Tip of the Month – April 2020

Coach Monika Says…

Nutrition Strategies during “Shut Down” and Lack of Training

These are ‘hard times’ for regular folks and especially athletes, who are in important training phases! The required ‘shutdown,’ social distancing and isolation at home are big challenges for all active athletes and specifically those training toward regional and national championships, or trying to qualify for the 2020 Olympic games (postponed until 2021). All competitive events, tournaments (Wimbledon), and Games (NHL Stanley Cup), etc. and International soccer matches have been either suspended or postponed indefinitely.

Elite Athletes

These athletes consume a higher caloric intake during training periods. Therefore, being ‘forced’ to stay at home (incarceration) has several unique issues. Idle and without a regular workout routine, they need to get ‘creative’ to remain fit but also become disciplined in order to avoid falling into the ‘eating trap.’ Researchers show that many athletes in their post-career life tend to continue to eat the same amount of food as previously while training and they usually end up with a heavy weight gain! So, if 4000 to 6000 calories were consumed daily, they should consult with a sport nutritionist or seek nutrition guidelines to establish their intake during reduced training. It is recommended to design an exercise chart with daily dates. Figure out the calories needed and then establish the daily food intake.

Younger Athletes 

The ‘picky eater syndrome’ may become more apparent because athletes are ‘stuck’ at home, snacking, and may become more ‘finicky’ in their food choices. During normal days rushing to the training facility, field, competition or games parents tend to hurry their athletes home, and then less attention is possibly paid to eating habits, especially at night after practice. 

How do you fuel a ‘picky’ eater? Here are some suggestions:

Reference – Modified: TrueSport (2019). Retrieved April 2, 2020, from TrueSport (2019). Retrieved April 2, 2020 from, http://learn.truesport.org/fuel-picky-eater/

List of ‘Acceptable’ Options

Most ‘picky eaters’ have certain food staples, like chicken nuggets or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches but are risking a bad eating habit because of the unhealthy amount of sugar. Due to limited and ultra-processed menus, they can potentially end up missing out on key macro- and micronutrients like protein and fibre as well as vitamins and minerals. Parents should find a few options that resemble the usual ‘go-to foods’ while still providing the needed nutrients. For example, instead of tortilla chips after a game or competition bring along kale chips or another vegetable chip that is still salty but also provides some nutrients. Parents should make sure that those healthier options your athlete is willing to eat are always available – you might think it sounds like a boring menu but healthy alternatives provide adequate amounts of protein, fat, and carbohydrates as well as certain vitamins and minerals.

Giving the Athlete Control

Have the athlete assist in preparing the food, which tends to improve eating habits; have them try new flavours. Start by cooking dishes that they like and gradually try to shift to more nutrient-dense options. As well, include the athlete in meal planning and explain that every meal needs to contain vegetable choices, protein sources, carbohydrates, and healthy fat. If your athlete loves pizza, for example, experiment making one with a whole-wheat crust, adding real tomatoes to the sauce, and swapping out toppings like pepperoni for lean, protein-packed chicken. Top with the vegetables that they are willing to eat!

 Show – Don’t Tell

TrueSport Kristen Ziesmer, a registered dietician and board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, suggests that parents need to set examples. “If parents aren’t eating well, then there’s no way the kids will. If the parents are struggling with their diet or don’t know how to eat properly, work with a registered dietician. If cooking is a problem, try to attend a local cooking class with your athlete.” Athletes should eat plenty of vegetables and lean proteins with appropriate carbohydrate and fat sources. Show your athlete what a balanced plate looks like (nutrition pictures, food guide, or demonstrate the portion and combination on a plate). Researchers indicate that simple exposure to healthy foods can entice an athlete to be more inclined to try them.

Make Food Easily Available

Under-eating may become an issue for ‘picky eaters’ because they aren’t willing to consume healthy available options. Have a designated spot in the kitchen (and a bag in the car is handy) with your athlete’s ‘approved stash’ of healthy snacks. Changing the environment has a major impact on diet healthiness. Have a fruit bowl on the counter. Keep cut-up fruits and veggies in clear containers in the fridge at eye-level and in the front of the fridge. Package leftovers in individual containers, easy to grab, and heat. Store cupboards full of healthy options for easy reach: baked root vegetable chips, dried fruit, natural peanut butter, whole wheat bread, whole-grain crackers, dehydrated cheese ‘crackers,’ whole grain granola bars, or fruit and nut bars, for example. The primary goal of having an easy spot for your athlete to grab a snack is to ensure that their ‘picky’ nature never prevents them from fuelling properly.

Pack in the Nutrition

If your ‘picky eater’ is willing to drink a fruit smoothie, add plain Greek yogurt, etc. to provide protein, calcium, and vitamin D. Add a small handful of spinach, which is a nutrient-dense powerhouse food, also easy to ‘sneak’ into stews and sauces without altering the taste or texture. Small seeds like chia and flaxseed provide key micronutrients and fibre, which can also be easily ‘slipped’ into smoothies, cereal, or peanut butter and jam sandwiches. Swap white bread for a whole grain option, adding a dark leafy green instead of iceberg lettuce on a sandwich or some vegetables as pizza toppings.

Watch for Patterns of Eating Disorder 

The darker side of ‘picky eating’ can be the attempt to mask orthorexia* or another eating disorder, especially in teen athletes, who may be struggling with body image issues in sport. In fact, several years ago, Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) became a clinical diagnosis for more serious cases of ‘picky eating.’

* Orthorexia is the term for a condition that includes symptoms of obsessive behaviour in pursuit of a healthy diet. Afflicted athletes often display signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders that frequently co-occur with anorexia nervosa or other eating disorders.

‘Picky eating’ has been shown to coincide with serious childhood issues such as depression and anxiety that may require expert intervention. Therefore, pay attention to other symptoms your athlete is displaying as well as a sudden change in weight. This might look like the athlete is showing more interest in eliminating specific foods from their diets or trying one trendy diet after another. According to Ziesmer (2019), it is not wise to set limitations on a particular food like banning candy. That can put a stigma around that food, and the child then becomes hyper-focused on that particular food (craving it and cheating!). It is important to encourage healthy foods, healthy practices, and parental role modeling to help prevent eating disorders.”

Let Us Not Forget:

Sports did not get canceled – Group practice, training, competitions, and games did. It is not an excuse to stop!

Athletes Can:

  • Train hard at home – be creative in workouts
  • Study films and video
  • Connect with teammates for support
  • Read and grow their knowledge base
  • Let the season not be sacrificed and wasted by stopping on what You Can Do (Kate Leavell)


Holwegner A (2020, April 2). SoundBites. COVID-19 nutrition: Coronavirus home eating guide Retrieved April 4, 2020, from, https://www.healthstandnutrition.com/covid-19-nutrition-guide/ ?inf_contact_key=8c6d52d51276e86996874a5615b0e436 

TrueSport (2019). Retrieved April 2, 2020, from http://learn.truesport.org/fuel-picky-eater/

The Dirty – Not-so-little – Secret in Coaching – Part II

Sports in the Aesthetic Group

I reported on the abuse within Beginner Sports in February. I decided then to present my personal reflection on sport in the March News, i.e., what sport is supposed to be and what it really has become or is. 

The April Newsletter deals with Part II, elite artistic gymnastics, elite figure skating, elite rhythmic sportive, and Ballet. As I did the research I began to realize that this would be a fairly lengthy report due to the gravity of the abuse that was and still is rampant. The intention is to send a warning to parents to become more aware and cognizant, and to scrutinize more closely the sport of their child’s involvement. 

I will report on the abuse in numerous other sports, college/university varsity programs, professional teams and professional athletes in the June Newsletter as we all need some happier and more uplifting news next month! 

Elite Sport Clubs and their Link to College/University Teams make abuse more likely

Compared to European countries, many elite sports clubs in the US and Canada tend to be associated with College or University Varsity programs to act as a so-called ‘feeder system.’ These athletes are said to benefit from the available coaching expertise at these institutions but many times the high annual fees support existing programs as additional income. The idea is to get younger or teen athletes acquainted with the specific system, the program philosophy, the coaching staff, and mandates in order to make recruiting into the program easier at a later time. This may be true to a certain degree but it undoubtedly limits an athlete’s prospects for athletic scholarships somewhere else. The ‘dark’ side of this ‘cozy’ arrangement is the doctors, physiotherapists, and trainers, etc., associated with these programs, which opens up the potential for emotional, physical, psychological, and sexual abuse by any person on that staff, as evidenced over the past years. 

Lack of Mandatory National Coaching Certification and Unified Control

The USA lacks the common coaching certification program and unified USA national coaching organization as each sport operates presently on its own. For comparison, the Canadian National Coaching Association and its Professional Charter Coach (CHPC) system requires the National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) for all coaches – no matter the sport – and subsequently has control over the current 58 National Sports Federations. That does however not guarantee that coaching abuse might not occur but Coaching Canada has at least more control and can take action.

Sport Journalist Joan Ryan (1995, 2000) states that coaches in artistic gymnastics, and figure skating as well as Head Masters in classical ballet usually lack the education about growth and development of young athletes as many enrol at the tender age of 6-8 years, knowledge of psychology, mental training, periodization of training cycles, injury prevention and recovery. Most coaches usually are former competitors or dancers, and continue in the ‘traditional modus’ (the way they were trained), or have never been involved in the sport, now trying to make a ‘living’ based on their coaching success. On the other hand, elite coaches like Béla and Martha Károlyi arrived from former Eastern European Romania to continue their brutal coaching methods and harsh training regimes in the USA with the blessing of USA Gymnastics. They have been responsible for physical, emotional, and psychological abuse of many young and elite gymnasts leading to suicide attempts, death due to eating disorders and starvation (Ryan, 1995, 2000).

The Aesthetic Group: 

“Merciless coaching, overzealous parents, eating disorders, and elusive Olympic dreams!”

Let’s begin with USA Artistic Gymnastics because of the recent overwhelming scandals – primarily minors at the time of the incidents – that were ‘swept under the rug’ (starting in the late 1990s). More than 265 gymnasts alleged in 2019 to have been sexually assaulted by gym owners, coaches or staff working for gymnastics programs across the country. Particularly, long-time USA Gymnastics (USAG) national team doctor Larry Nassar has been named in hundreds of lawsuits filed by athletes, who said that he engaged in sexual abuse for at least 14 years under pretence of providing medical treatment. The Indianapolis Star first reported the scandal in September 2016 of more than 265 women, who accused Nassar of sexually assaulting them. It is one of the largest sexual abuse scandals in recent sports history.

