Archive for the 'Gymfinity' Category

13
Jun
17

My addressing the graduating class of 2017.

Every year we get hit by “Graduation Season”. Kids leaving middle or high school and going on to college or, kids leaving college and stepping out into the big ol’ world. I have been to a few graduation ceremonies and I always think how encouraging it is to have such amazing speakers talking to these transitioning kids at the point where they are ready for their next chapter of life. One day”, I joke with my friends, some important school will call me to do the speech and they will give me a Honorary Degree, I’ll get to keep that weird floppy hat. But to-date no school has called so I have resigned to printing my speech here. Enjoy.

Congratulations on reaching a lifetime milestone. Your work from this point will not beJ Orkowski addresses class of 2017 harder or easier, just different, and likely more fun. In any case, always know that there are friends around you that will share the burdens and friends who will be there to help celebrate the victories. There is always someone who can guide you, advise you, and support you. Everyday and every way. Usually you call them Mom or Dad, but today I would like to be your adviser and offer you this advice.

As you move into this next phase of life there 10 quick but important bits of advice that will make your efforts easier if you understand them, or more difficult if you ignore them.

First ground rule: your life is made up of your own perceptions. How you choose to perceive the world is how the world is. If it seems like a constant battle, you have waged that war. If it seems like bliss, it is you that has calmed those raging seas. Your experience through life will be only as difficult as you want to make it. Choose to see things as controllable.

Next; life might seem to be broken and falling apart, but as a friend of mine says “Maybe life is falling together.” As I mentioned perception before, it is on you to see the world as under your control and direct the construction or destruction of all around you. You are stepping into a very powerful position because the future is dependent on what you make it. Trust that life will turn out as it is supposed to, it’s a process.

  1. Live your days enjoying the beauty and complexity of our world. Don’t waste your energy and time complaining about what could have, should have, or might have been. You have beautiful opportunities all around you, act on them, and live your adventure. Remember that only you can assign meaning to things. If they are important to you, care for them, nurture them and make them important to the world.

Next rule: you can handle more than you think that you are capable. People are asked how they made it through after suffering a mishap or set-back. And many reply that they just kept on living. Personal, financial, emotional, professional setbacks will happen and you will weather them and survive because you have strength that even you mom didn’t know you had.

  1. That being said; know that it is impossible to be angry and grateful at the same time. One cannot be appreciative and feel deep sorrow simultaneously. So look for things to be grateful for. Make it a habit to appreciate life as it happens for you.

Ground rule number 6: Be happy you are having problems. The only people who don’t have problems are the ones who don’t do anything. If you are having difficulties it is because you are living in forward motion. Your adventure will always have ups and downs. Appreciating the downs makes the ups just that more glorious.

  1. And again, know that your attitude should be based on how you want the world, how you want life, to be. Don’t set your attitude by what other have handed you. That only leads to being frustrated and unhappy. The way you grow from loss or defeat is to keep your attitude based on learning and progress. No one every grew from being stagnant and defeated.
  2. When other people feed you their opinions, allow them to feed your mind not starve your spirit. Learn from what people say, do, and feel. But speak your own words, think your own thoughts, and feel your own heart. You are what matters in your world to be sure, but know that giving of yourself will not only make your world a better place, but will change the life of so many others as well. Giving to others is an amazing feeling, selfishly set out to give yourself that joy as much as possible.
  3. Always do what is right by your own principles. Doing the right thing will give you strength and allow you to share your strength with others. Doing things, the easy way may make life smoother right now, but easy and right are often very different choices. Choose the long term right over the short-term simple.

And lastly, feel free to break a few rules, shoot the sacred cows, challenge traditions. The world needs new thinking, thinking from outside the box, from outside the comfort zone. Do not fear doing things differently. Everything that is done today was once thought surely insane years ago.

