Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: What is the Athlete Assistance Fund?
A: The Athlete Assistance Fund (AAF) seeks to eradicate all forms of abuse in the sport of gymnastics through a combination of critical abuse prevention education and counseling services. An independent not-for-profit, the AAF delivers comprehensive abuse prevention education for gymnasts, coaches and gym owners and provides free counseling services to any current or former USA Gymnastics member who suffered sexual abuse within the sport of gymnastics.
Q: Who leads the Athlete Assistance Fund?
A: The Athlete Assistance Fund is governed by an independent Board of Directors who are passionate about the sport of gymnastics and helping ensure the safety and well-being of gymnasts in all aspects of their training and competitive careers.
Q: How long has the Athlete Assistance Fund been around?
A: The Athlete Assistance Fund was established in early 2018.
Q: How was the Athlete Assistance Fund established?
A: The Athlete Assistance Fund was originally established through a grant from the not-for-profit National Gymnastics Foundation and was a designated fund of the National Gymnastics Foundation. Now, the Athlete Assistance Fund is an independent 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization and is not affiliated with USA Gymnastics.
Q: When did the Athlete Assistance Fund become an independent organization?
A: It became an independent organization in late 2018.
Athlete Assistance Fund Treatment Services
Q: Who is eligible for treatment through the Athlete Assistance Fund?
A: : Any current or former USA Gymnastics member gymnast who suffered abuse within the sport of gymnastics is eligible to receive treatment through the Athlete Assistance Fund.
Q: What information must athletes provide to receive assistance through the Athlete Assistance Fund?
A: Athletes will need to provide their name, birthdate, the date range in which they trained or competed, and the name of the gym at which they trained. Having a USA Gymnastics member number is helpful, but not required.
Q: Who contacts the athletes once they submit the online form?
A: Athletes will be confidentially contacted by a member of PHP Management Systems’ care team. PHP is an independent, third-party healthcare management group. The PHP care specialists will identify themselves by their name, credentials and the Athlete Assistance Fund and PHP names. If athletes have any doubt about who is contacting them, they may call or email PHP to verify the caller’s identity. Each athlete will have one person navigating them throughout the process of enrolling and locating a healthcare professional.
Q: How does the Athlete Assistance Fund ensure confidentiality for gymnasts who request and receive treatment?
A: Gymnasts request and receive completely confidential treatment through PHP Management Systems, an independent, third-party healthcare management organization.
Q: Do gymnasts have to be USA Gymnastics members to receive free counseling?
A: Athletes must be current or former members of USA Gymnastics to receive services through the Athlete Assistance Fund.
Q: What if the facility at which that athlete trained is now closed?
A: A USA Gymnastics member number is not required for enrollment in this program so a gym closure will not affect an athlete’s eligibility. The athlete may be asked for the name of their gym or training facility during the enrollment process to help establish eligibility for this program.
Q: What services are being provided through the Athlete Assistance Fund?
A: The Athlete Assistance Fund provides 12 counseling sessions with a qualified counselor or mental health professional at no charge. If, at the end of the 12 sessions, the mental health professional determines additional treatment is needed, the Athlete Assistance Fund will ensure the athlete receives those additional services
Q: Who provides the medical services/treatment for gymnasts who apply for counseling through the Athlete Assistance Fund?
A: The Athlete Assistance Fund confidentially connects athletes to skilled healthcare providers for appropriate treatment through PHP Management Systems, an independent third-party healthcare management organization.
Q: What is PHP Management Systems?
A: PHP Management Systems is an independent third-party healthcare management group, established by physicians in 1983, that provides confidential guidance to the athletes on Athlete Assistance Fund enrollment, requirements and procedures, and connects the athletes to professional healthcare providers. PHP has no affiliation with USA Gymnastics or the National Gymnastics Foundation
Q: Can athletes choose their counselors or does the Athlete Assistance Fund make this selection?
A: Athletes can choose the counselor or mental health professional or PHP will help them find one. If an athlete already has a counselor the athlete is comfortable with, the Athlete Assistance Fund encourages them to continue working with that counselor, and the Athlete Assistance Fund will coordinate payment for the services.
Q: Are athletes referred to a local healthcare provider in their area for assistance?
