I’ve been in the gymnastics industry for over 32 years—first as an athlete, then as a National Team Member and now of course, as a gym owner. As you might imagine, the news that the USA Gymnastics National Team doctor, Larry Nassar, abused 160 young women and girls has shaken me to the core. I, along with other industry proffesionals, find myself asking, “How could such a terrible tragedy happen?” “How could this institution have turned a blind eye to this level of abuse?” If you are not familiar with these stories, you can read some of them here.
It’s very difficult to find the right words to address this devastating issue, but I feel it is important for our K2 community that I do. I was inspired by the words of Jeff Metzger, owner of Kids First Sports Center. So, I’ve included them below:
I read an article that called it a ‘perfect storm,’ a confluence of personalities that came together at just the right time when a person of authority with sick sexual predilections buddied up with a small handful of ambitious but cowardly people who were willing to overlook the cries for help that we now know were made. Calling it a ‘perfect storm’ may be accurate, however it does little to offer guidance to prevent such a thing from happening again.
To make the point: I was acquainted with many of the people in the news: Dr. Larry Nassar was a fawning charmer who did favors for everyone; Olympic coach, John Geddert had an off-putting, scary, controlling nature as did former USA Gymnastics CEO, Steve Penny. The scary thing is, despite knowing these people and their negative qualities, never once did it occur to me that sickening evil was going on behind the scenes.
I have repeatedly told myself, “this sickness did not happen by accident.” As such, I have also repeatedly asked myself, “what combination of conditions were present that, if present again, might allow a sexual predator to groom his victims and prevail in his ill-intent”? I saw four destructive qualities that I believe worked synergistically to allow this predator to do what he did as long as he did:
To confuse matters, over the years, most of us have had dealings with ‘controllers,’ ‘manipulators,’ ‘fawning charmers’ and ‘opaque environments’ yet no sexual predator was spawned. And therein lies the main point: I do not believe that you can spot sexual deviancy. However you can spot the conditions that would allow a predator to flourish. And you can dedicate yourself to having the individual and institutional courage to keep these conditions out of your life and organization.
So, how are Metzger’s words helpful to me as a gym owner, to my staff and to you as parents? I believe that we MUST ALWAYS BE ON HIGH ALERT for the controlling, manipulative, or ingratiating personalities in all aspects of our life.
At K2, we foster a culture of integrity and openness. I want you to know that we remain keenly aware that sexual predators do exist in this world and that they come in all shapes and sizes. Studies show that the best protection is constant vigilance, the courage to act in the face of suspicious behavior and a sound set of policies. I assure you, K2 has all three.
I have had 2 of my own children participate in programs at K2. We currently have 27 employees’ children in our programs. I promise to use the same vigor to protect your children and their children as I do my own.
Transparency is extremely important to our business. As such, I am happy to share our internal training documents with any parent who would like to know exactly what the state-regulated methods of educating our employees are. Reply to this e-mail if you would care to see them. Additionally, you might find it useful to follow the links to a Parents Guide from SafeSport and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services website to educate yourself on abuse prevention and to find additional resources.
Lastly, I ask your vigilance. Nothing is more important than the safety of your child. If you see suspicious or questionable behavior within the K2 sphere of responsibility, please contact me immediately on my personal e-mail address at firstname.lastname@example.org with
Together, we can do what it takes to protect our children so that they may have every opportunity to live full and meaningful lives in a safe and healthy environment.
K2 Academy and K2 Campus