So there are 10 ground rules to move forward with healthy perspective and guarantee your own success:

  1. Choose to see life as controllable
  2. Trust that life will turn out as it’s supposed to, though it might need a few tweaks.
  3. If things are important to you, give them everything you have, love, nurture, and protect them with every part of your being.
  4. You can and will win at this game called life, even when you seem to be losing, remember that you have strength that even you mom didn’t know you had.
  5. Create the habit to appreciate life as it happens for you. Being appreciative allows us to enjoy every day.
  6. Problems just indicate that you are working your way to the top. People without problems are the ones happy to stay on the bottom.
  7. Keep your attitude positive. Other people can affect your life only as much as you allow them.
  8. Be advised by other people and things but think your own thoughts and be your own person. Develop a set of rules and principle that will never falter.
  9. Make decisions based on what is right for the longest time for the most people. Don’t decide to do it the easy way or the quickest way, that almost always turns out badly.
  10. And lastly, don’t be afraid to be different. The only people who have changed the world are the ones who refused to think like everyone else.

No go forth, go on to your next adventure, live you dream, build your world, and always remember that you will not adventure alone. Share your life with friends, family, and the world. Now show us all what you can do.

30
May
17

Being Reasonably Fit

Being fit as a trend or short term is not healthy, in fact it’s just the opposite. We have to know the reason we maintain a healthy lifestyle. We should be able to have healthy pursuits in a way that our happiness is not impeded. This is exactly why “getting healthy” as a new year’s resolution never works; we obsessively push ourselves to be unhappy out of guilt and shame until we just give up and validate our poor self-image. Sounds odd for me to say, but sometimes chasing a healthy lifestyle is not what people need.

To clarify, it’s the chasing, the never satisfied, pursuit of being fit that is the problem. Fitness, like all things, needs to be balanced with being happy and living a satisfied life.

I try to stay healthy. I run a few days a week and as a former competitive athlete I sign up for a few races each season, just to add meaning to my exercise. But there are some people who go too far. Training 7 days a week, obsession with calorie free, carb free, flavor free food (that always seem to be posted in food photos online) that seems to add salt to the wound, but not really because the diet is also salt free. Geesh.

The right motivation

landscape-1445011678-rbk100115fitbitessay-002I have a friend that posts every run on social media. I always felt that social media was great for staying in touch with friends you don’t see every day, but having to review the training plan for old college pals seems weird. I’ll see him face to face in the future and we’ll talk, he’ll say, I saw what you’ve been up to online, and I’ll say, I see you can do an 8-minute mile. Perfect, all caught up. I often wonder if he, or countless others would continue working out if they couldn’t post a “Look-at-me” on Facebook. I feel that it’s like the gymnasts I train doing the sport just to hear applause at meets. The focus in fitness needs to be the same as the focus in the gym; pushing your own potential and maintaining a healthy and highly functional body.

Information vs. Obsession

I have been around label readers, calorie counters, sodium intake monitors, and fat analyzers before and I believe that sometimes it is valuable and necessary to compare products to make good decisions. I commend people, like my wife, who take the time to look and read before deciding. Our FDA has done a good job of requiring the labeling of ingredients and nutrition information on products even though most people don’t read it. However, though I commend those people who do make decisions based on that information, I also believe that, for some, it can go too far. Reading everything on the label, only choosing based off a particular quality often leaves out an important factor…. taste. I have long been a follower of the middle path, leaning toward neither extreme. Though I look at labels when comparing types of butter, I won’t avoid butter because it’s “unhealthy”. It’s also delicious and though I don’t slather it on everything-Paula Dean style- I do occasionally like to cook with it.  Choices.

There is more to life than working out

I’ve been around people who only seem to have conversations about their workouts and I can tell you, it’s boring. I’m even in the workout business, and I find it boring. There is so much that people can share that make conversations enjoyable, why stick to only one topic. It’s likely due to one of 2 reasons. Option 1; they are obsessed. Every waking thought is a delusional fear about how they will die instantly if they do not push maximal training, run faster and further, lift more weight and more times, take another boot camp or spin class, and even eliminate anything enjoyable from their diet. That type of obsession is not only potentially harmful but often really tedious to your friends who just wanted to order a pizza and watch a movie.

Option 2: they are insecure about their body or their training and they want you to validate that they are OK or that they look good. I make it a point to never comment on either thing. The closest they get from me is “Well, how are you feeling?”

Walking the walk

If we want to help other people feel healthy, and don’t get me wrong, that is one of my industry’s driving forces, then we need to lead by example. We need to walk the walk of the talk we talk. Being obsessed or shoving diet choices down other people’s throats will cause them to rear back from health rather than embracing it. Not to mention it makes our lives less enjoyable to be unable to occasionally have a treat without guilt. Your body doesn’t implode if you have a cheat day, or even a cheat week. If you have clear and precise thoughts on what is healthy and what is not, then your diet can be made on choices and smart thinking not binge, purge, and self-hatred. Diets in moderation allow a healthy lifestyle and an enjoyable life.