Artistic Gymnastics – Figure Skating – Ballet – Rhythmic Sportive

Artistic gymnastics, figure skating, ballet, and rhythmic sportive pretty much share the same ‘evil.’ Rigorous daily training methods anywhere from 6-8 hours per day, laced with physical and verbal abuse, strict dieting regulations, and the common use of diuretic pills to lose weight ‘drive many performers to anorexia nervosa (sport anorexia) and bulimia to maintain the perfect ‘slim’ body shape.

Artistic Gymnastics:

The following anecdotal reports and testimony by elite gymnasts offer the reader greater insight into the abuse that persisted for a long time, and was conveniently ‘kept quiet’ in the pursuit of USA Olympic medals. The scandals are absolutely devastating as the action by coaches violates the #1 ethical principle: Safety for athletes in training and competition; it is abuse of coaching power, and a lack of ethical standards! Never mind, that these gymnasts have to deal with the scars for the rest of their lives… in the name of sport!


Gymnast Jennifer Sey: “Chalked Up” (2008)

About Family Interaction

…About my brother: We no longer spent time together because I was always at the gym. I retreated into a very serious world void of play, and it created a divide. We just didn’t share a life stage – childhood any more. My focus became so narrow at such a young age that I don’t remember much of anything but the gym (p. 49)…

…The gym was our family center of existence. Either Chris (brother) and I were training, with Mom working the desk, or we were driving to meets on weekends or pitching in to raise money for the Gym’s booster club. For my Mom, and me everything started and ended at the gym. Chris participated in this dizzying schedule of events but without the same obsessive tendencies. My Dad was on the periphery of the whole affair, as he was hard at work at his pediatric clinic to pay for all this. But the gym took over my Mom’s life as it took over mine (pp. 81-82)…

…When I told my mother that I would not attend the upcoming championships and that I was going to call it quits, she threatened back. She wouldn’t attend my high school graduation. She would in essence disavow our relationship. Complete and total rejection! I was a failure (pp. 263-265)…

…But my Mom had dedicated every waking moment to my young career, and my Dad was complicit. He had let her forsake their marriage in giving herself over to my gymnastics. His silent acquiescence provided approval and he couldn’t go back. Her mistakes were his as well. Their transition from supportive and proud Mom and Dad to emotionally neglectful stage parent was quiet and seamless (pp. 259-260)…

About Mental – Psychological – Emotional Abuse – Stress and Anxiety

…Weekly weigh-in was required, starting at the age of 8 years, and the practice was carried forward to elite daily training and training camps. Coach Patrick shrieked obscenities when a gymnast failed to perform, slapping their bare legs if they paused before attacking their skills (pp. 51-52) …

About Self-Infliction 

…I was only 10 years old when I began to inflict pain on myself to relieve the constant and growing uneasiness. When I started to compete, I also started gnawing at the inside of my mouth. If I did it consistently enough for a long enough time, the patch would turn red and sore. Now the nibbling could begin. I’d peel away layers of skin with my teeth. Once a blister formed, the chomping could begin. My lips would then swell with greenish-yellow bulbous cankers. On the eve of one State championship, I chewed so hard and so long that my bottom lip swelled to twice the size, difficult to explain to my mother.

I began to pull at the skin around my fingernails, the cuticles. I’d tear at the skin, hard from the drying chalk. My skin was so dry I could pull big chunks without peeling the skin beyond; it didn’t peel; it came off in hunks, leaving holes. The habit was easy enough to hide from my mom if I kept my hands in my lap, tucked between my legs while we drove to practice (pp. 74-82)…

About Coaches

Jennifer trained under several coaches at various training centers throughout her career

…Those most decorated – the ones who led nationally prominent teams and coached Olympians – were notoriously aggressive and mean. The founder of a national prominent West coast club was rumored to hit his girls. They talked of how he slapped his gymnasts’ thighs when they didn’t stick their beam routines during practice.

Every other girl knew someone who knew someone who’d trained there, experiencing the abuse firsthand. Bill Sands of the Mid-American Twisters exploded during competition unleashing his frustration when he felt his investment had been squandered due to a careless fall on the beam or a stumble on the floor. It was said that the Strausses, a husband and wife team and founders of the Allentown Parkettes, withheld food from their gymnasts as many boarded at this nationally competitive club, unprotected by parental proximity. Gymnasts were punished for weight gain – as were their adoptive hosts – with emotional abuse and name-calling. They too took on the demeanor of those Eastern European coaches, who trained the world’s best, aspiring to Károlyi’s greatness, confident they’d produce the perfect Nadia Comaneci if they mimicked his approach.

They were notoriously rough on their girls. They screamed and cursed, threw things. It was rumored that coaches slapped a girl or two. Beyond the mere talk of abuse, the Strauss coaches’ rigor when it came to weight was notorious. Weight gain meant more workouts, running and jumping swathed in a rubber sweat suit designed to burn off unsightly pounds. And, of course there was shame. Many parents were banned from the gym entirely. Coaches rationalized that the girls could not focus – more likely they knew that they should hide their behaviors (pp. 143-154)…

…Gary Goodson came to our gym, a traveling consultant, self-proclaimed gymnastics guru, who came 3x per year for special training sessions. He was angry, and mean to young girls. I always chewed a nickel-size hole into the side of my mouth, which eventually grew to the size of a quarter by the time of his departure. He called me ‘Dough Girl’ as I lacked the muscular shape of his favorite gymnast.

Often my hands were sore or torn from too much friction on the bars the day before. If they hurt when I woke, I dreaded the day. If I stepped out of bed and felt my ankles throb as my feet hit the floor, it was confirmed my workout would be something to get through – it would be all I could manage to not hurt myself. A bad day at the gym was never like a bad day for a swimmer – my times wouldn’t just be slower – it was possible that I would land on my head or break my neck. I could conceivably die.

Tracy Hinkle, fully healed from her head injury at a competition in Reno had left her coach, known as Coach Bruno. She had joined the Parkettes. The Strausses were rumored to be much kinder but they hid their missteps more skillfully. Bill now known as a ‘loose cannon’ made a scandalous scene, screaming foul epithets. ‘Stupid little bitch’, slapping the gymnast’s (named Heather) back of the legs when she could not stay on the bars. Her parents cheered from the stands shrugging off Bill’s behavior. After all, she brought it on herself with her imperfection (pp. 51-66)…

About my Body Growing Up

…I knew I had to achieve very quickly in order to beat the menacing development of my own body. I had to break into the top six before puberty and curves, and weight made it nearly impossible for me to fly through the air (p. 123)…

…I was reeling toward depression, out-of control compulsive disordered eating and self-loathing. I was surely most days disappointed with my performance during practice, pained by injuries, or anxious about my weight. All of the reasons I’d started gymnastics had disappeared. It was no longer fun. I wasn’t developing a healthy body, mind or sense of self-esteem. Now there was only winning. And my mother left me to my own devices. She left me to defend myself against the coaches who had only victory in mind (p. 201)…

About the Károlyi Camp

…I had been injured for almost one year (hamstring) and I begged my Mom to enroll me at Béla Károlyi’s camp in Houston. The workout lasted about 8 hours per day but he was nowhere to be found during the camp sessions. His other coaches had no qualms about our qualifications to try reckless moves. If a gymnast landed on her head, broke a bone, tore a ligament, so what? Coaches hurled insults at gymnasts on the other side of the gym (national team members) such as ‘You look like a scrawny chicken! You’re a fat pig!’ (pp. 137-138). By the way, Nadia Comaneci, Béla’s famous gymnast suffered from anorexia and bulimia because of his dictating the eating and supervising her habits… 

About Hiding Away

…The federation officials are calling to see whether I will attend the upcoming world Championships. I had qualified months before my body retreated, refusing me in the only thing I’ve ever known. I pretended to work out. I drive to the gym, arriving later and later with every week that passes. I consider not going to practice, sitting in the small parking lot and eating trail mix with sickly yoghurt almonds and dried pineapple until my throat is coated with sugar. I feel like I’m going to vomit. I don’t throw up; I swallow laxatives instead. I finally arrived at the gym. 

I am eighteen. But I feel like I am a hundred years old, my body aches. I am so tired. I gave up food before practice entirely. Oddly, the limited food intake and enhanced purging fuelled my energy. I learned to take the shaky light headedness of hunger as an energetic quality. There was the constant: “Jesus, Sey! I don’t coach fat gymnasts.” I started to buy laxatives at the convenient store near our house and hid them in other products such as Band-Aids and baby powder. I often felt like crashing the car veering across the median as I drove the highway. I fell into depression, which took a year to diminish its intensity. I was 3 days into my diet of apples, grapes and Ex-lax. I fell off the beam and hit my head – blood on my fingers, and I fell back into the mat. I had cut my head, broken a few fingers, probably a concussion – and had trials coming up (pp. 159-160; p. 193-204; p. 270)…

About Judges and Their Political System

…Gymnastics is not, and never has been, about who is objectively “the best.” Politics loom large. Judges have favorite girls. Most judges have some club affiliation. They are hired to consult, to judge practice competitions. They develop an affinity for those girls in whom they invested. Audrey Schweyer, a judge, who consulted for our team, had shown her disgust a week earlier during a visit. “You really shouldn’t wear your hair that way anymore. It makes your face look fat. And you know, doing gymnastics at your weight is like doing it with a 10-pound bag of sugar strapped to your back” (pp.176-178; p. 260)…

About Today (2000)

… Feelings of failure follow me. Not failure itself but the feeling. I could not accept my post-gymnastics body. My beaten ankles shock with every step across the pavement. The balls of my feet, permanently bruised, ache with every stride.  My knees grind and creak each time I rise from a chair. My back shoots sciatic reminders down my legs. My hands are swollen and stiff each morning because of arthritis and a disorder called ‘trigger fingers.’ The repercussions of this sport are endless (pp. 273-275)… 

Note: Jennifer Sey is an American writer, business executive. She began competing in gymnastics at the age of six and went on to become a seven-time member of the United States national team. She graduated from Stanford and lives in San Francisco with her husband and two sons.

Gymnast Rachel Haines: “Abused. Surviving Sexual Assault and a Toxic Gymnastics Culture” (2019)

Rachel Haines had no idea that one day she would become a two-time National Team member, 2-time National Champion, and Division I gymnast at the University of Minnesota. Nor could she have known that she had just signed herself up for serious injury, emotional distress, and continuous assault by renowned trainer turned molester Larry Nasser.

She details her experiences as a competitive gymnast and the painful realities of being one of Nasser’s many victims. She shares her story of how the sport is tangled in a dangerous toxic culture that needs to be fixed. In a world that was setting her up for a lifetime of recovery, she tells how faith, family, and an army of survivors made healing possible.

