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Today I want to address the significant events that have taken place since I started with USA Gymnastics 90 days ago and what our path forward looks like in creating a culture of empowerment with our focus on athlete safety and well-being.
There is no doubt that all of us have been forever changed by the recent Larry Nassar hearings. I was in the courtroom to listen to the incredibly courageous women explain in vivid and painful detail the impact he had on their lives. Their powerful voices will stay with me for the rest of my life. I commit to you that I will keep their words and experiences at the core of every decision I make, every day, as the leader of this organization. Their stories have broken my heart, but also strengthened my resolve.
The best way to honor our athletes is to ensure that we do everything we can to prevent this from happening again by making bold decisions and holding ourselves to the highest standards of care.
In 90 days, here are just a few of the bold decisions and actions we have taken.
- Closing the National Team Training Center at the Karolyi Ranch.
- Fully supporting both the USOC and Congressional independent investigations and the new federal law regarding safeguarding amateur athletes.
- Creating an Athlete Assistance Fund, in cooperation with the National Gymnastics Foundation, that provides our athletes who are survivors of sexual abuse the needed financial resources for counseling services.
- Building an Athlete Task Force where our athletes help shape our organization’s future in its strategic and operating decisions.
- Continuing to implement the Deborah Daniels recommendations stemming from an independent evaluation of USA Gymnastics’ safety policies, 80 percent of which already are being implemented as of today.
- Strongly enforcing the USA Gymnastics Safe Sport Policy that:
- requires mandatory reporting.
- defines six types of misconduct.
- sets standards to prohibit grooming behavior and prevent inappropriate interaction.
- establishes greater accountability.
- Making reporting of abuse easier with a dedicated toll-free number (833-844-SAFE), email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) and online reporting.
- Amending the bylaws to support the cultural commitment to athlete safety and provide a basis for further developing our safe sport programs and governance.
- Continuing our Listening Forums and outreach to as many of our survivors, athletes and member clubs as possible to help guide USA Gymnastics policies and procedures.
- Incorporating expert’s ideas and strategies in the enhancements of our safe sport education and curriculum to create a best-in-class curriculum customized to fit the varying member groups.
- Educating and training our staff and members on the new Safe Sport Policy, where I am pleased to report that our staff is 100 percent safe sport compliant.
We realize many of you have questions about the financial situation, sponsors, pending litigation, National Team Training Center and others. Here’s a brief update on each of these.
- Finances. We are constantly looking at how we are positioned to address the goals and needs of the organization. As we talk about fundamental change, this includes looking at our structure, our programs, our staff, our gymnastics community and other important factors. While we continue to evaluate the organization from top to bottom to fit the needs and mission of the organization, we understand the financial implications of doing that without impacting quality. We are very mindful of the quality of our programs, and it is not our intent to affect the ability of our athletes to train and compete at the highest level. We are confident that we will have and enlist the financial support necessary to make appropriate changes for building a culture of empowerment.
- Sponsors. Understandably, USA Gymnastics has lost some of our corporate partner support, but we are very encouraged by the support that many organizations and companies have expressed with our path forward in creating a highly empowered culture focused on our athletes’ safety. We believe our partners will be highly engaged and supportive, and we look forward to working closely with them.
- Litigation. We understand that litigation can be full of uncertainty, but the leadership of USA Gymnastics seeks resolution and healing for all of our athletes and will move forward to build a culture of empowerment together.
- Club support. Member services continues to develop educational and training materials that help support the member club owners in all areas with emphasis on athlete safety. The safe sport team is working side-by-side with our educational team to develop materials that are age-appropriate and tailored to the different audiences to include athletes, club owners, coaches, instructors, judges, staff and parents. They are creating a club tool kit that incorporates safe sport education and other types of resources aimed at providing additional support. The Regional and National Congresses, along with other initiatives, provide further educational and informational opportunities for clubs and all professional members.
- National Team Training Center. We envision an all-inclusive training site with world-class facilities that provides a positive training environment for athletes in all of our disciplines. This is an opportunity not only to build a state-of-the-art facility, but also, most importantly, to provide the highest quality of care to meet the needs of our gymnasts. Athlete safety will be at the forefront when designing and building the facility and its programs and amenities. We are very encouraged by the number of cities, developers and communities that have expressed great interest in having the National Team Training Center in their area. This is a priority for USA Gymnastics, and we expect to distribute a request for proposal in the near future. In the meantime, each discipline is identifying the best solution for training its national team and developmental athletes. We appreciate everyone who is assisting our programs with their training needs while we pursue a long-term solution for the National Team Training Center.
Our work is far from being done, it won’t be easy, and we can’t do this alone. We need our independent member clubs, their coaches and instructors, the athletes and their parents, judges and the gymnastics community to join with us. Athlete safety must be at the forefront of everything we do, every day.
We are at a very important crossroads for our sport. We have the opportunity to further build an environment that empowers and supports our athletes as they develop the confidence, character and life skills that will allow them to succeed in this amazing sport. We need to work together to accomplish this for both the young men and women who are pursuing their gymnastics dreams today and to honor those who have gone before.
I want to end with a quote that I read the other day, “No matter how dark the moment, love and hope are always possible.”
My hope is that we will be standing side-by-side with our incredibly brave survivors, as USA Gymnastics emerges stronger, safer and more empowered.
President and CEO