If you can discern between staying fit and obsessively working out, then you will not only feel and look great but others will see you as the result of healthy pursuits rather than the poster child for crazy obsessive fitness.

24
May
17

Lessons from a ghostly guide

This year the team traveled to New Orleans for the Jazz Invite. It was a great meet, and a lot of fun. But one of the highlights for me was the “Ghost Tour” we took through downtown New Orleans. I went with a few team girls, their parents, and some strangers on a walking tour of the French Quarter and areas outside the Quarter.

Our guide was a long haired, trench coat wearing Cajun. He spoke English but would occasionally spout out a word in French/Creole and then admonish us with a look of disdain for not understanding . As we walked he spoke of the city’s rich history from slave trading to torture, from heroic battles to voodoo rituals. It was creepy, at times, but even more, it was fascinating. As he spoke he would beg us to understand “his city” and it’s growing pains. He would stare into the eyes of one of the group as he spoke, and underline his comments with “Do you see?”  He was weird and creepy, but we were so

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Here I am, freaked out,  in the seance room of a ghostly hotel.

engaged all through the tour that the time seemed to pass too soon.  In fact, the next day (during some free time) I went back to a few of the sites on my own, in the safe light of day, to see more of the historic area. But my favorite part was that night, when the tour was over, about 11 pm. The group dispersed. All but the Gymfinity portion of the tour had gone on to experience the nightlife of the Quarter. Our guide stayed and answered questions and followed up with us until it was just too late to be out. His responses covered architecture, history, and of course, the paranormal. But as we reached the end of the night, he made one more comment to our girls. I, for one, felt that his closure was worth the full price of admission.

He told the girls that they needed to understand that each one of them was their Great Great GrandMama’s dream. Those women, from so many generations ago, dreamed of a day when their offspring would be allowed the strength and freedom to become the people that they wanted to be. A world, or a time, when those future girls could live out their lives however they wished. He explained that today’s generation of young women have more opportunities than any generation that went before them, and he wanted to be sure that their for-bearers efforts were not delivered in vane.

He asked them if they were good in school? He told them that their ancestors would be ashamed of them if they didn’t use the tools they are given to make their lives extraordinary. The past generations could only imagine, in their wildest dreams, the day when a young woman would be allowed to challenge the world unfettered and unencumbered by the belief that she was incapable simply because of her gender. He stared into their eyes and asked if they saw that these old women worked, sweat, and bled for these girl’s ability to live that once only dreamed of life. He asked them if they wanted to make their Great Great GrandMama’s dreams come true. If they wanted to make those long-gone women proud of them. He wanted to know if they thought that what they were doing would allow those generations to feel that their own lives were validated. He explained that by living the embodiment of their grand-generation’s dreams that they would allow those spirits to rest. Were they willing to live their lives in a way that would allow that?

I had 5 team girls there, from age 10 to 17, and each one stood with their jaws clenched, their arms tight, and their spine strong and tall. Their posture answered his questions; Yes, they saw it. They knew that their lives, like all of us, are the embodiment of our ancestors dreams.

What a beautiful message to these young women and what a great end to the night, and some of the best ghost stories I have ever heard. That wild, weird, trench coat wearing Cajun, hit a nerve with each of us. My girls went home knowing that they had dreams to live up to, and not only their own. Powerful.

I love when life places people, in unexpected places, to teach us lessons. Page back through these posts to read about the time I got a dose of reality from meeting Picasso in, of all places, San Jose California. (page down from here). https://gymfinity.wordpress.com/page/10/

16
May
17

Things that make us live longer, or at least live easier.

I was visiting a friend and we were talking about ‘the good ol’ days. We got there because I was actually feeling a little under the weather and he advised me to take some cold medicine even if it’s not a full blown cold. I told him that I don’t take medicine and never really believed in it. I explained that in the  ‘good ol’ days” people didn’t take cold meds for sniffles and so neither will I. He answered “Yeah, but they also had half the life expectancy we do.” So I started thinking about all of the amazing advances that have been made just during my lifetime and how it was when I was younger.