…I was fourteen years old when Larry told me he was doing an “internal manipulation” on me. He told me pain in a tight hamstring could sometimes be lessened if the muscles around it relaxed. He said this would require “internal massaging.” He was not asking for permission to perform his treatment, he was more giving me a warning of what was coming. I still never said NO. I didn’t tell him to stop when I felt like I wanted to puke from discomfort. At fourteen years old, part of me knew something wasn’t right, but I never told him I wasn’t going to let him do it anymore. He continued to perform manipulations on me until my hamstring felt normal again (p. 19). The young gymnast would therefore distrust her own feelings of alarm and discomfort when a doctor slides his fingers in her vagina and anus (p. 4)…

…I left the meet exhausted – emotionally, physically, and mentally drained. I was so happy to be done, and I was beyond ready to heal. When I got home, I finally went to the hospital and got an X-ray and MRI. I had three fractures in my lumbar spine. My MRI looked terrible. It had fractures everywhere, discs slipped forward, and discs bulging far into my spinal cord. The slipped discs were the likely cause of my back pain before the back tuck. I had literally shattered my spine with one backflip. You need a very invasive spine fusion surgery that will make it impossible to come back to gymnastics. You won’t be able to control your bladder when you’re thirty if you keep doing gymnastics. I ignored the doctors (p. 33)…

…I was slowly working back from my injury. Larry was gradually letting me do more gymnastics as he continued to work with me as my “physical therapist.” I was seeing him every Monday, and sometimes one or more times a week either at his house or at his office at Michigan State. I fed off everything he told me. I was obeying him because he held all the power to control what I was allowed to do. I was his obedient puppet (pp. 43-44)…

…My spine felt my nerves the morning I woke up for Nationals. I could feel every muscle tighter than usual, squeezing the fractures in my spine. I took a larger dose of my pain meds than I usually did. Before warm-up had even started the College coaches were in their seats already taking notes. It always felt like an animal state-fair – a show animal performing for them. They even went so far as to mark ‘purchased’ or not with different colored dots on our numbers. I hoped I was not the only one to be sickened by the feeling of being an auctioned animal (pp. 49-50)…

…Transitioning from Club to College gymnastics is difficult. It was intimidating to go from living with my parents straight to having my own apartment. I was up from 5:30 AM to 11:00 PM for school and practice.  Larry convinced the coaches that I was stable. He told them that my back wasn’t getting worse and as long as I could stand the pain I was able to do the sport. He offered up his suggestions for therapy and sent over sheets upon sheets of rehab exercises. For some reason, he never mentioned his “internal manipulation” to my therapists as a source of relief. I wondered why he wanted to keep that a secret. I know that if I had just asked my new trainers (2 women) if they knew about the treatment, the abuse could have been brought to light a lot sooner (pp. 63-65)…

…September 12, 2016, four months after my gymnastics career ended, my world came crashing down. “Larry Nasser, sexual assailant.” I felt his bare, un-gloved hands violating me. I felt the way my body was cringed in discomfort. I was being hunted by Larry Nasser. My body had been used as a sex toy by a man thirty years older than me (pp. 95-99)…

…Before this book, my statement was not released to the public. I was known only as victim 195… 

February 14, 2020, Lansing, Michigan

…A former coach accused of failing to stop Larry Nassar’s abuse decades ago is now on trial, accused of lying about what she knew of the doctor’s sexual misconduct. Kathie Klages was convicted on felony and misdemeanor counts of lying to authorities during their investigation into serial sexual abuser of former Michigan State University physician Larry Nassar. Klages could face up to four years in prison.

Joan Ryan

Sport Reporter Joan Ryan, Reporter San Francisco Chronicle: “Little Girls In Pretty Boxes: The Making And Breaking of Elite Gymnasts and Figure Skaters” (1995, 2000)

Joan was a pioneer in sports journalism, becoming one of the first female sports columnists in the country. She covered every major sporting event from the Super Bowl and the World Series to the Olympics and championship fights. Her sports columns and features earned 13 Associated Press Sports Editors Awards, the National Headliner Award, and the Women’s Sports Foundation’s Journalism Award, among other honors. 

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Her first book, Little Girls in Pretty Boxes: The Making and Breaking of Elite Gymnasts and Figure Skaters (1995, Doubleday) was a controversial, ground-breaking expose that Sports Illustrated named one of the Top 100 Sports Books of All Time. It was one of the Top 50 Sports Books of All Time in the Guardian newspaper in London. The Sporting News chose it as one of the top three sportsbooks of 1995. Little Girls changed the sport of gymnastics. Responding to the media attention prompted by the book, USA Gymnastics developed a handbook for parents informing them about the potential pitfalls of the sport on the elite level, such as eating disorders, serious injuries, and abusive coaches. “Little Girls” has been widely used in sports sociology classes at colleges and universities.

Media Reviews of Ryan’s Book

…Ryan’s findings are sad and devastating…as vital and troubling as the sports world has seen in a long time (Philadelphia Inquirer)

…Haunting exposé…shows how coaches and others have exploited young gymnasts and figure skaters, leading to anorexia, emotional breakdowns, and at least 2 deaths (Cleveland Plain Dealer)…

…The real world happens away from the cameras, at the training camps, and in the private lives of these talented teenage competitors. From starvation diets and debilitating injuries to the brutal tactics of tyrannical gymnastics guru Béla Károlyi, Ryan portrays the horrors endured by girls at the hands of their coaches and sometimes of their own families. The ground-breaking book shows how a longstanding culture of abuse made young gymnasts perfect targets for a sexual predator and continues to plead for sanity, safety, and an end to our national obsession of ‘winning at all cost’ (The Guardian, UK)…

Joan Ryan

Foreword to the Book on Artistic Gymnastics

…“Do it for America pressure”… Gymnast Karen Reid. I hated my days off because it meant my horrible life would be starting all over again the next day. “If it isn’t bleeding, don’t worry” (p. xvi)…

…Olympic medalist Betty Okino training with knee injury under Béla – he thought I was faking. I took Advil twice a day to dull the pain (p. xvi)…

…Olympic gymnast Wendy Bruce had many cortisone shots over the years just to be able to compete. I learned how to work through my injuries because I felt I had no choice. After all, I was not a quitter. I trained and competed on stone bruises on my heels; with plantar fasciitis so painful I could not even stand on a carpet; my hips going out of alignment on a daily basis; sprained ankles, broken toes, fractures in my back, and torn cartilage in my wrist and ankles. 

I remember practicing my round-off triple full dismount on a beam one day when the pain in my wrist got so bad that my body wouldn’t allow me to work through it anymore. Every time I did it I would automatically make a fist. I was terrified that this would make me miss my footing and injure myself even more badly. I finally told my coaches who would not believe me. They shouted at me for what seemed like hours. A couple of months later I had surgery on my wrist to clean out the torn cartilage (p. xvi)…

…People often ask how Larry Nassar could get away with this for so long. Only in an environment in which abuse of all kinds is normalized could sexual abuse on this scale happen. It requires the gymnasts’ well-practiced silence and the adults’ dereliction of responsibility. It requires a culture that prized Olympic medals over the well-being of the young athletes striving to win them (p. xxi)…

…On a Monday morning in January 2018, twenty-five-year-old Mattie Larson stepped up and described the rot at the core of USA Gymnastics that enabled the abuse to happen. For her, this corrosive, demeaning culture played out nowhere more brutally than at monthly training camps national team members were required to attend. The camps were held at Béla and Martha Károlyi’s ranch. It was a breathtakingly unsafe environment for young, compliant, driven girls: no parents allowed, limited access to food, pressure to train through injuries, and an expectation of blind obedience to coaches along with mute acceptance of their bullying and humiliation…

…Nasser, who had been on USAG’s medical staff and its team physician since 1997, had unfettered access to the girls’ cabins. He molested them in their own beds with no other adult present, under the guise of medical treatment. Over the course of two decades, he molested gymnasts as young as nine years old at gyms, training centers, and competitions sanctioned by USA Gymnastics (p. 2)…

…She said she had been scheduled to fly to Texas the next day for the monthly camp. She described how she splashed water on the bathroom, battered the back of her head against the tub’s edge again and again until she felt a lump. She told her parents she slipped getting out of the shower. They took her to the hospital and canceled the trip. I was willing to hurt myself to get out of the abuse I received at the Béla ranch (p. 2)…


The first edition (1995) describes the physical and psychological damage inflicted by ‘tunnel vision’ parents, dictatorial coaches, and willfully blind federation officials. In my research, I found a culture as destructive, secretive, and indifferent to the athletes’ well-being as any I had seen in my years as a sports journalist. Elite gymnastics strips away a girl’s connection to her own body and mind as she is groomed from a young age to distrust what her body and mind are telling her. When she’s in too much pain to train, her coach says she’s lazy. When she is hungry, he says she’s too fat and eats too much. When she is too exhausted or one more high-risk vault, she’s a loser. She comes to understand that her own feelings and perceptions not only are unreliable, they don’t matter. Her pain is dismissed. Her hunger is dismissed. Her exhaustion is dismissed. To fit into elite gymnastics’ reality a gymnast has to deny her own. She becomes an expert at withstanding all manner of insult to her body. She doesn’t complain or make waves. She is the perfect target for sexual predators like Larry Nassar (pp. 3-4)…

…My first edition, which criticized elite gymnastics’ brutal training and its severe emotional and physical consequences on young women, prompted widespread and scathing criticism of the federation, coaches, and parents. But the outrage didn’t stick. The notion of broken bodies and psyches, eating disorders and suicide attempts didn’t square with Americans’ perception of the ponytailed pixies (pp. 4-5)… 

…The shine of gold medals and the sparkle of celebrity obscured the fact that the USAG was still employing the abusive Béla Károlyi, whose harmful training methods were brought to public attention in the first edition of my book. In 1996, the USAG made his wife Martha the head coach for the women’s Olympic team; they made Béla the national team coordinator in 1999, and then handed it back to Martha in 2001, and she held the job through 2016. The federation made the ranch the official training center for the US teams. In 2011, USAG doubled down on their embrace of the Károlyis, eliminating any doubt that it valued winning over the health and safety of its gymnasts (p. 6)…

…Christie Philips on Károlyi: He’s in it for himself. He doesn’t care about the gymnasts. He doesn’t care what they go through, what they suffer through, what he makes them suffer through. He cares about the fame and fortune he’s getting out of it. When we’re at competitions and on TV, and he has a microphone on, he’s a different person. That is what the public sees but he is really the exact opposite (p. 129)…

  • Note: at the 1996 Olympics Béla made Kerri Strugg take her final vault despite an injured ankle, claiming the team needed her score. They did not and she landed her vault on an injured ankle. Béla proceeded to carry her in her arms like a ‘loving father’ in a disgusting move that those of us who knew the score tally at that time – and of course the Media loved it! (Schloder)

Oh, so caring for the TV image! 

