Spotlight on Gymnastics: Questions for worried parents

Posted at 6:14 PM, Mar 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-16 20:29:59-04

A local gymnastics coach accused of recording kids while they changed faces 10 counts of child pornography.

The owner of a local gym, James Kivisto, was charged this week. He has been coaching gymnastics since 1987, in both Milwaukee and Racine counties. His arrest comes at a time that gymnastics is already under scrutiny. Just last month, Olympic gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to at least 40 years in prison for sexual misconduct.

Sarah Banck from Flips 4 All in Glendale told TODAY'S TMJ4 she knows gymnastics has a trust issue right now. She said as both a coach and a parent she has built her gym with the goal of building that with families. She wants parents to know their coaches.

"You see how they relate to your child. Everything from how they speak to them to how they handle them," she said.

She said it's also important to know the people in charge.

"Who's running the gym, who's background checking, who's making sure that the people that work with your children are qualified?" she said. 

They're questions in the spotlight on a national level. Almost 200 women, including Olympians, testified about sexual abuse they endured at the hands of Nasser. Now locally, two coaches have gone through court for inappropriate behavior in the last year.

Banck considers it an uphill battle for the sport-- and a reason for parents to ask extra hard questions...

"Who's making sure what content is on computers, or who's with children in the gym?" she said.

Those questions aren't covered by USA Gymnastics, an organization that offers memberships to coaches. Member coaches do have to be safety certified every four years, background checked every two years and take gymnastics education courses.

The State tells us they don't certify children's athletic coaches.

Banck said for her, having her own gym feels like a more certain option.

"[To] kind of ensure who has my children and other people's children in the gym are truly the type of people I would choose to have working with them," she explained.

Banck said in the current climate, parents have to have a high standard on their own for who are working with their kids. She would like to see a licensing system put in place.

USAG does have a reporting system called Safe Sportdesigned to report misconduct.

Banck hopes having this conversation will empower parents to ask those questions at any gym, in any sport.