28
Jun
10

How you know

“One day, you’ll no longer be a person who does gymnastics, and you will become a gymnast.” That is what I tell my team kids when I am challenging them. When I need to see more drive or more concentration. “What are you being right  now?” I’ll ask them. They know the answer I’m looking for.

I recently saw a few video’s on youtube about being a gymnast. Some of it is cute and clever and some of it is hard to hear; but all of it is true. This one, is pretty straight forward.  Using beds as trampolines is pretty accurate. My brothers and I blew the legs off of every bed we ever had as children, but it’s where I learned to spot back flips, so it sort of paid off.  Beating everyone at push ups is true too. Many of our team kids are school record holders, some even get treated badly by boys who can’t accept the fact that this little girl just whooped them at a strength test.  And my favorite, “everyone assumes you are going to the Olympics”. Most non-gymnasts don’t realize the level of competition in our sport and in fact though many gymnasts are awe-inspiring and amazing to watch, only 7 of the 2 million doing gymnastics get to go, and that’s only every 4 years. But I like the sentiment; because every kid should have that type of admiration about “something” at some point in their life. I remember some friends of mine telling me that they thought I had a guaranteed Olympic position when I was about 15. Then they went to a meet (I won Floor and Vault, but was never very good on the other 4 events) and afterwards my friend Mike said “I always thought you were so good but on that horse thing, dude, you suck.” Ahh, friendship.

This video is a little more hardcore.  It, again, is all mostly true, but often hard to look at.  There are a few comments that I would take issue with:

1. The comments about hand rips. When the friction of swinging causes the layers of skin to separate, blister and eventually rip. These are horrible pictures but it does happen. To offer perspective: I will say that a few years ago Brett Favre played a game with a blister on his thumb and the sportscasters hailed him as a “real player” and a “Trooper”. Yet when girls with rips, sometimes more than one get back up and try again, we call them gymnasts. That’s it.

2. Saying that a cast is no reason to slack off makes it sound like solid medical judgement is not indicated. We know when a gymnast is injured that we work with the doctors and therapists to bring the athlete back in a healthy and productive way. That said, we have had girls with injuries (not all suffered in the gym) who still come in and train for strength, flexibility and skills that would be unaffected by the injury. So on the other hand, the work ethic of a gymnast and the love of their sport keeps them from “slacking off.”

3. Not remembering what it’s like to be pain-free, again paints a picture. Some gymnasts do compete with pain, some feel it chronically but the greater percentage do not. Most kids in gymnastics live happy, healthy and pain-free lives as much as kids in other sports. If one considers muscle soreness and the “pain” felt after a good workout (which is what I belive the videographer was going for) than I can concede to that point.  Our team kids are highly trained and incredibly fit, and yet there are days when they still feel sore. That is typical.

I do love watching these types of videos but you have to keep in mind that every gymnast has a different experience. I loved my gym life so much that I made it a career. In fact I went to the wedding of one of my former gymnasts this weekend and in conversations with the both the bride and her father, they both shared how formative of a role gymnastics played in her life. And both were grateful and happy (I was too, what a neat family they are).

So many people can tell you how hard gymnastics is and how much these little children have to endure. But I can tell you that I have never seen a vehicle that grants children the opportunity to grow and succeed and be challenged and learn, and love and laugh and live quite like gymnastics does. So, are you a person that does gymnastics or a gymnast? Either way, it’s not easy, but what a great thing.

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