A day before the Opening Ceremony for the 2016 Olympics in Rio, the Indianapolis Star published an explosive investigative story that would take down both Nassar and the power structure at USAG, although the reports didn’t know about Nassar yet. The story detailed USAG’s gross mishandling of sexual misconduct complaints against dozens of male coaches. 

Thus most of the accused men continued to coach young girls, and some continued to molest them. USAG did nothing, For example, Marvin Sharpe, 2010 Women’s coach of the year, was charged four years later with abusing a twelve-year-old girl, and killed himself in jail (pp. 6-7)…

…In Louisville, Kentucky, a thirty-two-year-old woman, Rachel Denhollander, read the Star’s story. She had been molested when she was fifteen years old at a gymnastics club affiliated with Michigan State University. She wrote a letter to the newspaper. Her abuser was not a coach but instead the well-known athletic department physician and faculty member, Larry Nassar. Jamie Dantzscher, who competed at the 2000 Olympics had been molested by the USAG doctor beginning in 1994 when she was twelve years old. Like Denhollander, she worried about the backlash as she had been sharply denounced by both the gymnastics community and some reporters for daring to criticize the brutal and demeaning tactics of the great Béla Károlyi (p. 6)…

… So how, eighteen years later could more than 250 of USAG’s female gymnasts have been sexually abused by the federation’s own doctor? As of January 2018, a total of 265 women had joined ranks (pp. xxi; p. 9)…

…Rachel and Jamie did an interview with the Star about USAG ignoring sexual abuse allegations against at least 50 coaches (p. xx)…

On Deaths

Gymnasts – Dancers


Death in artistic gymnastics and ballet due to self-induced starvation and rampant eating disorders are linked to the mandated ‘slim body’ image. Though Christy Henrich was succeeding in gymnastics, a judge at an international meet in 1989 told her bluntly that she was ‘fat and needed to lose weight.’ The perception of Henrich’s weight being too high was fueled further by the culture of elite gymnastics, which was dominated by “pixies” – small, underweight, prepubescent girls. 

Her own coach, Al Fong, coach of the late Julissa Gomez, who also reportedly felt pushed into doing something unsafe for her health when she kept attempting the difficult-to-master Yurchenko vault until she was rendered quadriplegic in a vaulting accident – had also allegedly made insulting remarks about her size and body type. Desperate to move up the ranks in the highly competitive world of Olympic-level gymnastics, Henrich took the criticisms to heart; her drive to lose a few pounds progressed to unhealthy eating habits and, eventually, became full-blown anorexia nervosa.

*Note: In the Yurchenko vault, the gymnast does a round-off onto the springboard and a back handspring onto the horse or vaulting table. The gymnast then performs a salto, which may range in difficulty from a simple single tuck to a triple twist layout. The Yurchenko gave birth to a new vault group called “Round off with or without 1/2 to 1/1 turn (180-360 degrees) in entry phase (Yurchenko entry) – Salto forward or backward with or without long axis turn in second flight phase.

**Note: The vault has resulted in several deaths and broken backs (Schloder). Houston, Texas, U.S. Julissa D’Anne Gomez (November 4, 1972 – August 8, 1991) was an American gymnast whose rapid rise through the ranks of elite gymnastics in the mid-1980s was cut short by a vaulting accident in 1988 that left her a quadriplegic. She eventually died from her injury.

…Henrich: I know I need to eat. I know I need the nutrition. I know I need to live. But food is like poison to me (p. 104). At first, neither her family nor her coaches were aware of the situation. Eventually, her battle with anorexia took such a toll on her health that she was no longer strong enough to compete. Despite many early treatments and hospitalizations, her weight deteriorated to 47 pounds. Henrich died of multiple organ failure on July 26, 1994. She wanted to get well, marry her boyfriend Bo, move to Florida, work as a nurse, and have children (p. 104)…

Her parents: They stole her soul (p 105)… 

… The entire male USAG board had to resign. In July 2017, Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to child pornography charges. On January 24, 2018, Nassar was sentenced to 175 years in a Michigan state prison after pleading guilty to seven counts of sexual assault of minors. On February 5, 2018, he was sentenced to an additional 40 to 125 years in prison after pleading guilty to an additional three counts of sexual assault. His state prison sentences are to run consecutively with his federal sentence, all but assuring that he will die in prison…

The Aftermath

…Henrich’s death brought the problem of eating disorders in women’s gymnastics into the spotlight. Gymnasts such as Kathy Johnson (did not menstruate until age 26) and Cathy Rigby admitted to having periods of disordered eating that resembled anorexia and bulimia, and other U.S. National Team gymnasts stepped forward, and went public about their own eating disorders and disordered eating… 

Dominique Moceany: “Off balance: A memoir” (2013). 

In this riveting New York Times bestseller, Olympic gold medalist Dominique Moceanu reveals the dark underbelly of Olympic gymnastics, the true price of success, and the shocking secret about her past and her family that she only learned years later. 

At fourteen years old, Dominique Moceanu was the youngest member of the 1996 US Women’s Olympic Gymnastics team, the first and only American women’s team to take gold at the Olympics. Her pixyish appearance and ferocious competitive drive quickly earned her the status of media darling. But behind the fame, the flawless floor routines, and the million-dollar smile, her life was a series of challenges and hardships.

Off Balance vividly delineates each of the dominating characters, who contributed to Moceanu’s rise to the top, from her stubborn father and long-suffering mother to her mercurial coach, Béla Károlyi. Here, Moceanu finally shares the haunting stories of competition, her years of hiding injuries and pain out of fear of retribution from her coaches, and how she hit rock bottom after a public battle with her parents. But medals, murder plots, drugs, and daring escapes aside, the most unique aspect of her life is the family secret that Moceanu discovers that she has a second sister – born with a physical disability and given away at birth. 


There is so much more to report but it takes a ‘strong stomach’ to cover these books. I am furious that a National Federation let these events happen to its young athletes destroying their lives forever.

I have one serious question: if schools are so worried nowadays about gender ideology, bathroom issues, etc., why have school health officials failed to offer a health curriculum on body image, eating disorders, depression and suicide (increasing among the young), and sexual abuse. As a former elite athlete, I would have never let a team physician examine me the way Nassar did! But then I was always a rebel, and walked away from an offer to sleep with the Regional Head coach to make the select team… And the whole town wondered what happened to Schloder. Only my mother knew. There was no recourse way back then!

Figure Skating


…In truth, the perfect skater is a combination of Twiggy and Barbie, thin enough to perform the difficult jumps and desirable enough to fit skating’s cover-girl image (p. 107)…

…One Olympic skater, who requested anonymity, recalls days on end when she ate one can of asparagus and a frozen diet dinner and drank a dozen cups of coffee and diet Coke in a quest to fit her coach’s image of the perfect skating body (p. 108)…

…For weeks before a competition, skaters would starve themselves, holding on to the thought of bingeing when they finished competing. We lived for food (p. 108)…


…One of Michele Kwan’s coaches, Evelyn Kramer is a maverick among skating coaches; she has a Masters degree in psychology. She knows about the interplay between weight and self-esteem. She says every female skater she’s ever known, has had eating disorders. She knows a Russian ice dancer who had her teeth capped because they had been eroded by the acid in her vomit.  She knows of an Olympic medalist who began pulling her hair out as she battled bulimia (p. 110) 

…Elaine Zayak at age 15 was the new rising star. She dropped out of 9th grade to train 7 days a week, 6 hours a day. Then something happened. She grew up. She fell 3x at the US championships and finished third. The failure rattled her parents and coaches, and nearly paralyzed Elaine. She pleaded to her parents: ‘don’t make me go out there and make a fool out of myself.’ Elaine’s mother cried and her father went to a bar! (p. 116)… 

…Elaine couldn’t open the refrigerator door without her parents quizzing her. She tried Weight Watchers and Diet Center. She biked. She hired a nutritionist. Her coaches weighed her every week, exhorting her to lose more. She tried amphetamines, given to her by her classmate. She succeeded only in making herself sick (p. 117)…

…Her sport was all about control: coaches’ control, parents’ control, physical control, and emotional control. Her coaches could order her back into training; her parents could take away her car; they could forbid her to date; they could dictate everything in her life – but they couldn’t dictate what she ate. Eating was a rebellion, but it was also a refuge (p. 117)…

…Because she couldn’t eat at home, she stuffed herself at convenience stores, and delicatessens. Once, when she tried to buy a bagel and cream cheese, the man behind the counter wouldn’t serve her: ‘Coaches’ order.’ Coaches had instructed him to only sell her tea and coffee. She drove to the 7-11 store down the road, bought a pint of ice cream and ate it in the parking lot (p. 117)…

…She dropped out of skating, doing ice shows but inevitably her parents and coaches wore her down and she returned to the rink. Her weight had climbed to 125 pounds. You gain weight because you’re physically a woman. My father didn’t understand that. He goes: ‘that’s bullshit’ (p. 117)…

New York Times

September 27, 2019

In a statement, U.S. Figure Skating said it “supports the skater, who bravely came forward after years of abuse by Thomas Incantalupo. His actions were heinous and intolerable. By sharing the disturbing details of his grooming process and resulting sexual abuse have put Incantalupo behind bars for his abhorrent crimes and provided other athletes and families the warning signs of grooming and abuse. In court on Friday, the teenage skater said that a “million pounds of weight” was lifted off her shoulders by going public but that she still experienced nightmares from being abused, found it difficult to trust anyone, and did not feel safe to move away from home to attend college.

“I want to have a family one day,” she said, “but I’m scared I will end up alone” because her adult coach “decided it was OK to rape and mentally abuse a child for over two years.” Sarah Klein, the teenage skater’s lawyer, said in an interview that while Mr. Incantalupo would be incarcerated, young skaters remained at risk of being abused.

On a number of occasions, Mr. Incantalupo traveled alone with his victim on trips inside and outside the United States and was responsible for her care, according to the criminal complaint against him. He began abusing his victim in August 2015, two months after she turned 14, on a training trip to Connecticut, forcing her to perform oral sex on him and warning her not to tell anyone, the complaint said.

