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Confronting Harmful Coaching Practices in Gymnastics Head On With Thomas Elder

Today on the podcast I’m very excited to share another thought-provoking and important conversation about cultural change, morals, and ethics of coaching with Tom Elder. 

In addition to coaching for 13 years, he also has an extensive education in Philosophy.

He did his Undergrad in Philosophy at the University of Akron and master’s in Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania. 

His research is focused on child autonomy in abuse in youth sports, which is obviously a very important topic that we’re dealing with right now in gymnastics. 

Once again he had my brain turning talking about gymnastics culture, the things that we have grown to accept in our sport; some philosophies, coaching techniques, or just the way the sport is structured. 

We explored the negative impact these can have on athletes if we allow some of these things to continue and does the way that we coach, parent, or interact with children impact their lives in a negative or positive way. 

We talked about how do you realistically deal with something that’s not okay. 

How do you deal with a situation in your gym? 

How do you deal with a situation with another coach, athlete, or parent that you don’t believe is morally or ethically right? 

If someone is acting in a way that’s harmful or abusive what can you do to try to change that.

Most importantly what do you do to take care of yourself mentally, especially if you’re trying to change the culture of your gym, or change the way you coach now. 

So in this episode we discuss some challenging and hard issues that we feel need to be talked about more in gymnastics, they’re heavy and it comes with some pretty tough moments.

We try our best to keep things light and dipping between some darker, more challenging topics to some more uplifting, more positive concepts. 

This might be a tough one to listen to if you’re someone who’s going through this yourself, or has a history with someone who maybe has, unfortunately, experienced harmful behaviors.

We DISCUSS; What is stoicism.

Confronting your emotions.

What you have control over and what you have power over.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy.


What does being happy mean?

“I hope that if I could achieve one thing from this podcast, I can get one person who’s struggling with this, to feel like and realize they’re not alone. And they have the whole backing of the community. We’re all supporting them. But there’s going to be some tough roads for people to go down if the sports really going to get better. And we need brave and courageous people who are willing to lead the way and are willing to take that for themselves so that the community itself gets a little bit stronger.” Tom Elder

If you’re trying to change your or your gym’s culture or you’re dealing with a difficult situation remember you have the support of the gymnastics community because we all want the sport to be better.

We want to grow, we want to evolve.

We want athletes, coaches, and everyone to have a really great experience.


To listen to the podcast on iTunes, Spotify, or Stitcher click below:

Confronting Harmful Coaching Practices in Gymnastics Head On With Thomas Elder

Research paper discuss on the podcast;

Prevalence of Maltreatment Among Canadian National Team Athletes:


ACE study:


Philosophical Foundations of CBT:


Hope it helps!

– Dave

Dr. Dave Tilley DPT, SCS
CEO/Founder of SHIFT Movement Science