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Retrosi: It's Time to Say #ThanksCoach
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As the gymnastics community struggles to pick up the pieces following the Larry Nassar tragedy — which revealed allegations of physical, sexual and psychological abuse by gymnastics coaches — a grassroots movement has begun to reshape the sport and its image.

As the gymnastics community struggles to pick up the pieces following the Larry Nassar tragedy — which revealed allegations of physical, sexual and psychological abuse by gymnastics coaches — a grassroots movement has begun to reshape the sport and its image. Coach and educator Tony Retrosi says it's time to recognize the tremendous work of the amazing gymnastics coaches who have influenced so many athletes in a healthy and positive way.

Retrosi, the head coach and owner of Atlantic Gymnastics Training Centers, started the "Thank You to my Gymnastics Coach" page on Facebook (Facebook.com/Thankscoach), because he wants to remind the public that the majority of gymnastics coaches shouldn't be lumped in with the kind who make headlines for harming athletes.

"With all the negative press, it just seemed like the right thing to do," Retrosi told IG on Friday. "There are so many great coaches out there who make a difference every day."

Retrosi is a frequent lecturer and has traveled around the world visiting clubs and teaching clinics. He was named Educator of the Year by USA Gymnastics in 2010.


1992 Olympian Wendy Bruce talks to young gymnasts.

Retrosi started the page on Thursday evening and it had several hundred fans by Friday morning. He started off the page with a shoutout to his own coaches. His very first coach was his mother, Denise Carlisle Edmonds, and he later trained with Jon Bean, Don Tonry and Kip Reed. The late Don Tonry, a long-time coach at Yale and 1960 Olympian, taught him tremendous technical knowledge, Retrosi said.

"I learned so much from all of you," he posted in tribute to his coaches.

The "survivors army" of 156 women who spoke at Nassar's first sentencing hearing in Ingham County, Michigan, stunned the world with horrific stories of sexual abuse by the once trusted doctor at USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University. Many of the gymnasts who gave victim impact statements shared heartbreaking tales of abusive conditions both at the club level and through the national team, which they say Nassar took advantage of, becoming a sympathetic figure who expertly groomed gymnasts, bringing them food and gifts and badmouthing their coaches, in order for the gymnasts to view him as a friend. Several of the gymnasts made allegations of physical and mental abuse against coach John Geddert, Nassar's long-time friend who has since been suspended by USA Gymnastics. Nassar was also the team doctor at Gedderts' Twistars in Michigan.

Among the most heartbreaking statements at the first sentencing hearing was from 2010 world team member Mattie Larson, who cried as she shared that she had purposely injured herself so she would not have to return to the Karolyi camp, the isolated U.S. national team training center she described as a prison, and where Nassar repeatedly abused an unknown number of gymnasts.

The public outrage and condemnation were swift, and USA Gymnastics was repeatedly cast as an enabler of sexual predators like Larry Nassar. The Indy Star's investigative piece into USA Gymnastics' failure to report sexual abuse led to the bombshell revelation about the team doctor who had quietly retired from USA Gymnastics in September 2015.

"The trail of human wreckage left by Larry Nassar may never be completely calculated," ESPN investigative reporter John Barr said.

World and Olympic champion Shawn Johnson shared her disgust, saying if she had a daughter, she would not put her in gymnastics because of what she called USA Gymnastics' utter failure to protect gymnasts from physical and sexual abuse.

Sports Illustrated writer Charles P. Pierce was the most brutal of all, comparing the horror of the sentencing to that of cannibal serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, which Pierce sat through in 1992. Pierce condemned the entire sport.

"American gymnastics is no longer a sport. It's a conspiracy of pedophiles and their enablers," he wrote on January 24, the day Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison.

All this has shocked and jolted the gymnastics community. News stations across the country have flocked to local gyms for their reactions, with many responding that they do not tolerate abuse and it's time to completely change the culture of the sport. Gyms are organizing their own fundraisers to help causes and wearing teal ribbons — the awareness ribbon to support sexual assault survivors — and teal clothes at meets to show support.

The movement to change the sport has begun at the club level, as many criticize USA Gymnastics' lack of leadership in this area. All major sponsors have fled USA Gymnastics, and its entire board was forced to resign by the U.S. Olympic Committee under threat of decertification. The organization is fighting off civil lawsuits and has been accused of a massive cover-up of Nassar, who continued to work as a physician in Michigan — and assault girls and women — until September 2016. USA Gymnastics continues to insist in legal briefs that it had no legal duty to warn anyone about Nassar after he left USA Gymnastics.

But throughout the tragedy, there have been moments of pride for gymnastics coaches. It was revealed that Maggie Nichols' personal coach, Sarah Jantzi, overheard Nichols talking at the Karolyi ranch about Nassar's "treatments." Jantzi immediately raised the alarm, reporting the abuse to both USA Gymnastics and Nichols' mother. Nassar never returned to the ranch and was dismissed from the national team, and USA Gymnastics' handling of the reports has come under massive scrutiny.

And in the Lansing courtroom, several of the survivors stood up with their former coaches by their side as their support. Tom Brennan, introduced as "Coach Tom," stared down Nassar and then confronted him with such force that the moment went viral. "Coach Tom" demanded that Nassar look at the survivor as she spoke, and then when invited to make his own statement, he spoke of his crushing guilt that he had referred nearly 100 gymnasts to Nassar. He then said that his pain was nothing compared with the women Nassar had assaulted, before tossing in, "For the record, Go to hell."

"Who is that?! He is speaking for all of us!" wrote one national team coach on social media while watching the live stream.

Brennan, who had considered Nassar a mentor and close friend, believed Rachael Denhollander, the first to publicly accuse Nassar, when she told him what Nassar had done. He called up all his former gymnasts to ask if they had also been abused.

Brennan was hailed as a hero by coaches watching the live stream, and by his former gymnasts, who shared stories of what a wonderful coach he had been. Multiple people called for Brennan, who accompanied five survivors at the hearing, to be appointed to the board of USA Gymnastics.

"This has all been a surreal experience," Brennan told IG. "The girls' bravery and resilience along with their tenacious desire for change have been inspiring."

Larson was one of many voices calling for change, saying, "There is a better way, a healthy way, to create champions."

The coaches who embrace a positive and supportive philosophy should be celebrated, Retrosi decided.

Canadian coach Andrea Seright of West Wind Gymnastics in Lethbridge, Alberta, knows Retrosi and invited many to like his page to support great gymnastics coaches.

"He's been my mentor for four years," Seright told IG. "He's an extraordinary coach."

Retrosi, who operates the gymnastics education website Gym Momentum, said he hoped he would make a difference in rebuilding the image of the sport.

"I'd love to see #ThanksCoach go viral," he said.

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