Mr. Incantalupo assaulted his victim dozens of times, the complaint said, including during several trips to Argentina and at a hotel in Eden Prairie, Minn., where the coach took the young skater from the rink where they trained, abused her and returned her to the ice center before her parents were scheduled to pick her up. In January 2018, the skater told a friend about the abuse. Once the skater’s parents were alerted they went to the authorities. On Jan. 9, 2018, the complaint said, the skater wore a wire in a meeting at a rink with Mr. Incantalupo, who told her that “he knew that their relationship was wrong and that he could go to jail for it.” He was arrested following the conversation.

The U.S. Figure Skating Association has a long and shameful history of placing money, medals, and the reputation of coaches above the protection of child athletes, Ms. Klein said. U.S. Figure Skating said it was preparing a statement to issue after Friday’s sentencing. 

Figure skating has been particularly shaken by sexual abuse scandals in March 2019. Richard Callaghan, a once-prominent coach, who instructed Tara Lipinski as she won an Olympic gold medal in 1998, was permanently barred from the sport after being accused of sexually abusing male skaters over a period of two decades. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Callaghan announced his resignation from his position at the Detroit Skating Club and his intention to retire at the end of that skating season. In April 1999, The New York Times reported that Callaghan had been accused of sexual misconduct by Craig Maurizi, one of his former students who had continued to work with him for many years as a coaching assistant. Maurizi alleged that Callaghan had engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with him beginning when he was 15 years old, more than 20 years previously. The Times article additionally quoted two other former students who also claimed to have been molested by Callaghan. Callaghan denied the charges and alleged that Maurizi was attempting to destroy his professional reputation as the result of a dispute the previous year that arose when Lipinski fired Callaghan and named Maurizi as her official coach. 

Maurizi filed a grievance against Callaghan with the United States Figure Skating Association (USFSA), but the grievance was dismissed in June 1999 without a hearing on the grounds that he had waited too long to file it. Until May the chairman of the grievance committee, Steve Hazen said that senior members tried to keep him from reviewing the case. In October 1999, a three-member panel of the Professional Skaters Association said it had found no violation of its ethical standards. In March 2018 Callaghan was finally suspended from all participation in sports under the auspices of U.S. Olympic Committee member organizations. 

Callaghan said he had grown tired of the travel and grind of being a top coach and that his planned retirement had nothing to do with the grievance. He ultimately did not retire but instead moved to another rink in the Detroit area where he continued to coach. He is currently based in Coral Gables, Florida, and now lives in Naples, Florida to coach at Germain Arena. 

In skating, underage boys and girls are particularly vulnerable. They often leave home to train at ice centers, are away from their parents, and have historically spent considerable time alone with their coaches. To enhance athlete safety, U.S. Figure Skating now forbids coaches from living with or being alone with skaters who are minors – all once common occurrences.

John Patrick Coughlin (1985 – 2019) was an American pair skater. He was the 2012 Four Continents silver medalist and 2012 U.S. national champion with Caydee Denney, and 2011 US champion with previous partner Caitlin Yankowskas. After Coughlin’s death by suicide by hanging in January 2019, news emerged that he had been under investigation for sexually assaulting skating partners. In January 2019, Coughlin age 33 died of suicide after being suspended by the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a non-profit whose mission is to investigate charges of sexual misconduct. Shortly before he died, Mr. Coughlin told USA Today that accusations made against him were “unfounded.” But two skaters have come forward since Mr. Coughlin’s death to accuse him of sexual assault — Ashley Wagner, a three-time United States champion, and Bridget Namiotka, a former skating partner of Mr. Coughlin’s.


According to a study in the UK, dancers are the best-trained athletes. They scored higher on 7 out of 10 fitness test items compared to UK Olympic swimmers. On average, most dancers train 6-8 hours per day. However, body image and long slender legs are part of the desired look in dance; dancers have to be at a certain height and fit the troupe’s overall image. To maintain their skinny image, they resort to eating apples and salad leaves, drink a lot of water to ‘kill off’ hunger pangs, use diuretics, laxatives, etc., in order to maintain their required body image.

Evelyn Hart

…Canadian Evelyn Hart studied dance at the Dorothy Carter School of Dance in London, Ontario, Canada, and later at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School. Before attending the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Hart auditioned for The National Ballet School of Canada in Toronto, Ontario but did not secure a place for the school year at the National Ballet School, mostly due to her problems with anorexia nervosa. Hart battled with this pathological eating disorder before returning to ballet, training again, and winning a place for herself at The Royal Winnipeg Ballet School (“Evelyn Hart: An Intimate Portrait” (1991)… 

Rhythmic Sportive

Single Performance
Group Performance

Rhythmic Sportive gymnasts perform on the floor with routines with hoop, ball, clubs, ribbon, rope, and clubs. It combines elements of gymnastics, dance, and calisthenics. Gymnasts have to be strong, flexible, agile, dexterous (required), and coordinated. If you ever watch any performance of these athletes, their flexibility and skills with ball, hoop, rope, ribbon, and clubs one has to question how such performance is humanly possible.

In the so-called group routines with the selected or mandated apparatus by the International Federation, 6 girls present a ‘unified look’ as to height and weight, and hairdo! Frequently, in past competitions, the media has referred to them as the ‘angels of death’ due to their ‘deadly beauty’ and anorexic look. That trend was started way back by the Romanian and Russian teams in 1984 (1st Olympics), and has dominated the sport ever since – and of course, the USA had to imitate and follow that fashion.   

As the USA was new to this sport, many former Eastern Block coaches were recruited to train US gymnasts, and they brought along their rigorous and extreme coaching methods. Training to develop hyper back flexibility led to intense lower back pains, ankle and foot injuries due to the expected height of split leaps (landing), hamstring injuries, anorexia (diets of lettuce and an apple, and dehydration methods, etc.).

June 20, 2018

Hannah Clugston: Director and former gymnast Marta Prus sought out one of these athletes for her documentary “Over the Limit”

…While she found that doping was a concern, it transpired that Russian athletes have a lot more than drug scandals to contend with. Prus followed rhythmic gymnast Margarita Mamun for 100 days in the lead up to the Rio Olympics, filming the brutal way athletes are ‘prepared’ for competitions. Margarita’s fur-clad, jewel-adorned coach, Irina Alexandrovna Viner-Usmanova – also the wife of an oligarch – fires off verbal tirades every time her young ward slips up, making training hard to distinguish from abuse. The way these coaches treat Margarita is like an abusive relationship – they shower her with praise one minute and yell profanities at her the next.


The aesthetic sports seem to share the same issues of physical, emotional, and psychological abuse as well as starvation and eating disorders to maintain the expected body image, and death attributed to these disorders. I really do not know how to stop this insanity of training to achieve ‘perfect’ performances, as well as the pursuit by parents who seemingly live vicariously through the success of their children, and uneducated coaches who continue to train children and youth in order to advance their careers. My hope is that by getting this information out to the public it will raise awareness and exposure to this longstanding culture of abuse, and begin to change the tide of this disturbing trend.


Clugston, H. (2018, June 20). Over the Limit [Documentary. Screened at Sheffield Doc/Fest, June 7-12). 
Retrieved April 25, 2020, from https://www.huckmag.com/outdoor/sport-outdoor/uncovering-dark-side-russian-rhythmic-gymnastics/

Competitive Advantage. Retrieved March 27, 2020, from https://www.competitivedge.com/coaching-abuse-the-dirty-not-so-little-secret-in-sports/

Haines, R. (2019). Surviving sexual assault and a toxic gymnastics culture. Lanham, MD: The Rowan & Littlefield Publishing Group.

Kane, L. (2019, November 25). She took so much away from me. Universities failing to protect athletes from abusive coaches, student says. Toronto: National Post, in The Calgary Herald, NP8. Calgary, AB, Canada.

Longman, J. (2019, September 27): Figure skating coach sentenced to 24 years for sexual abuse. Retrieved April 25, from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/27/sports/figure-skating-abuse-Thomas-Incantalupo.html

Moceanu, D. (2013). (Williams, T, Contributor). Off balance: A memoir. NY: Touchstone.

Ryan, J. (2000). Little girls in pretty boxes. The making and breaking of elite gymnasts and figure skaters (Rev. Ed.). NY: Warner Books.

Ryan, J. (1995). Little girls in pretty boxes. The making and breaking of elite gymnasts and figure skaters (1st ed.). The making and breaking of elite gymnasts and figure skaters.  NY: Doubleday.

Sey, J. (2008). Chalked up. My life in elite gymnastics. NY: Harper Collins Pub and Dey St. and Imprint of William Morrow Pub.







Tip of the Month – March 2020

Coach Monika Says…

“Spice Up” Your Exercise Program – Add and Vary Exercises Part III

I provided samples of exercises for lower body strength and explosive power in the past two Newsletters, especially for developmental athletes. Here is a jumping series with various equipment: chair, stacked mats, and boxes of different height.

Series #3

The following exercise is from “The Kalos Exercise Collection” posted and available here.

We have a repertoire of over 700 exercises, collected over the years from various sports and modified them to suit our training purpose.

The exercises illustrated are self-explanatory – therefore, no explanation is needed

1. Box Jump Variations
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2. Gym Bench Variations

Growing up in the German sport system – especially in Post WWII years – we had few – if any training equipment. One had to get creative! We did, however, have ‘beat-up’ gym benches available and used them for individual exercises (single bench), partner and group exercises. 

These exercises are a lot of FUN, and my University physical education students loved them! There was a lot of laughter and ‘Hoopla’ in the Gym, especially when we had 2-foot jumping races with the bench! FUN group exercises can be designed as competitive races – mark distance of travel.

Single Exercises

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    1-foot Hop – hand support on bench and floor

Partner Exercise

  Up-Down – 1-foot push and hop to full body extension

Group Exercises

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Schloder, M.E. (2019). The Kalos Exercise Collection, pp. 26-28. Calgary, AB, CAN: Areté Sports.

Schloder, M.E. (2018). Personal Resource ManualArtistic Gymnastics. Calgary, AB, CAN: Areté Sports.

Schloder, M.E. (2018). Personal Resource Manual: Athletics: Jumping events. Calgary, AB, CAN: Areté Sports.

Schloder, M.E. (2017). Developing physical literacy for children and youth through FUN, fitness and fundamentals, pp. 181-189. Calgary, AB, CAN: Areté Sports.

Schloder, M.E. (2016). Ballet for athletes: Modified exercises for cross-training, pp. 305-338. Calgary, AB, CAN: Areté Sports.

Reflections About Sport

Undoubtedly, some readers will not be particularly fond of this discussion as they rather see tips and articles related to athletic improvement and/or performance. However, the present status of sports and the role of coaches within such a sport system lends itself to closer examination, i.e. what sport is proposed to represent (should be) and what it actually is or has become! 

