November 13

Senior Year

Senior year. The year that was suppose to be the best year of my life.

It started out like no other, dealing with gymnastics problems that seemed never-ending. Having lost our entire starting lineup to graduated seniors, as Captain, I had the responsibility of recruiting freshmen to bolster our team.

My worry only increased as I began to doubt my coach, who had just opened up her own gym. Attempting to run a business AND coach a team was not going well. My doubt grew when she told me, “the team is not a priority for me this year”.  Imagine having your coach tell you she doesn’t care about you or your team. I couldn’t contain the feelings I felt for her after she told me that. Resentment, sadness and disappointment flowed through me.

I wasn’t going to let this get to me and I especially wasn’t going to let her hurt my team. So while she wasn’t there for the new freshmen, I was. I coached them through new skills and perfecting old ones. By the end of the season they were unrecognizable.  We even improved our team score by seven points by the last meet which is a HUGE increase in gymnastics.

At this point I was not only enjoying our team success but my own individual success as well.   Massachusetts holds an Individual State Championship for high school gymnasts and I qualified to compete for the All-Around title. With the second highest all-around average in the state I was also ranked #2. Unfortunately the girl that was ranked first had an average all-around higher than my highest all-around… only a little intimidating.

However with a strong and confident mindset I was ready to take on this girl.  This was going to be the meet where all the stars finally aligned. I was going to take home the gold.

Three hours of competition went by in a blur. I started on bars (my best event) and executed a solid routine with a stuck landing. I moved on to beam and managed not to fall! Finally I made my way to floor and vault where I again performed some of my best routines.

By the time awards started real nerves set in. I grew excited when they announced I won both Bars and Floor- State Champion for not one event, but two!! Finally, the all-around awards.  I was shaking. I knew I stood a good chance of winning the gold. They announced third and second place. But not my name. They announced first place and…IT WAS ME.

I couldn’t believed it. I stumbled up to the podium with tears in my eyes, looking out for my parents who were crying too because they were so proud of me.  All of my hard work, dedication and perseverance had paid off. I deserved this. I deserved being the 2017 Massachusetts State All-around Champion.

By far, the best part was being able to hug my parents afterwards. Knowing how happy and proud they were of me topped any award I could have gotten. They supported me and stayed by my from the moment this rollercoaster ride with gymnastics started and I could be any luckier.

So I owe them the biggest thanks out there.

And for all the people out there that have read my blog, I want you to know that I didn’t stop there, that I have continued with Penn State Club Gymnastics and am having the time of my life.


October 13

High School Years

Injury. Every gymnasts worst nightmare.

The summer before my freshman year, my long season took its toll. Always plagued by back issues, they became so severe that my sports orthopedic forced me to sit out the season. Months of physical therapy and rest didn’t help. Repeated comeback attempts failed. Finally my doctor confronted me with the fact that with two bulging discs, arthritis in my spine and a pre-stress fracture, he couldn’t recommend that I continue my rigorous practice schedule.

I was devastated. I was being told I had to give up all I had worked and sacrificed for just when I was reaching the top.  

So the decision of my life was on the line. Continue with the Junior Olympic program but risk facing back pain for the rest of my life or drop down to the less competitive High School team and keep my body healthy.

I weighed the pros and cons of each for days.

Our High School Varsity team was a completely different world from what I knew. It demanded less hours, less pressure, but was more team oriented and would allow me to get more involved with my school. On the other hand, JO was what I knew. It gave me my teammates who turned into my life long friends, and my coaches who became my second parents and who I still ask for advice to this day.

In the end though, I had to do what was right for my body. I had to put aside my dream of competing for a D1 team (as college coaches don’t look at high school gymnasts) and joined my town’s High School varsity team as a sophomore.

High school sports was a whole new world. I was able to compete with my high school friends, enjoy pasta parties, bus rides, and team spirit. I no longer had to travel 45 minutes to go to practice and I was home much earlier than the 10pm I was used to. Our practices took place in our very own gym, and although we had to set up and break down the equipment everyday once we got into a rhythm it was quick and easy.

Once we started actually competing my love for high school gymnastics grew even more. I loved hearing my teammates cheer me on during my routines. It alway gave me that extra bit of energy so that I could perform to the best of my abilities.

