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Little Girls in Pretty Boxes [Kindle Edition]

Joan Ryan
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (157 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: $11.84
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

A sports reporter investigates the training of girls as professional gymnasts and figure skaters, arguing that the pressure to succeed and to look beautiful results in mental and physical harm, from eating disorders to psychological trauma.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"The female gymnast's career is a race against time and nature," writes San Francisco Chronicle sports columnist Ryan, and the same appears to be true of world-class female figure skaters. In both sports, the contemporary ideal is a girl with a boy's body: sans breasts and hips. To achieve this "ideal," the athletes overtrain at a time when their skeletal development is supposed to be the greatest, suffering injuries to vertebrae, arms and legs at the same time that they are constantly being ordered to lose weight. The result: anorexia and bulimia. This expose, which absolves the exploited trainees of most blame?though some are apparently monomaniacal about becoming Mary Lou Rettons or Dorothy Hamills?is scathing on the subjects of parents, coaches, judges, the U.S. Gymnastic Federation and the U.S. Figure Skating Association. Ryan concludes that females aged 13 to 18 are not only exploited but abused. Such a powerful plea for reform may have some results.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

YA?In an attempt to focus attention on the high price paid through pain, pressure, and humiliation to become an Olympic champion, Ryan has researched the stories behind some of the young female superstar gymnasts and figure skaters. The extraordinary cost to these young women in body, mind, and spirit is dramatized through the intense subculture dominated by gyms, trainers, parents, and sports officials who press for excellence and success without regard to the health and well-being of those involved. This anecdotal account serves as a warning to all those engaged in competitive sports that children should not be sacrificed to adult egos and the thrills of victory. A book to be pondered by coaches, parents, and young people.?Mary T. Gerrity, Queen Anne School Library, Upper Marlboro, MD
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 3022 KB
  • Print Length: 243 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (April 3, 2013)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00CGI3F2O
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #302,575 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shocking and engrossing. October 24, 1999
By A Customer
I think most of the people who gave this book negative reviews are in denial. You can't deny how competitive women's gymnastics and skating are, and how much emphasis is placed on appearance and on winning (look at how Kerri Strug was basically forced to do a vault with a severely injured ankle in the 1996 Olympics--"shake it off," indeed). Even those of us who are merely spectators can see what a high-pressure situation it is, and you can't deny the truth of the stories of Julissa Gomez, Christy Heinrich, and the others. The author is not calling for the abolishment of these sports, just for some changes that might actually make competing a positive, enjoyable experience for the athletes. I hope coaches and parents of the athletes read this book and take it seriously, but most of them will probably deny that it applies to them. Highly recommended.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Important read! September 22, 2002
By A Customer
I was a competitive and professional figure skater and am now a coach. In this book, Joan Ryan says what needs to be said. It is true, as some other reviewers have mentioned, that not all skaters and gymnasts have negative experiences and it's wonderful to see when gymnasts and figure skaters do have positive, enriching experiences in their sports. However, this is the exact reason that it is so important for us to be aware of the inclinations within each sport that can produce devastatingly negative experiences, so that we can improve these conditions to produce positive experiences for more athletes. I know of many, many skaters who have suffered physical and psychological damage - eating disorders, low self-esteem, self mutilation, etc. - when their love and dedication to the sport was abused (probably unintentionally or unknowingly) by various influences in the figure skating world. It is helpful for all of us who love figure skating and/or gymnastics to face our sport's weaknesses and use criticism constructively. Problems come bearing solutions; the first step is to identify the problems. Ryan does an excellent job of this in this book.
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42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You gotta be thin to win May 24, 2002
Prior to 1972, gymnastics was a rather ho-hum sport that appeared to be dominated by eastern European robots with as much appeal as wind-up toys. Especially in the Olympics, the big draws were swimming and track, with gymnastics coverage relegated to the back of the sports pages. But at the Munich Olympics in 1972, among the Russian gymnasts was a tiny 17 year old sprite named Olga Korbut who looked like an elf dangling from a charm bracelet and wowed the crowds in the gym, changing the face of gymnastics overnight. Never mind that Korbut wasn't the best gymnast on the Russian team; she was a natural showgirl. The crowds ate her up. Olga's size (84 pounds) didn't hurt her appeal either. There was a new face on female gymnastics and it was cute, petite, and above all, thin. This was reinforced four years later at Montreal by Nadia Comaneci, who was not only petite, she was barely 14 years old. Combining a formidable talent with an insatiable coach, Nadia tore up the gym to win three gold medals. The formula for a winning gymnast was thus established: take them as young as possible, feed them as little as possible, and train them as hard as possible.

