In 1983 Lynne Ruhl received a phone call that changed her life.
The person on the other end of the phone said, "Ma'am, your 7-year-old daughter is a talented gymnast and we’d like to put her on a gymnastics team." After they mentioned her daughter Becky would be training 11 hours a week instead of 1 hour, Lynne told them she would call them back. She didn’t want anyone having that much impact on Becky unless she knew what was being taught.
So, she visited existing gyms in Cincinnati and observed how they trained their competitive athletes. What she saw broke her heart. She saw all the coaches teaching through ridicule, condemnation and manipulation. The worst case scenario happened in a gym where the competitive girls were working out in the back and the preschoolers were taking classes at the front of the gym. The owner came over the PA system and asked everyone to stop what they were doing and come to the front and form a large circle. He put a competitive child in the center of the circle and instructed everyone to call her names until she would agree to do what he had asked her to do.
Lynne was angry but by the time she got home she had a plan. She went in to her husband and said, "Roger, Becky cannot do gymnastics unless we buy a gym."
He said, "OK!"
Their attorney sent out blind letters to all the gyms in Cincinnati saying "I have a crazy client who wants to buy a gym so if you want to sell, please call me." Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy called. That began a 10-month long process which ended with the purchase of Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy.
Lynne was charged with putting together the philosophy under which the gym would be operated. Roger and the attorney took care of all the purchase details. Lynne quickly realized that she didn’t know the first thing about running a gym, so she called the only person she knew in gymnastics, 19 year old Mary Lee Tracy. Mary Lee had been a wonderful preschool teacher for Becky, so Lynne was very aware of her positive approach in teaching children.
They met weekly to discuss how the gym would be run. Their philosophy was simple: They wanted everyone who stepped through the doors of their gym to feel valued and cared about. If a gymnast left their building an Olympic athlete but did not feel that they cared about her, then they had failed. If she left a mediocre gymnast but knew that they valued her, they had succeeded.
Let me tell you what they were purchasing. Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy in 1983 occupied a 4000 sq. ft. renovated equipment shed. They had to close down operations one week every year when the termites “swarmed”. When they asked their insurance company to insure the equipment, they condemned it instead. Things were not looking good.
Not only did they inherit a toxic facility, they also inherited an extremely toxic culture. Parents would sit in the bleachers at the gym and boo children doing better than their own in practice. They would do that at competitions also. They would start rumors about children in hopes of making their life so miserable that they would quit. It was disgusting.
She and Mary Lee lived one day at a time, intentionally treating each person in their building with respect. As they began to grow, Lynne hired only instructors who agreed with their desire to treat all people well. She knew she could teach them how to teach gymnastics because she had learned that herself, but she could not give them a heart that cared how people were treated.
Even though she only hired people who had a desire to treat others well, when they went out on the floor to coach, they still taught using ridicule, intimidation and manipulation. She wondered what in the world was going on. She knew that wasn’t their desire. Lynne began to realize that it wasn’t a lack of desire … it was a lack of skill. Mary Lee and Lynne had taken courses that taught them how to treat others with respect. She called that company and asked them if she could teach the gym staff the same skills. They were happy for them to do that.
Lynne began training their staff and competitive gymnasts, starting at 4 years of age. The kids were acting so differently at home that parents began to ask for the same training. Eventually, their culture was totally turned around (and they didn’t kick one person out of the gym).
Fast forward 13 years...
In 1996 Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy qualified two gymnasts onto the 1996 Gold Medal Winning Women’s Gymnastics team. Because 2 of the 7 girls on that team were from their gym, Mary Lee Tracy, the owner, was named the Assistant Olympic Coach. Her responsibility as the Assistant Coach was to train the athletes. The Head Olympic Coach was responsible for the news interviews, politics, judges, etc. Because Mary Lee was responsible for training the girls, she was the coach on the podium with the athletes during the actual Olympic event. And because that was her role, NBC put a microphone on her and this woman’s life turned upside down. The world heard for the first time an Olympic level coach treating athletes like people instead of property. They heard her asking for their opinion and valuing what they had to say. The response was enormous.
Within a month of the Olympics ending, 13 of the 50 training elites in this country moved to Cincinnati to train. Coaches from around the world began to come to Cincinnati to see how to coach a different way. They had believed that tearing children down and building them back up as robots was the only way to keep them safe and help them reach their Olympic goals. Now they knew it could be done a better way and they no longer wanted to coach in the toxic way. The culture in the industry of gymnastics was changed forever, and it all started with a humble woman from Fairfield, Ohio, who pulled together a few like-minded, everyday people and focused on a few core, human truths.
When you help change an industry, the business world takes notice and individuals began asking for help with their organization’s culture. Thus Perfect 10 Corporate Cultures was founded with the sole purpose of creating cultures where people are respected and feel valued at work, where employees want to work and customers want to do business!