floor finals. Wang last competed at worlds in 2017, where she again reached the vault and all-around finals.

E. GymCastic

The competitions we have to look forward to this summer, and why this year is different from all other years SEA Games: Rifda Irfanaluthfi won the all-around title, Aleah Finnegan did the piked deltchev, Carlos Yulo did everything better than everyone, and we have some words about composition requirements Janelle McDonald is the new UCLA head coach. What should the first order of business be? Constant vigilance news out of the Netherlands, Great Britain, Canada, the US, and everywhere Plus, awards for Lexy Ramler and Trinity Thomas, Fisk's first gymnast, which gymnasts are coming back to college for extra years, which familiar names excelled at L10 nationals, Chuso doing Chuso, and Simone's new reality show And your feedback on the live show, rewarding difficulty, toxic coaches, college 10s, and who can hope to be a good gymnast JOIN CLUB GYM NERD Join Club Gym Nerd (or give it as a gift!) for access to Behind the Scenes episodes. Buy our awesome clothing and gifts here. We have a Ukraine Fundraiser design, all proceeds go to the CARE Ukraine Crisis fund. WATCH HERE Club Gym Nerd members can watch the podcast being recorded and see some of the gymnastics we discuss, plus get access to all of our exclusive interviews and Behind The Scenes episodes.  RELATED EPISODES & RESOURCES Donate grips and tape for Ukrainian gymnasts Donate to family of Alabama volunteer assistant coach in Ukraine To follow the effects of the Russian invasion to Ukraine on gymnastics, go to Gymnovosti GYMKATA The Leotard Episode: Part Deux NCAA Championships 2022 Winter Cup Recap Spitfire: The Movie (Commissioned) Nadia: The Movie (Commissioned)
  1. Athletistry
  2. GYMKATA
  3. The Leotard Episode: Part Deux
  4. The Leotard Episode
  5. NCAA Championships: A Victory for Execution (and Curses)

In the most recent episode, we discuss the Texas Dreams fallout, D-D Breaux’s retirement, and NCAA lineup racism.

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