Gymnastics · Parenting


A lesson from my little gymnast

My daughter devotes 16 hours a week to gymnastics, focused on perfection, hardcore conditioning and relentless skills development. Not a single minute is wasted.

On gym days, I pick her up from school at 2:45 PM and we head west on the Mass Pike. The ride is 45 minutes long, plenty of time for her to multitask in the back seat of my SUV. She starts first with a quick rundown of her day, then a snack that I prepared at home, homework, if she has some, and finally, we listen to music from her iPod, usually Old Dominion or Kelsea Ballerini.  We arrive at the gym a full 30 minutes ahead of her 4 o’clock practice. She likes this time for herself.  She changes into her leo, uses the foam roller on some tight muscles, stretches, chats with her teammates, and gets her game face on.

She’s in the Junior Olympic training program and this is her church. She competes about nine times a year from October to March, or what’s known as “meet season”.  She lives and breathes the sport. We initially signed her up for class after the 2012 Olympics, mostly to keep her from getting hurt by “Hey, Mommy, watch this” tricks around the house.

It was the best decision we made.

Here we are five years later.  She’s worked enormously hard to get to this level where competition is old hat and medals are mundane. She endures achy muscles, bloody and blistered palms, and repetitive execution of techniques like kips, hip circles, handstands, back walkovers and the list goes on.  She has cried, vomited, kicked and screamed, but she always goes back.  With that sweet, toothless smile on her face, she’s always ready to work.

Her goals are simple. Have fun and be better than she was yesterday. If she fails at either, she knows it’s time to either ask for help, or call it a day and try again tomorrow.

One year ago, she initiated discussion to get a new coach and change gyms. She was getting hurt. Her skills weren’t improving and neither were her scores.  I admire her ability to recognize that she deserved better. In particular, I admire that she wasn’t afraid to ask us for it.

She trusted her gut and we followed.

It was a leap of faith that lead to her best competitive season to date. From this her confidence has grown, friendships have blossomed, anxiety has faded, and I can see what kind of woman this little gymnast will become one day.

It’s 7:45 PM now.  She’s covered in chalk and chugging on a water bottle. Practice has just ended and I have dinner waiting in the car. She greets me with a smile. I ask “How was practice?”  She responds,  “It was awesome!” I reply back, “Great, I can’t wait to hear all about it.”



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