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.