Founded in 2015 by physical therapist Dr. Alyssa Herrera-Set and gymnastics coach Jessica Wickizer, non-profit gymSAFE’s mission is to provide gymnastics professionals and athletes with the tools and knowledge to prevent gymnastics-related injuries, increasing safety in the sport of gymnastics.
Their 4th annual Healthy Gymnast Symposium was held virtually August 15-16, 2020, and it was so successful that they’ve decided to switch to an online format for post-pandemic events as well. Jessica shared the event wrap-up below so that we can all get to know gymSAFE and their important mission and year-round offerings, like coach’s workshops and movement screenings. Thank you, Jessica!
Healthy Gymnast Symposium 2020: Train Your Brain
Former University of California, Los Angeles legendary gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, who led UCLA to seven national championships during her tenure, was the keynote speaker at this year’s Healthy Gymnast Symposium. Miss Val kicked off the event, headlining an all-star gymnastics panel which addressed athlete concerns such as sustaining passion for the sport during the COVID-19 pandemic and overcoming mental blocks when returning to the gym.
This two-day event was held on Zoom, making it possible for gymnasts from around the globe to participate, and attendees included athletes, parents, coaches, and medical providers from 6 countries.
At the heart of the gymSAFE is a student-athlete leadership council (known as the ALC) charged with organizing the details of this year’s symposium. The ALC chose the theme “Train Your Brain” to give coaches and gymnasts the tools to manage fear, anxiety, and burnout; especially after forced long absences from the gym.
Train Your Brain Speakers and Gymnast Panelists
Other speakers included mental toughness coach, Dr. Alison Arnold; mindset performance coach Rebecca Smith; sports psychologist Diane Lattimore; personal trainer and sports nutritionist Betsy McNally Laouar and Olivia Lubarsky, a former collegiate gymnast who spearheads an awareness campaign that highlights mental health issues affecting student athletes. To keep it fun between speakers, attendees also participated in gymnastics trivia quizzes to win Destira gift cards, a dance party with Miss Val, and a Pilates break with Dr. Alyssa.
This year’s college panel featured Katelyn Ohashi, a former elite and NCAA Champion whose floor routine while competing for UCLA in early 2019 went viral; and The University of Oklahoma’s Maggie Nichols, described as the “Michael Jordan of collegiate gymnastics” by ESPN and the only NCAA gymnast ever to win Gym Slam - perfect 10s on all events - twice. Nichols was also featured in the Netflix documentary “Athlete A” for being the first to report abuse by the national gymnastics team doctor.
Other panelists included Samantha Peszek, a 2008 Olympic silver medalist; Toni-Ann Williams, who was the first gymnast to compete in an Olympic Games from Jamaica; Morgan Chall, a former Cornell University gymnast who served as chairwoman of the Division 1 Student-Athlete Advisory committee at the NCAA; and Kassandra Lopez, a former University of Utah gymnast who recently graduated with a Masters of Public Health. Each of the panelists were chosen because of their commitment to improving the culture of gymnastics.