I have been aware for a long time about the abuse although researching and preparing this month’s Newsletter I got angrier by the minute about the increase – at any level – and society’s apparent toleration (sense of acceptance) as issues were/are ‘swept under the rug.’ I do not ‘wade’ into political or philosophical debates or reflection very often but I ‘shifted gears’, and did some serious reflection on the perceived notion of sport versus the reality in our sporting world. 

I also interjected my own feelings and experience as an elite athlete and coach in several sports during my lengthy career (artistic gymnastics, rhythmic sportive gymnastics, modern pentathlon [swimming and running events], and athletics track & field), and coach educator in Canada for the National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP). These opportunities provided multiple chances to deal with various athletic groups, sports organizations, and competitive events. Believe me, I thought I had seen it all!

My younger brother Alois Schloder, International Hall of Fame Hockey Player, and Captain of the German National Team in 3 Winter Olympics (Bronze medal 1976) happened to send me excerpts from my Keynote presentation at the Annual Athlete Award Ceremony, December 1, 1994, in Landshut, Bavaria. Wow! Was I ever way ahead of the times! And many thought I was ‘nuts’ – and that was a mild expression! 

I had asked the audience of over 500 several thought-provoking questions in the introduction – the same I pose to university students and athletes in Calgary: What does your sport really mean to you? Is sport nowadays even of any value or is it all about making money, the Nike endorsement, and getting on the cover of the ‘Wheaties box?’ Does sport even make sense any longer or do we even need sport in our society that has become so problematic and more complex? The audience was quiet and ‘shell shocked!’ YES! 

… The True Meaning and Function of Play and Sport … 

From philosophical and sociological perspectives (from university lectures): 

…“SPORT… is said to be a global and universal involvement – a form of nonverbal communication, the ‘language of the body’, a language anybody in the world can understand” (Schloder 2018). It is both fascinating and emotional – a drama played out in front of worldwide audiences as people either watch or participate. Most children and youth are ‘in love with sports and their sport idols,’ dreaming to become one of them. Whether or not the particular sport experience for a child is going to be rewarding depends exclusively on the people who are in charge of such programs (Schloder 2018).

The late Arthur Ashe, Tennis, wrote in his postscript of “Days of Grace” 1994:

…“Sports are wonderful: they can bring you comfort and pleasure for the rest of your life.  Sports can teach you so much about yourself, your character, how to be resolute in moments of crisis and how to fight back from the brink of defeat. In this respect, the lessons of sport cannot be duplicated easily. You quickly discover your limits but you can also build self-confidence and a positive sense of yourself. 

Never think of yourself as being above sports”…

German literature of the Enlightenment era is full of essays about the meaning of physical education and sport. Prominent philosophers such as Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805) and Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) mused about ‘play and the aesthetics:’ 

Schiller: “Man only plays when he is in the fullest sense of the word a human being, and he is only fully a human being when he plays!” (Relax! ‘Man’ is used in the universal sense of ‘a human being or mankind’ – no political correctness was needed then!). 

Dutch philosopher Johan Huizinga wrote ‘Homo ludens’ [Man at play], the ‘bible’ for modern physical education, suggesting that ‘play is primary to- and a necessary – though not sufficient – condition of the generation of culture.’ Ludus has no direct equivalent in English as it simultaneously refers to sport, play, and practice. 

Friedrich Wilhelm Fröbel (1782-1852), German pedagogue laid the foundation for modern education based on the recognition that children have unique needs and capabilities. He created the concept of the ‘Kindergarten’ and coined the word, which soon entered the English language as well. Likewise, he developed educational toys known as Fröbel’s gifts. He believed that ‘children are trees and flowers in a garden, blossom or die without proper nourishment or being watered.’ Therefore, children’s ‘free play’ is essential. 

Given our era of modern tech gadgets, we can already see, according to experts, that the addiction to the ‘technical toys’ nowadays is having tremendous affect on children’s brains, their learning, and creative capacities! Modern sociologists have maintained the belief that children need to experience ‘free play’ before shifting to sport participation because they learn in play to be creative, make decisions, discover personal limits, and develop personal characteristics. 

Traditionally, society has held and reinforced beliefs that Sports …

  • Develop leadership skills
  • Build friendships 
  • Enhance team membership (feeling of belonging) 
  • Grow a healthy body and mind
  • Create life-long memories
  • Allow following one’s dreams
  • Provide Fun

Schloder: Nostalgia about Childhood ‘Play’ 

The notion of ‘free play’ brings back many childhood memories in Germany… nostalgia is setting in … Our street group played ‘Völkerball’ (Nation’s ball – similar to dodgeball); players pick the name of a given country; when called up, the player has to catch the ball – when missing – the player is ‘out.’ If caught, the player assumes the new role of ‘calling the nation’.

Never mind lunch breaks during the summer! We played modified soccer for hours, robbers & bandits, and ‘hide and seek.’ We built castles in the sandbox near the small creek (absolutely amazing creations); several older volunteers (!) guarded these overnight in order to defend our ‘artefacts’ against potential invasion or destruction. 

Our crew of six carried the large tin tub (12 foot long) one kilometer upward the same creek to paddle downward, pretending to be German adventurers in the American Old West (based on stories by Karl May [1842-1912], the favoured writer of our time. The main protagonists were Winnetou and Old Shatterhand. The latter was a fictional German character and blood brother of Winnetou, the fictional chief of the Mescalero tribe of the Apache. He was the main character in the 1964 movie by the same name, starring Lex Barker. Yes, I always had to be the ‘squaw for the men tribe in the tub!’ 

I would not trade these memories for anything! However, today’s children and youth have become in fact socially isolated due to the ‘Flimmerbox’ [Schloder’s label for TV], their addiction to high-tech gadgets, video games, and texting as these have become the new ‘substitutes for free play.’ The consequences are now apparent with the increase of depression, vaping, opioid and Cannabis use, and the surge of suicides among the young (as young as 12 years).

I wrote about my childhood experience in the essay “The Return to the Sandbox” for the 3-M Fellowship Award for Outstanding Teaching at Canadian Universities (1996) – the second national award for the University of Calgary. 


…During my childhood in Germany, ten or fifteen of us would meet daily after school at the neighbourhood sandbox where we collectively created a variety of projects from castles to zoos. We shared and discussed different ideas, agreed and disagreed, and decided which ideas to build on.

Sometimes we worked silently. Sometimes the process was very dynamic, and sometimes it was competitive as we voted for the best solution. One of my favorite games was ‘add on’ where we took an idea and everyone built on it to see what was going to be the final outcome. This process encourages creative and innovative thinking as well as critical analysis, which we children called ‘free play’ [not organized by adults!]…

Throughout my lengthy teaching career, I have always discussed the process of ‘creative thinking’ with students in senior classes. While the final outcome was at all times gratifying the undertaking was frequently frustrating because students ‘felt handicapped or embarrassed,’ afraid to ‘say something stupid or wrong’ (their explanation) instead of speaking ‘freely and taking a risk!’ You see, they have been taught, and consequently have learned to offer feedback to ‘please professors’ – although not in my classes! Shock!

To the Reader: 

What does Fun or Enjoyment in your sport mean to you? Has the meaning changed over time? If, so… Why? Do you even enjoy sport now?  If you did sports and still are active do you still enjoy that activity? Why? How do you show others that you do enjoy it? Does the media ever influence your thinking about sport?

…BECAUSE…Sport can be… 

… Freude – but also Fron and Paradox… 

[Fun-Enjoyment – and also Grind and Paradox]

…And – Sport Is No Longer Sport…When…

(Schloder, 1994, Annual City Athlete Award Ceremony: Landshut, Bavaria)

 ‘’Free Play’ versus Sport 
  1. ‘Free play’ is said to be about gaining personal enjoyment and satisfaction from ‘feeling liberated’ (no constraints imposed from- and by adults), promotes personal initiative, a capacity for self-rule and authenticity. These are still social values expected in our modern society – although they are rarely exhibited, according to many executives in the business world!
  2. ‘Free play’ is said to nurture emotions, encourage sociability, cordiality, and acceptance of- and by playmates; it teaches to strive, evaluate, appreciate the self, and the cooperation/teamwork of others.
  3. This holds true even for the best athletes. Michael Jordan, famous NBA basketball player, stated two years before his retirement: I have Fun playing alone at home against my own shadow after midnight under the moonshine. My movements under the basket become fantastic. Unfortunately, I am not permitted to play that way nor can I ever play that way in a real-game scenario. NHL hockey great Wayne Gretzky stated at his retirement: ‘It just was no longer Fun or enjoyable.’

Because …Sport Should Be:

  • Sport should be about the ability to perform at one’s best level not about ‘having to- or must’ perform (forced performance). 
  • Sport should be valued in our society but not be transformed into a ‘cult’ by any sport-organization.

Schloder: Athlete and Enjoyment 

Enjoyment was:

  • Watching the gracefulness and beauty in the 1984 Olympics as British pair skaters Torville and Dean breezed to the Gold medal in their revolutionary routine to ‘Bolero’ and changed the event forever
  • Achieving personal best performance without setting a record
  • Pursuing the Olympic: Citius – Altius – Fortius = Faster – Higher – Stronger as a personal aspiration
  • When opponents appreciate my effort…because ‘compete’ (Latin competare) means ‘striving together’ for best performances NOT against each other (example: hurting the opponent or ‘beating the ‘crap’ out of each other with the ‘kill them attitude’ as evident in many hockey games)
  • When one is able to test personal ‘agony’ (Classical Greek), displaying courage, a certain degree of bravery, boldness, daring, valour, gallantry, prowess, and self-confidence
  • When one is able to overcome competition anxiety and/or training mentality
  • When one continues to strive to remain brave, honourable, noble, righteous, and fair in competition
  • When one remains ‘humane and humble’ despite success or lack of it (losing)

Schloder: Coach (based on true events)


  • When the 8-year old swimmer trades his gold medal at the State Championships for a pink ribbon because that color is still missing in his collection
  • When one is able to develop a recreational and competitive swim team to college swimmers from baby swim lessons in Tempe, Arizona, and follow their progress
  • When the competitive team, Team America (6-21 years), discuss issues at Fridays’ after practice in a ‘King Arthur’s Round Table’ format and create their own behaviour rules and consequences, and then passes them on to the coach
  • When the team has the courage to say: Coach – it’s time to laugh, please!
  • When a Tot (4 years) says: Teacher ‘Momka,’ when I get big I want to be like you (many tots could not pronounce ‘Monika’)
  • When one can learn from children because mutual respect has developed between swimmers and teacher/coach 
  • When the young gang member, recruited into the Minority leadership program in Los Angeles remarks casually: Coach, you’re dope, cool and you give me a high (AAF project to develop Minority gang adolescents into Community coaches)
  • When a Minority swim team in the LA Watts area is created and increases to over 4000 members under the AAF project leadership
  • When 217 former gang member graduate as community coaches from the AAF project 
  • When one can send the ‘thank you’ to the Lord because one was given the chance and opportunity to educate the young

Present Sport Reality

Sport has become ‘Fron’ 

The German language has an exceptionally rich vocabulary for many words with multiple expressions with interesting definitions for Sport: Fronarbeit (forced labor); Sklavenarbeit or Zwangsarbeit (drudgery, slave labor); Bürde or Last (burden); Joch (yoke); Knechtschaft (bondage); Plage (affliction). That’s pretty heavy!

