USA Gymnastics names Forster high-performance coordinator
USA Gymnastics is turning to Tom Forster to help plot a way forward in the wake of the scandal against a former disgraced national team doctor that has rocked one of the crown jewels of the U.S. Olympic movement.
The organization named Forster as the high-performance director for the U.S. Women’s National Team on Thursday. Forster, who will start on July 1, is tasked with developing a strategic plan and training program for all national team members.
USA Gymnastics president Kerry Perry called Forster, who owns Colorado Aerials in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the right fit because his philosophy ”mirrors our priorities.”
The organization is in the middle of a massive overhaul following the downfall of Larry Nassar.
Nassar abused hundreds of girls and women under the guise of medical treatment while employed at Michigan State and USA Gymnastics. Nassar is now serving a decades-long prison sentence for molesting patients and possessing child pornography.
Forster says one of his first priorities is to create an atmosphere that focuses on open communication and provides the athletes the right to speak about issues and concerns that they have. He stressed they will be given an avenue to do so anonymously and without threat of retaliation.
”The whole purpose of coordinator’s job is to support them in their quest and for their dream,” Forster said. ”That’s their role. That’s their sole purpose.
I want the job because the role is solely about leadership. I believe I’m a positive leader.”
Forster has been a member of the elite development national staff since 2010 and became the interim elite development program director in February 2018. The new ”high-performance director” position replaces the role of national team coordinator, a position formerly held by Martha Karolyi – who retired in 2016 – and Valeri Liukin, who stepped down over the winter.
Forster views himself as a collaborator, stressing it’s his job to ”get everybody working together.”
The organization has taken several steps to become more transparent in the nearly two years since the allegations against Nassar came to light. For example, USA Gymnastics has provided livestream coverage from national selection camps over the past 18 months and the organization intends to allow that practice to continue.
”We want to be as transparent as possible,” Forster said. ”I get a little nervous about showing the rest of the world what we’re doing. From a strategic point it’s a little precarious (but) we’ve got to be transparent.”
Forster’s hire is the latest in a series of personnel moves atop USA Gymnastics. Last week it elected a new Board of Directors and created a Programs Council with two representatives from each of the five competitive disciplines.
The new board came shortly after former senior vice president Rhonda Faehn was dismissed last month. Faehn told lawmakers she was fired after agreeing to testify in front of a subcommittee. USA Gymnastics has not elaborated on why Faehn was let go.
Asked Thursday if she anticipated further turnover – while there has been a massive overhaul at the top since Nassar’s actions came to light, several high-profile longtime employees remain on staff – Perry declined to offer specifics saying it’s something she can’t answer.
”You can tell there’s a lot of changes that this organization is going through and we will continue to do whatever we need to do to align with the mission of culture in the near future,” she said.
The organization is continuing to search for a new permanent home after ending its agreement to train at the Karolyi Ranch earlier this year. An interim home could be named shortly.
There is at least one bit of good news on the horizon for USA Gymnastics: Olympic champion Simone Biles is expected to return to competition next month. It would be her first appearance since winning five medals (four gold) at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.