Some of my happiest times have been in the gym, but also some of my saddest. Verbal and emotional abuse in sports is a widespread problem, and unfortunately, I experienced abuse for years in gymnastics. I have had a coach purposefully turn girls against each other by praising one while insulting others. Some coaches think that this results in better gymnasts. When I have had an injury or run a fever, I have been screamed at, or worse, ignored. I was afraid for a coach to be given a doctor’s note. Girls were cursed, made fun of, and insulted because of their body type. I became silent at practice, scared to become the coach’s next target.
I have always been a naturally happy and positive person. However, it was evident to my parents that my normally bright mood began changing, and they were not sure why. Unfortunately, prior to being taken out of the abusive gym, I developed many bad habits. I learned to hide injuries and to practice when I should not. To this day, I tend to hold in my feelings, and not express myself as much as I should.
Sexual abuse is very much in the media, impacting many. While this is an important issue, verbal and emotional abuse in sports should also be exposed. Parents often do not know that their child is being abused, because they are too far away to hear the coach at practice. Some may confuse abuse with “tough coaching.” Many athletes are just trying to do as they are told, and are not aware that they are being abused.
I believe that the best way to attack a problem is to take action. Join me in spreading #NoTears to help bring awareness to verbal abuse, and start making changes!