Let’s see how this applies!

…Modern sport has become an aberration, distortion, or potential tolerated chaos, a social dilemma with a display of violent behaviour! It has been transformed to the pursuit of “winning at all costs” – no matter what – rampant use of doping and performance-enhancing drugs despite controls, and the increase of violence tolerated in so many sports, especially in team sports…

  • Coaches ‘force’ athletes to overcome set obstacles in training, competition, and games disregarding injuries or sickness
  • Athletes are made to endure continuous frustration in training and competitions without counsel or mental assist 
  • Athletes are made to deal with their psyche and/or prolonged problems in training or competitions without little assistance
  • Athletes are socially isolated from the team when injured
  • Athletes are made to perform daily training routines to perfection without regard to personal issues (sickness, school exams, death in the family, etc.)
  • Athletes have to develop patience and effort without emotional assistance from coaches
  • When athletes have to deal with slow performance increases without proper assistance from impatient coaches
  • Athletes forced to learn about enhancing self-knowledge without guidance from coaches
  • Athletes have to make solid and good decisions without proper guidance from coaches
  • Athletes having to depend on teammates without proper social interaction
  • Athletes having to deal with negative and derogatory attitudes, and verbal abuse by coaches 


  • How do athletes (or coaches) feel about daily training? How do they display their enjoyment – if any? 
  • Is the training environment learner/athlete/performer or coach-centered?
  • Is the training environment positive and safe or is it a ‘bellyache?’ 
  • Are athletes grumbling during regular training routines?
  • Do athletes and coaches display enjoyment/fulfilment only when winning (always easy) or likewise when placing second, third, etc.?

Selected Examples:

Dilemma in Children and Youth Sports 

As early as 1990, the Athletic Footwear Association (AFA) released a report entitled “American Youth and Sports Participation” that examined teenagers (ages 10-18 years) and their feelings about their sport involvement. It was the culmination of an extensive study of more than 10,000 young people from 11 cities across the U.S. in which issues related to the reasons teenagers participate, reasons they quit, and their feelings about winning. The results indicate that (a) participation in organized sports declines sharply as youngsters get older, (b) “fun” is the key reason for involvement, and “lack of fun” is one of the primary reasons for discontinuing, (c) winning plays less of a role than most adults would think, and (d) not all athletes have the same motivations for their involvement. 

Despite these results, little has changed. In fact, the rate of burnout and subsequent dropout in children and youth sports has been rising steadily over the past years. Sport sociologists and other experts estimate that close to 73% leave sports by the age 12-13 years, citing very similar reasons as in the AFA study. 

Beginner Athletes:

Over the years, I have discovered that children transfer or are recruited from so-called recreational lessons into beginner competitive programs without proper skill possession, pertinent information about new requirements, expectations, and commitment. In addition, there is no transition into competitive levels in many sports. In my opinion, this is unacceptable because uncertainty contributes to the children’s tension, anxiety, and self-doubt. 


For example, 6-8 year old developmental swimmers in Calgary transfer from swim lessons, and were quickly entered into 50m and 100m front crawl events when they could barely manage 25m, messing up their turns – if they got that far – stopping in the middle of the lap to cry! That really enhances self-esteem! But the team wanted the extra points! In my opinion, this is emotional and psychological abuse but the approach still continues to this day!


Gymnastics training in Calgary takes on ‘torture chamber flavour’ for 11-year old boys, forced by the Chinese coach into stretching positions against the wall, and told to enrol in recreational programs if not attending the 27 hours of training sessions per week.


Athletes in wrestling are taught early on to learn about several methods to lose weight in order to ‘wrestle down’ (lesser weight class) – which has resulted in numerous deaths in US High school wrestling so far as young wrestlers carry forward their established weight loss methods to the college/university level.

Elite and Professional Athletes:

‘Fron’ at this stage means:

  • Giving up leisure time or hobby sports as training now is the substitute
  • Having to prolong or delay indefinitely education and vocational training 
  • Having to battle with the self as sport ‘agon’ slowly develops into agony
  • Losing control over the self, and overall picture/meaning of one’s personal life

Artistic Gymnastics: 

For now, I can report that the above 4 points are closely or entirely true for this sport at the elite level. In her 2000 edition, Joan Ryan, San Francisco Herald reporter, describes the treatment and training methods for young gymnasts, starting at the age of 12 years (Ryan, ‘Little girls in pretty boxes’, 1995, 2000). The stories are not only disturbing but also very offensive. One could call it a ‘criminal’ practice as physical, psychological, emotional, and sexual abuse was rampant during the reign of USA famous Romanian coaching couple Bela and Martha Karolyi, who ran the USA program like a dictatorship. Gymnasts trained 6-8 hours per day with only Sundays off; school became secondary in the pursuit to make the Olympic team. Parents, especially mothers, lived vicariously through the success of their daughters, and ‘conveniently’ overlooked the happenings in the gym and/or the sexual abuse once it became known. Gymnasts developed – and still do – anorexia nervosa, depression, numerous injuries, suicide attempts, the occurrence of death due to starvation (Christy Henrich at 49 pounds), deaths in competition on the uneven bars (Melanie Colman), and heinous new vault requirement (Julissa D’anne Gomez). Judges saw themselves as dominant forces telling gymnasts to lose weight while any new skill had to be more complex to earn higher point values – but really to attract greater TV audiences – never mind the health of the athletes!

Figure Skating: 

The same holds true for this sport, as lengthy hours of training are required. Verbal, psychological, and emotional abuse is part of a so-called motivational tactical ‘game’ to force skaters to continue hard-core training. In the year since former national champion John Coughlin died by suicide, figure skating has been rocked by a series of sexual abuse allegations. A former coach from Minnesota was sentenced to 24 years in prison after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting a teenage female skater. Incantalupo, 48, of St. Louis Park (MN) had been accused of repeatedly assaulting his former skater between the ages of 14 to 16 years. 

Classical Ballet: 

Dance has its own ‘dark side’ as rigorous 6-8 or more hours of training are common in order to make the performing group on stage. It is not only physical but also emotionally draining. The high rate of injuries (groin, hamstring, knees, ankles), and the daily care of sore toes and feet (on point dancing) necessitates soaking in cold water to dull the pain. Constant lecturing and reminding about the perfect dancer’s figure, ‘slim and thin’, has led to extensive anorexia and bulimia as described by Canada’s prima ballerina Evelyn Hart from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.  


As discussed in the February Newsletter, USA and Canada Swimming, both had their share of abuse whether physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual in nature.

Physical: During my coaching years I witnessed many incidences of abuse under the slogan ‘No pain – No gain’ and Vince Lombardy’s “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing” phrase – as yard/meters in daily training and the so-called Xmas Boot camps by clubs, which demand what I call ‘yardage-garbage’ training because sprint events do not need training of 10,000 yards/meters rather event-specific training to correspond what is needed in competition. Training has to reflect what the body has to reproduce performing in the real-life competition, not some vastly overtraining leading to burnout and potential injuries (rotator cuffs, low back pain, knee injuries).

Psychological/Emotional/Physical: I am aware of coaches, who do not permit ‘water or bathroom breaks’ as a matter of principle or as punishment. In the former, swimmers dehydrate, which affects focus, concentration, and performance. In the latter, swimmers just urinated in the Pool! During my coaching on deck, swimmers had an automatic water break using their bottles or re-fill them every 10 minutes, whether needed or not; we had small bowls of sliced oranges (vitamin C) at each lane. Rule: no mess on deck but it took awhile to convince those lifeguards! Swimmers could take a Toilet break whenever needed although the return time had to be reasonable to resume training. Training methods and ensuing harsh practices have led to swimmers suffering from mineral deficiencies such as zinc, copper, magnesium, etc., which usually require medical lab tests.


As stated previously, young wrestlers in club or high school varsity programs carry forward weight loss methods they have acquired. This involves drastic fasting, vomiting, excessive exercise in saunas or wearing sweatsuits, rubber, vinyl, and plastic suits or similar artificial heating devices, and diuretics or other dehydrating practices for quick weight reduction to drop 10 pounds or more quickly. 

Sport and the Paradox: Definition

  • When sport is never just ‘play’ in the true sense
  • The contradiction to- or running contrary to expectation[s]
  • The combination of statements, ideas, or features of a situation that are opposed to one another
  • The fact or state of being inconsistent
  • The inconsistency between expressed attitudes and actual behaviour (what takes place)
  • The seemingly paradoxical conclusion arising from an inconsistent or inherently contradictory definition of the initial premise
  • Sport, at times, becoming a mixture of ‘comedy’ (funny incidents) and tragedy (competition loss, injuries, deaths)

Application to Sport:

In addition to the previous philosophical discussion, sport is said to derive from the Latin ‘disportare’ (portare = carry; disportare = carry away; digress; remove) meaning that one partakes to get away from the daily grind or problem – but then sport becomes exactly that daily grind (‘fron’), frustration, and problematic when taking up seriously. Then, athletes no longer participate for enjoyment rather their body becomes the  ‘machine’ to be sculpted chiseled, and tuned for that perfect performance. 

Sport, through its very preoccupation with competition, pushes athletes to live with certain anxieties as opposed to being a psychological avocation, i.e., that sport is a ‘cure’ for anxiety, a remedy for stress release, and relaxation [leisure]. Athletes are no longer individuals but become an instrument of victory or defeat. Therefore, they turn into an object, are reduced to a ‘thing’ that performs the given and required function of training, competition, and games. They are no longer in control or in charge over the self, and are now a product because sport has developed into an economic and materialistic culture.

Examples of Paradox:

The term ‘amateur’ (lover of) originated in the early 1920s and translated to sporting amateurism as a zealously guarded ideal, especially among the upper classes in those times. They engaged in sports activities for the ‘love of the sport’ as non-professional and without enumeration. What was once the ideal sport has now become work (labora), frustration, and ‘having’ to workout or train.  