A: If an athlete doesn’t have a counselor, PHP Management Systems will match the athlete with a skilled healthcare provider close to where the athlete lives or trains. If an athlete already has a counselor they are comfortable with, PHP will coordinate payment for services with that counselor.
Q: Who is paying for the counseling sessions?
A: The Athlete Assistance Fund pays for the counseling sessions with a qualified counselor or mental health professional for affected athletes. PHP is the independent third-party administrator of the Athlete Assistance Fund that coordinates all billing and payments on the athlete’s behalf.
Q: What does the counseling treatment involve?
A: Athletes receive treatment plans customized by their healthcare providers.
Q: How frequently do gymnasts receive counseling?
A: Each athlete receives an individualized treatment plan and schedule determined by their healthcare provider.
Q: How long are gymnasts eligible to receive free counseling?
A: The Athlete Assistance Fund Board of Directors is working to ensure resources are available for as long as gymnasts need them.
Q: What if an athlete needs more than 12 counseling sessions?
A: If, at the end of the 12 sessions, the mental health professional determines additional treatment is needed, the Athlete Assistance Fund will ensure the athlete receives those additional services.
Q: If gymnasts are USA Gymnastics members but suffered sexual abuse outside of gymnastics, are they still eligible to receive services through the Athlete Assistance Fund?
A: The Athlete Assistance Fund serves current or former USA Gymnastics member gymnasts who suffered abuse within the sport of gymnastics. However, there are many national organizations who assist victims of sexual assault, such as the National Sexual Assault Hotline and the National Child Abuse Hotline. We encourage anyone who is a survivor of sexual assault to seek help.
Athlete Assistance Fund Trainings and E-learning
Q: What is the Athletes are Children First initiative?
A:The Athletes are Children First initiative is a comprehensive approach to preventing child sexual abuse in gymnastics through customized training and support provided by local child protection experts to gymnastics clubs, as well as e-learning modules for gymnasts and their parents/guardians. The initiative was created through a partnership of the AAF and The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (The NYSPCC).
Q: What do the AAF and The NYSPCC hope to accomplish with the trainings and e-learning materials?
A: All youth athletes deserve a safe experience within their sport, and awareness and education are important tools to help prevent sexual abuse in the sport of gymnastics. The Athletes are Children First initiative uses a comprehensive approach to provide education and training for club staff, gymnasts, and parents/guardians on how to prevent, recognize and respond to abuse
The goal of the initiative is to develop a national model for protecting gymnasts from abuse by linking state and local child protection experts with gyms to educate owners and staff, and by using on-demand e-learning materials to educate athletes and parents/guardians.
Q: What information and resources are provided as part of the trainings?
A: One aspect of the Athletes are Children First initiative is a comprehensive sexual abuse prevention training tailored for coaches and gym owners. These trainings include access to an online, downloadable Athletes are Children First Policy Handbook, which guides club owners and coaches in implementing child safety practices and reporting policies.
The second aspect of the program is online, on-demand and age-appropriate sexual abuse prevention e-learning modules for gymnasts, and an e-learning module and resources for parents/guardians.
Q: How much do the virtual trainings and e-learning materials cost?
A: Trainings, e-learning modules and resources are all free of charge.
Q: When and where are the trainings being conducted?
A: In New York State, virtual trainings will be scheduled with individual clubs from Feb. 1, 2021, to Jan. 31, 2022. Virtual trainings will launch nationally Feb. 9, 2021, and will be offered bi-monthly for 10 consecutive months. E-learning materials for gymnasts and their parents/guardians will be available on the AAF website in April 2021.
Q: Who is eligible to participate in the virtual trainings?
A: Any gym owner or gymnastics coach may register and participate in the national trainings. Gymnastics clubs in New York State can email email@example.com to be connected to a local child protection expert to schedule a training.
Q: Where can gym owners and coaches go to learn when and where the trainings will be offered in their area?
A: Gym owners can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on upcoming trainings. Links to register for the national trainings will be posted at www.athleteassistancefund.org/training. Virtual trainings are limited to 50 participants per session.
Q: How can people register for the trainings and access the e-learning resources?
A: Gym owners can email email@example.com for more information on upcoming trainings. Links to register for the national trainings will be posted at www.athleteassistancefund.org/training. Virtual trainings are limited to 50 participants per session. E-learning for gymnasts and parents/guardians will be available in April at www.athleteassistancefund.org/training.