In fact, to this day,  I can still remember my first high school competition as it took place in the very gym I started my career in (weird!). It’s funny how some things can come full circle like that.

At any rate, I was very proud to contribute to the success of my team. Both my sophomore and junior years we won our League Championships, placed Second at the State Championships and qualified for the New New England Regional Championships.

Little did I know by the end of my junior year that my senior year of competition season would be my most successful. After yet again more change senior year, my accomplishments would definitely make it all worth it…

 

September 27

The Awkward Years

By eighth grade I was at an all time high in my gymnastics career. I walked into the gym almost everyday and relished the smell of the chalk full air that most people would normally turn their nose up to. The carpeted floor felt natural on my bare feet, and my callused hands confirmed that I was working hard.

I grew accustomed to the constant aches and pains my body felt due to the beating it took with twenty-four hours of practice a week. I became a slave to the “ice bucket” having been introduced to it at a young age as my dad was (and still is) a huge supporter of this type of therapy.  

After every practice my dad would fill a big bucket with ice and cold water and make me hold my feet in there for twenty minutes before taking them out.  At first it was torture. Eventually, however, it got to the point where I did this voluntary because it made me feel so much better.

At thirteen years old I had reached Level 9 in the Junior Olympic program, just one level shy of the best of the best. I was a serious competitor at all of the regular season meets so by the time the State and Regional Championships came around, I was ready. I aimed for every Level Nine’s dream and goal: The Eastern National Championships.

At States that year I finished first on bars, earning the title of Massachusetts State Bars Champion and my All-Around score was wellover a 34.000 (the minimum score required to qualify for Regionals). I can still remember the confidence I had going into that meet. I wanted to make it to Eastern Nationals so badly, and qualifying for Regionals was my first step to getting there.

As Regionals was only a few weeks away I worked my butt off in the gym. I never skipped a practice, I never left early or showed up late. I knew what I wanted and nothing was going to get in my way. Only the top seven All-Around scores at Regionals would qualify for Eastern Nationals and I was determined to be as prepared as possible.

The Regional meet was a blur to me. Like most people under pressure I could feel the butterflies in my stomach, and my palms getting sweaty right before I went up to compete on each event. When the meet was over and it was time for awards I was in awe when I placed first in the Region on bars and sixth overall.

The realization hit me;  I was one of seven girls in my age group from Region 6 (Νew England and New York) who would compete at the Level 9Eastern National Championships in Battle Creek, MI.

Eastern’s, was one of the most amazing experiences of my life to date.  I was competing as one of the best gymnasts east of the Mississippi. I finished twelfth overall and although it wasn’t my best meet, that didn’t take anything away from the experience. I was now on the radar of Division 1 coaches. I would move to Level 10 in the Fall.

Like many young athletes who want to make it to the Olympics, my dream had changed from this to competing on a Division 1 college team. This new dream of mine was on its way to becoming a reality.

Unfortunately, the summer before my freshman year, my long season took its toll requiring me to make a life changing decision…

 

September 18

Early Stages

By fourth grade I had already entered a world of serious competition. Club gymnastics was no joke. As part of the Junior Olympic program, or “J.O.” as we like to call it, I was practicing up to sixteen hours a week at ten years old. I had no problem with these hours. I drove my parents crazy asking when I could go to practice. I wanted to be in the gym all the time.

This last year of elementary school however,  was also a time of drastic change. My coach, who had trained me since I was three years old, bought his own gym forty-five minutes away from my house. I had a huge decision to make. I could follow him and make a forty-five minute commute five times a week. Or I could stay at the gym where I had always trained and was only a quick five minute trip from my house.  

As I would later learn, but could not understand as a ten year old, this choice would impact my life more than anything. At the time, however, the decision seemed easy. Of course I would follow my coach.

My parents supported me in my decision, for which I was grateful.  After all they had a huge part in it, too, since they would be doing the long drive to and from practice almost daily as I couldn’t drive myself. The only condition they put on me was that my grades and health could not deteriorate because of my rigorous schedule. If they saw this happening we would reevaluate the decision.

Yet as the years went by my teachers continued to rave to my parents about my time management skills and how well I kept up with my classes. My grades stayed strong. It wasn’t easy having only two hours everyday in between the time I came home from school and the time I had to leave for practice. Four of the five school nights I wouldn’t even get home until 10 pm.

