If she could travel back in time, before she was suspended from gymnastics after being accused of berating and mistreating her athletes, including an Olympic champion, Maggie Haney says she would change the way she coached.
She wouldn’t push some of her young gymnasts to redo a routine again and again after even the tiniest mistakes. To demand their focus, she wouldn’t yell at them. Instead she would learn to let some imperfections slide.
“I think my mistakes were that I cared too much, and wanted them to be a little too perfect every day, when maybe that’s not possible, ” Haney, one of the most prominent coaches in the sport, said this month in an interview with The New York Times, the first time she has spoken publicly in nearly a year. “Maybe what used to be OK is not OK anymore, and maybe it shouldn’t be. I think maybe the culture has shifted. ” Haney has not coached at her gym in central New Jersey or anywhere else since February, she said, when USA Gymnastics, the sport’s national federation, temporarily suspended her before later barring her from coaching for eight years for what it called her “severe aggressive behavior” toward her athletes. She said she hasn’t even coached her own daughter, who is 11.
The athletes who have trained under Haney include Laurie Hernandez, who won a silver medal on the balance beam at the 2016 Olympics and helped the United States win the team gold medal.
Hernandez’s complaint to the federation was one of nearly a dozen that led to Haney’s ban, which she is appealing to an arbitrator. It was considered the harshest penalty for emotional and verbal abuse in the sport’s recent history.
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