FRISCO — North Texas has often been called the Mecca of gymnastics. Students and coaches already challenged by nailing down routines are now facing an outside pressure: Reputation.
Especially after Tuesday's arrest of a 26-year-old youth gymnastics coach who is now charged with online solicitation of a minor.
Lyndsey Ryan "Wes" Cox was arrested at 2:20 p.m. Monday after the Plano Police Department received information Friday from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
"I think it makes parents wonder if where their children are is safe or not safe,” said Beckie Thomas, owner of Kurt Thomas Gymnastics in Frisco.
Thomas was concerned to find out that the names of the gyms where Cox worked have not been released to the public.
Thomas said she does not know Cox, and he does not have any connection with her gym. But she admits the arrest is bad for the sport, and is a reminder to all gyms to have better background checks.
"There is no excuse for letting these things fall through the cracks in this day and time,” Thomas said.
Thomas said background checks for her coaches go beyond arrest records. She looks at Facebook and makes sure to call previous employers.
"It's not hard to pick up the phone and know where that individual has been on the floor in your state and say, 'Why did you let him go?'"
She says her coaches cannot have any outside contact with students — not on Facebook and not even by phone. Thomas said it's a strictly-enforced policy that most of the larger and legitimate gyms abide by.
Coaches like Kaylyn Selby admit, in the end, it’s about carrying on a professional relationship.
"They need to be able to see the difference between a coach and a friend,” she said.
Parents are encouraged to watch their youngster's training sessions through the glass in a viewing area. Cameras have also been installed throughout the gym to ensure that no areas are unsupervised.