Some girls thrived under this regime; many more cracked (or cracked up). Ryan goes to convincing lengths in describing the results of this training on bodies that were for the most part far too young to handle it: eating disorders (including at least one death from anorexia); severe injuries, including permanent paralysis; and damaged psyches from dealing with demanding coaches and obsessed parents who live vicariously through their children. She also points up that many coaches do not have the requisite training and experience to coach children without subjecting them to serious physical and emotional harm.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Parents, Gymnasts, and Figure Skaters -- Read This November 8, 2007
By Judah
This is a well documented expose of the extremes necessary for Olympic Gold. It should be required reading for figure skaters and gymnasts who pursue this dream. Also for anyone who would be a coach.

Without a coach who recognizes the limits of an athlete's body, she will get hurt, both physically and mentally. The necessity of a coach to push a hopefully Olympian past her limits exists, but apparently the norm in the industry is to push until athletes are used up, burned out, and broken subservient shells.

The one thing I took away from reading this book is that coaches push little girls so hard because their 'career' is essentially ended by puberty. This chews up and screws up potential (and real) superstars.

Documented studies show that more than 4 hours a day of training is counterproductive, but also that the more training an athlete does in his or her lifetime, the better their performance is. Coaches use the latter to justify a ruinous regimen that ends often in injuries for Olympic hopefuls.

If your child has natural talent, the best thing for her is to shoot for a full college scholarship with a healthy diet and no more than 4 hours a day of intensive training and exercise. With bright talent, the full college ride is a sure thing, but the elusive Olympic endorsement is pie in the sky. This book is full of examples of shattered Olympic hopefuls, but has a counterexample of girl with careful parents who turned their child's potential Olympic talent into free college, worth a couple hundred thousand dollars these days.

I have no ties to industry except watching the Olympics on TV, and I learned a lot from reading this book. Recommended.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good expose
I read this book with interest. It told the shocking details of the abuse the athletes of women's gymnastics and ladies' skating suffer at the hands/voices of coaches who only... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Ellie
5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in gymnastics. I have been a gymnastics fan for years. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Jean Wood
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read
Read this years ago and lost the book. Such an insight into what happens in these sports I had to get another copy. Shocking and eye opening.
Published 5 months ago by dean
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible reading.
As a former gymnast, I could not put this book down. Ryan told so many un-told stories. Must read if you are considering pushing your child to the "next level". Read more
Published 8 months ago by Rachel A. Rose
4.0 out of 5 stars dated but important still
Not much has changed since this book was published. With the 2014 women's Olympic figure skating title just days away, don't be surprised if Kim Yuna loses her title to a Russian... Read more
Published 11 months ago by CCRCAR
4.0 out of 5 stars Welcome to the Real World!
Yes, Joan Ryan looks at one side of these sports. However I can tell you from over 20 years experience in the gymnastics (18 of those on the athlete side) there is a good reason... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting perspective, even if one-sided, for us on the spectator...
I have never been athletic, never wanted to be, but like many others, admire the beauty and ability that gymnasts and iceskaters show. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Mary McGreevey
5.0 out of 5 stars Shocking insight into the world of elite gymnastics/figure skating
My professor recommended this book as a highlight to the current issue of abuse in sports. What young girls go through in these sports is nothing short of abuse. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Lauren Billing
5.0 out of 5 stars little girls in pretty boxes
good price and quality.
so 16 more words are required, eh? here are your 16 more words. a e i
Published 22 months ago by Amelia Hupe
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing
Excellent book. A well written expose of the ultra competitive worlds of professional gymnastics and figure skating. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Jules
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