How Do You Solve A Problem Like Tom Forster?

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I am not advocating for it, but it is the biggest difference between the programs. Wrong? Yes, morally wrong perhaps but as I’ve said, no one has managed otherwise…
It’s the exact opposite of victim blaming, it is putting the onus on parents and coaches to pull struggling gymnasts. I know that many successful gymnasts have subsequently said there were things about their training that weren’t ok, but as I’ve mentioned, this isn’t uncommon as people become adults and begin to look at things very differently, which is not always how they saw it at the time. McKayla Maroney’s comments on Marta were interesting, because she couldn’t quite bring herself to say that it wasn’t worth it
It is the biggest difference between the programs.
Fear? No it isn’t. In fact, I cannot begin to emphasize how wrong this opinion of yours is. You are simply flat out wrong to claim that fear is what makes the difference. You must have a very skewed view of Russian gymnastics to say that. And I’m sorry if your experiences there have led you to believe that.

It is the sports science and decades of institutional knowledge that make Russia a strong team and that made the USSR a dominating team. That and the fact that the country has a large pool of potential athletes to choose from.

Note, I am not saying there was no physical or emotional abuse in the Soviet Union, or in Soviet gymnastics (but it certainly wasn’t systemic in the way you seem to portray it). I’m saying that that fear / abuse is NOT what made the programme great. And it is not what Britain is missing in order to become a team on the same level as Russia.
My experience in Russia and England was both positive and negative. I learned quite early that I didn’t have the temperament for high level training, but not early enough before some damage was done.

And respectfully, I don’t think you should be telling me my opinion is wrong when it is my own personal experience
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Telling an athlete that they have learn to take the abuse or give up their dreams is a classic example of how abuse is perpetuated and silenced in sport. Telling them that they have to put up and shut up or leave isn’t selecting for the mentally strong, it’s entrapping them in an environment wherein they can’t speak up for their own wellbeing. That’s how programs end up with a team of gymnasts training on stress fractures for years and then competing diminished routines at the Olympics. It’s how programs end up with a dead or sexually abused 1978 world AA or UB champion. On a less severe note, it is how programs burn out gymnasts before they should.
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No, they don’t have to learn to take the abuse. They can leave, that is ultimately the most positive outcome for them. And yes, those who do end up injured or burned out are considered collateral damage. I think that is absolutely clear from the way that top programs are run.

No one likes it, of course we don’t. But there’s no point in pretending there’s a viable alternative when there’s zero evidence of one that works.
We spent so long assuming that we had to adopt ALL of the Eastern block methods as a whole that I would argue that gymnastics doesn’t have a sufficient sample size to show that positive coaching can’t work. We have some bright spots (Aimee Boorman, Brian Carey as recent examples; didn’t Tatiana Lysenko give an interview in the early 90s that she was thankful she didn’t have an abusive coach because she knew how easily it could have been otherwise?). We have athletes that have stated they are thankful for their positive experience who have achieved highly, fascinatingly often athletes coached by their fathers and so perhaps less so at the brunt of utilitarian coaching. But these are admittedly fewer, perhaps because many coaches simply haven’t tried to blend rigorous technique with positive reinforcement. I sincerely hope that the gymnasts from the last two decades who’ve intentionally opened positive gyms begin to produce good talent to show it works.

As for the idea that an athlete can simply leave, I think that greatly understates the impact of abuse on an impressionable mind. By impressionable I mean not only young athletes, but individuals who have been told they are working with an expert, have high hopes in the sport, and often have their identity conflated with success via the abuse. All of these things make it very, very difficult to call abuse what it is and frequently pull people further into an abusive environment instead of pushing them out. The same dynamics apply in almost any environment with perpetuated abuse.

It doesn’t say anything much positive for the sport that deaths are considered not only a risk of sport but collateral damage for the success of a program. We all know gymnastics is risky to begin with. To make it even more so via abuse is highly unethical.
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Ultimately Tom Forster has to treat gymnasts with basic professionalism no matter what. He’s pretty lucky his employer even exists so he has to be on his toes. We’re not going back to the blatant lack of professionalism/dignity of the last century.
You are confusing individual gymnasts with a dominant program. There are LOADS of examples of great individual coaching where gymnasts reached the top of the sport. Creating depth and dominance is a completely different process and you can’t just transplant what works with an individual gymnast into a national team situation. We have seen that fail time and time again.

Unfortunately, deaths and major injury are collateral damage in almost every top level sport whether we like it or not. My husband is involved in equine sports and the major injury rate amongst professional racing jockeys is alarming. From a relatively small pool of jockeys in Europe, I’d say it averages 5 per year life changing injuries inc paralysis and 1 death per year. Bear in mind that from age 16 they have moved away from home to live at a racing stables and are immediately competing against adults twice their age whilst maintaining a weight of around 100lbs in order to ride.
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I don’t see much professionalism from Tom…
On this much we agree.

As for a positive national program that also produces high quality athletes, I don’t know how many nations have given it a solid try in the last five decades. I think Tom tried but this thread exists because he seems not to have possessed many of the qualities needed.
It’s far too early to say, they are athletes inherited from a different system. See also: the immediately post Soviet gymnasts
So…are you saying that what Russia did on bars in Tokyo is akin to what Romania did in Sydney/Athens?

Romania was clearly hiding flaws and weaknesses at those games, what was Russia hiding in Tokyo?
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Respectfully, I’m not saying anyrhing about your personal experience except that I’m sorry if it led you to this opinion.

Let me remind you that you said:
the reason that Britain is just never quite as good and will never be as dominant is that there isn’t enough fear. It’s that simple.
That is the only opinion of yours that I am talking about. And despite anyone’s personal experience, that is not true, and I feel perfectly justified in calling it out. Your opinon is wrong. Fear is not what makes Russia a power in artistic gymnastics and not what made the Soviet teams dominant.

For example, if you compare what the US (William Sands) was doing in terms of athlete monitoring for the US national team in the late 1980s to what the Soviets were doing at the same time (preparing for the Seoul Olympics), it is day and night. The USSR was light years ahead in athlete monitoring and constructiong solid training programmes. Periodization, too, was sophisticated and was tailored to individual atheltes based on the monitoring.

And that (plus having a centralized training facility for the national teams) is why they dominated when they did. The institutional knowledge created then is what makes Russian coaches so good. Not the sad fact that too many of them use fear as a motivator.

So, if BG really wants to jump to the level of the Russians, they need to invest more in accessing other programmes’ institutional knowledge, use that as a foundation to build on and to improve their own knowledge base, and establish a national training centre where gymnasts on the national team would train pretty much year 'round.

Culturally, they likely will never have a year round training location where all gymnasts “have” to train. But the other stuff they can do, and it doesn’t require “fear” or abuse.
Fascinating conversation. For some reason, this reminds me of the fact that some Romanian gymnasts (Marinescu) spoke up against abuse but the gymnasts she trained with didn’t. And she was originally from Bucharest.
So, did Romania crash and burn because they stopped being abusive? Or, are they still abusive and crashed and burned anyway?
With Romania it was a combination of factors, but a less strict coaching regime is one of those. Just look at what happened in Russia when Arkaev went a bit soft towards the end of his tenure…

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