I made it work, however.  This commute taught me many lessons. It taught me the importance of getting things done and not procrastinating. It taught me determination and perseverance so that I never gave up no matter how stressed or tired I got.

I’m extremely grateful for understanding the meaning of tough love. No matter how frustrated my coaches got with me or how hard they had tobe on my teammates and me, I always knew it was only because they wanted us to be the best that we could be.

Through the years I sacrificed birthday parties, sleepovers, and after school playdates so that I could spend time in the gym and focus on my next competition. It was worth it.  I loved competing. I lived for that moment right before I saluted the judges, when my stomach fluttered with butterflies. In this moment, which felt like an eternity but in reality lasted less than a minute, all eyes were on me and stayed on me as I performed my routines.

For the next few years my life held this same routine of sleep, eat, school, practice, compete, repeat. Soon enough though all my hard work was about to pay off. 

 

September 5

Mommy& Me

With a big leap I entered a world of blue. This was my favorite place. My favorite part of my hour long practice. Playing in the foam pit. All around me the blue blocks lay waiting for me to comfortably fall on.

At age 3 there was nothing I looked forward to more than getting to jump in or having my coaches throw me onto the blocks. Some kids dreaded the pit. Since the blocks were bigger than most at this age, it was easy to keep falling deeper and deeper into a place that seemed bottomless. I, however, was unafraid. I was fearless at this age.

Eventually, when it was time, getting out was a difficult task. Every step up and out was harder than the last, as the blocks kept falling on me, until finally, I would feel a pair of warm comforting hands lift me up. I would look up to my mom, always there to help. Grabbing her hand I dragged her from event to event in, what at the time, seemed like the biggest gym in which I had ever practiced gymnastics.

Even at such a young age my favorite event was the bars. With the help of my coaches I would swing back and forth like a monkey, giving my mom a heart attack every time.

I would place my hands deep inside the chalk bucket until they were painted white with the powder. Clapping my hands together I would smile and laugh when the chalk exploded around me. Sometimes I would even give my mom a nice big hug and run away laughing because I had put handprints on her back that she didn’t know about.

Another favorite place of mine was the tumble track. Bouncing up and down I would momentarily feel like I was flying. When it wasn’t my turn I was always impatiently waiting for when I could go up again and show my mom just high how I could jump.

Sometimes I would fall. Back then I didn’t know the risks in falling, either. I didn’t know the true dangers of what I was doing in my little three year old brain. But every time I fell I always got back up. This determination would carry me through my career in gymnastics.

At the end of every practice my fellow classmates and their parents wouldgather around and sit in a circle. All the young girls and boys sitting in the comfort of their parents laps. I dreaded this part. I knew this meant one thing, that practice was over.

Don’t get me wrong I love my mom very much but I was never ready to leave.

My parents and coaches noticed my love and ambition for this sport right away. I was a strong, and, as I said before, fearless toddler who had found a passion in a demanding and time-consuming sport. At such a young age there was no way to tell how big a role gymnastics would play in my life, but as the years started flying by I soon learned all my lessons, values and skills from the sport.

September 5

Brief Introduction

In today’s world, most kids are introduced to a wide range of sports at a very young age. Enter many kitchens and you see the refrigerator covered with pictures of kids in their various athletic uniforms, compliments of the leagues’ “picture days”.  I know from experience that my brother is on ours in his football uniform, baseball uniform and lacrosse uniform.

When you’re young, and don’t know what sports you’re “good” at, or love, you try them all.  This wasn’t the case for me.

When my parents signed me up for my first gymnastics class little did they know that gymnastics was going to be the only sport I ever played. I fell in love with it and never tried anything else after that.

So, in the posts to follow I’m going to explain to you my journey with the sport.

I’ll start with describing my memories from the Mommy & Me classes I started with to when I stared competing for a gym that was forty minutes away from my home. In eighth grade I qualified for Eastern Nationals after lots of hardwork but had a major setback afterwards that changed the course of my career (you’ll have to read to find out what happened).  My life changed yet again as I joined my high school’s gymnastics team my sophomore year. My high school experience culminated in an unbelievably successful senior year where I finally accomplished many long term goals.

I hope you enjoy my blog.