  • Family and friends are neglected because sport demands full-time engagement
  • Athletes suffer health issues and injuries instead of using sport to enhance and pursue healthy lifestyles
  • Drugs and doping start to pervade sport, and athletes argue… ‘everybody does it, why not me?’
  • 82% of parents in a 1990s survey admit that they would support the doping of their children if they could win a gold medal even when death would occur after five years – total madness and a paradox!
  • Female athletes were forced to become pregnant and then abort to increase their hormone level
  • Female athletes – future mothers – were doped and then suffer several miscarriages after retiring
  • Athletes commit suicide because of severe depression, feeling of worthlessness, drug use, painkillers, and alcohol dependency. A review of literature from 1960-2000 revealed 71 cases of athletes, who contemplated, attempted or completed suicide.
  • A soccer player commits suicide because he scores in his own net
  • Athletes are not able to adjust to ‘after pro-life’, are ‘totally lost’, feel without purpose, and seek the solution via drugs and alcohol (especially true for NHL ex-hockey players.


When sport as a national and cultural pursuit becomes ‘cult-like’, becomes laced with various degrees of greed, stinginess, selfishness, aggressiveness, and violence, it becomes unethical, immoral, and dehumanizing. It is an alienation, performance without dignity. It reflects the loss of our value system and a sense of community. Sport at that point has become the opposite of its original meaning. It has transformed itself to become an irony, a social dilemma, degeneration, madness, and unhealthy as society is moving toward the inevitable – a social and moral crash!

…And – Sport Is No Longer Sport…When…

A young sports fan displays this behavior …

Schlots:Users:monikaschloder:Desktop:Scan 1.jpeg


Ashe, A (1994). Days of grace: A memoir. NY: Ballantine.

Huizinga, J. (1938). Homo ludens [Man at play]. Netherlands: Penguin Random House.





Paplauskas-Ramunas, A. (1968). Development of the whole man through physical education. Ottawa, ON, CAN: The University of Ottawa Press.

Petlichkoff, L. (1992). Youth sport participation and withdrawal: Is it simply a matter of fun? Pediatric Exercise Journal, Vol. 4(2), pp. 105-110. https://journals.humankinetics.com/view/journals/pes/4/2/article-p105.xml h

Ryan, J. (2000). Little girls in pretty boxes. The making and breaking of elite gymnasts and figure skaters (Rev. Ed.). NY: Warner Books.

Ryan, J. (1995). Little girls in pretty boxes. The making and breaking of elite gymnasts and figure skaters (1st ed.). The making and breaking of elite gymnasts and figure skaters.  NY: Doubleday.

Schloder, M.E. (2006). Lecture series: Sociology of sport. Calgary, AB: University of Calgary/Kinesiology Dept.

Schloder, M.E. (2004). Lecture series: Philosophy of sport. Calgary, AB: University of Calgary/Kinesiology Dept.

Schloder, M.E. (1996). Return to the sandbox. Retrieved March 15, 2020, from https://3mcouncil.stlhe.ca/initiative/making-a-difference-a-celebration-of-the-3m-national-teaching-fellowship/return-to-the-sandbox/

Schloder, M.E. (1994). Sport today- Enjoyment – Fron and Paradox. Keynote Presentation. Landshut, Bavaria: Annual Athlete Award Ceremony.

Slusher, H.S. (1967). Man, sport and existence. Philadelphia: Lea & Febiger.

Tip of the Month – February 2020

Coach Monika Says…

“Spice Up” Your Exercise Program – Add and Vary Exercises Part II

I provided samples of exercises for lower body strength and explosive power in the January Newsletter, inclusive of the chart, showing the impact of exercises and exercises to avoid, especially for younger athletes. 

Here are additional ones for the lower body as well as upper body development.

Series #2

Some of the most basic exercises to develop lower body strength are various Jump Rope activities, and they are also FUN!

Single Jump Rope Jumping

Equipment: long mat (avoid bare floor to prevent shin splints); sport shoes; sport jump rope (hold rope end in each hand; center of rope on floor in front of body by feet; step onto rope center; pull each end into/underneath armpit [touching skin] for correct length size; avoid twisting end around wrist!)

Start position: Stand upright, feet together, rope center resting behind body by feet on floor, facing forward, arms extended by sides of body, holding ends with light grip in each hand, back straight

Action: Assume Start position, long-extended swing from behind body to overhead to front and downward, keeping arms extended, jump tucking legs, rope passes underneath feet, soft continuous rebounding action, always landing softly, set 15-30 seconds, 2-4 repetitions

Variation: keep legs long and extended during continuous jumping action

Add-On Group Jumping

Equipment: long mat (avoid bare floor to prevent shin splints); sport shoes; jumping rope (hold end in each hand; very long rope (8-10-12m). 

We use this German ‘Zauberschnur’ (Internet: https://www.google.com/search?client =firefox-b-d&q=Zauberschnur)

Start position: Extend the rope to full length, 1-partner at each end, grasping rope ends, rope resting on floor, x-number of jumpers stand upright along one side of rope, feet together, facing forward, back straight

Action: Assume Start position, partners start rope swing in long overhead loop with coordinated action and effort, jumpers in waiting position (consecutive numbered: 1 to X-number), observe swing action and rhythm, #1 awaits timing for quick entry to jump, continues jumping, #2 enters, #1 and 2 continue jumping, #3 enters, #1, 2 and #3 continue jumping, continue pattern, continued until error occurs on jumper’s entry, goal: try to get as many jumpers as possible (our record is 22!)   

Jump Rope with Circular Swing and Level Variation

Equipment: Long mat 

Start position: Stand upright, feet together, rope center resting behind body by feet on floor, facing forward, arms extended by sides of body, holding ends with light grip in each hand, back straight

Action: Assume Start position, swing long and straight from behind body overhead to front and downward while tucking legs and turning in a circle, continue overhead swing action while in a squat position, letting rope pass underneath feet, continue overhead swing action while in half-squat position, continue overhead swing while  tucking legs (first movement), maintaining turning (rotation) throughout, 2-4 repetitions completing the full set of jumping variations

Bench Skipping: Dynamic Balance and Leg Strength

We like to combine several physical components when creating drills. We also have developed an entire exercise section of ‘how to use the gym bench.’

Equipment: Gym bench on floor or long mat

Start position: Stand upright at one end of gym bench, feet together, facing forward, arms extended at sides by body, back straight

Action: Step up onto bench, start skipping action to opposite end of bench, arms extended out to sides at shoulder height, facing forward, back straight, continuous action, step down return to starting end of bench, 4-8 repetitions


Schloder, M.E. (2018). Personal Resources: Personal training manual: Artistic gymnastics.

Why Us ?

Shape Young Athletes
By Having FUN!


Physical Literacy For Children And Youth
Through Fun, Fitness And Fundamentals

Available NOW! – Instant Download or 2-Disk Set

Watch the preview video below!

You will be astonished over the athletic accomplishments of these young athletes’ strength, flexibility, balance, etc.

Click here to purchase your copy today!

 Dr. Monika Schloder Welcomes You To The Home of CoachingBest

Your one-stop for Coaching Tips, Training, and Information for the Athletic Coach

Years of teaching and coaching experience in several sports have provided me with the ability to understand the physical, mental, and emotional requirements for developing beginner to elite level athlete in several sports. The ‘knack’ to analyze sport movement, in essence, detect errors and then develop creative corrections and drills to improve, maximize, and optimize performance – no matter the sport – is one of my greatest assets.

Dr. Monika Scloder, Summer Swim Camp- Turku, Finland

Professional Activities:

  • DVD Production: Swimming; Developing Physical Literacy; Athletic Training
  • Learning Facilitator, Canadian National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP), having educated nationally and internationally over 26,000 coaches to date
  • Certified Alberta NCCP Coach Developer (2016)
  • Speaker at International Congresses, Coaching Symposiums, and World Clinics
  • Master Coach in Residence, 1991-2004, for the Los Angeles based 84 Legacy of the Games (former Amateur Athletic Foundation or AAF), program developer for Inner City Minority Youth Education and Leadership
  • Author: Coaching Manuals in Swimming and Soccer
  • Co-author “Coaching Athletes: A Foundation for Success”


  • Alberta 2008 Coach of the Year
  • Recipient of 14 International Teaching and Coaching Awards
  • 3M Teaching Fellowship Award for Outstanding Teaching at Canadian Universities
  • Recipient of numerous Teaching Excellence Awards, University of Calgary

At CoachingBest.com we offer sport consulting and coaching education to organizations worldwide with an emphasis on current issues, physical literacy, athlete development, performance analysis, and improvement

Visit our Website CoachingBest.com for ‘Tips of the Week’ and sign up for the free Monthly Newsletter

Dr. Schloder has developed a series of Training DVD’s to help Coaches and Athletes
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ASCA Workshop Conference and Presentation

Happenings from November

With Coach Rebecca Atchley – Dr. Schloder was an External Committee Member for Rebeca’s Masters Project Dr. Schloder’s Workshop Presentation

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Conference Photos

Happenings from September

Latest Happenings!!

 Dr. Monika Schloder at the ASCA World Clinic for Swimming, Jacksonville, Florida, Sept 8, 2014 Presenting at the 4-hour Work shop “Dry-land School for Age Group Swimmers” Coaches participate in her workshops… they don’t just sit!

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Back Arch Demo

Coach Schloder in Istanbul, Turkey Swim Camp , June 9-15

Underneath the swimmer to demonstrate the back arch position after the Back Crawl start. Not too many coaches can do this perfectly!

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Developing Physical Literacy

This highly acclaimed presentation was given by Dr. Schloder at the Canadian Sport for Life Summit (CS4L), which will be available as a movie version. Watch for the up-coming DVD: ‘Physical Activities for Children and Youth. Fundamental Movement Skills in the Pursuit of Excellence and Well-being.’

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  1. Augusto Acosta

    I love your work!

  2. Kim Cox

    Super new front page on your website, very informative.

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Tip of the Month – April 2020

Coach Monika Says… Nutrition Strategies during “Shut Down” and Lack of Training These are ‘hard times’ for regular folks and especially athletes, who are in important training phases! The required ‘shutdown,’ social distancing and isolation at home are big challenges for all active athletes and specifically those training toward regional and national championships, or trying …

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The Dirty – Not-so-little – Secret in Coaching – Part II

Sports in the Aesthetic Group I reported on the abuse within Beginner Sports in February. I decided then to present my personal reflection on sport in the March News, i.e., what sport is supposed to be and what it really has become or is.  The April Newsletter deals with Part II, elite artistic gymnastics, elite …

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