My youngest son once asked me if there was electricity when I was a kid, (no that’s not funny), and I am not saying that life was so much harder when I was young, but yes we did have electricity and maybe it just seemed harder because we had to do more to make things happen. I don’t think that my kids, and I’ll speak just for me, really understand how nice things are now.

Portable Video Games

Don’t get me started on the old hand held football game that was just a collection of red

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I always wanted one of these. 

lights to represent payers on the field. That was back when I was in high school, so probably before all of you. But it wasn’t long ago that the Game Boy from Nintendo was the coolest invention around. Now those old Nintendo games pale in comparison to what a person has access to on their phone.

Streaming Movies

I got rid of my cable subscription at home because there was so much available online. If I think of a movie I can find it online and start watching it in about 2 minutes. When I was first on my own I thought I was such a big shot when I bought a VHS player. I rented movies like it was my job but sometimes the movie was terrible. Of course you watched it anyway because it took you 20 minutes to drive to Blockbuster and a half an hour to find an interesting movie that was in stock. After all that you better believe I would sit through even the worst selection, like Joe Vs. The Volcano. Ick.  Cleaning out the store room at the gym I came across a box of over 150 tapes of meets that were on TV; Olympics, Nationals, college meets, etc. I had to confront the reality that after saving them all for so long, I would never watch them again. Too much of a pain in the neck.

Pay Phones

I remember when there were only a few people who had mobile phones. The rest of us used pay phones. I saw a pay phone while I was travelling this year, and I thought “Oh, look at that, how cute.” But in reality, they were terrible, usually broken, and germ laden, not to mention always feeling like a pay phone was a typical murder scene in movies (that always freaked me out). Today we all have immediate access to a phone. Hands free, voice dialing, web access, with a built in camera. This is real science fiction stuff, or at least my mom’s generation never thought this would ever be a reality. Cell phones are probably one of the biggest advances in tech…. ever, and don’t even start me on the GPS features.

GPS

In high school, I took a map making class and we actually had a lesson on how to fold them. I remember driving on vacations and having to decipher the map while the wind blew in the windows of the car and my mom would be asking “right or left up here?” Now our phones or cars tell us turn by turn and it’s so much harder to get lost. Don’t get me wrong sometimes they glitch out, but for the most part they are pretty helpful. Mine even tells me when there is a speed trap, road construction, stalled cars, and warns me when I go over the speed limit. OK, that part is not helpful.

Dealing with hotels and airlines directly

There are so many web based services that allow us to book hotels, rent cars, and buy airline tickets. I remember when planning a trip took a few hours to organize travel and lodging for meets. Now I can do all three things in about 15 minutes. Sometimes it is not as easy as dealing directly with the hotel or airline, but it is quicker. I recently had to book 3 separate travel plans for one hotel stay because the online app had my days mixed up. It may be easier at times but I still contend that it’s better to talk to a real person.

Playlists

downloadI had Walkmans, Discmans, and even a boom box when I was younger. I could tote around the player and maybe 2-3 tapes or discs at a time. Today I have about 3000 songs on my tablet, and on my phone I have 2 services that play anything I want to hear, whenever I want to hear it.  I don’t have to carry around spare batteries (my boom box took 8 D cells) anymore and my selection is so much more accessible. Win for the music fans!

I haven’t mentioned anything that we haven’t all seen on about 50 online “Do You Remember When?” lists on Facebook, but it is sometime fun to think about. We take so many of the advances for granted, but our children can’t even take them for granted because they have no frame of reference. Yes, we now take sniffle medicine but we are also inundated with suggestions for our restless legs and dry eyes. I don’t remember the suffering of the dry eyed-shaky leg masses that forced those advances but I will give in and say that advances have definitely made life easier for all of us. I will also argue that there are a lot of “advances” that don’t help us live longer, they just make it seem longer.

02
May
17

Advice to the new Gymfinity parent

Way back many years ago, when the world found out that Steph and I were expecting our first baby, people stepped up to advise us. People who had kids and had already done the baby thing made themselves available for Steph and I who were feeling pretty anxious about being parents.  “Sleep when they sleep, sometimes let them cry, don’t give him potato chips…..J”, and other nuggets of advice really helped us out.  In that spirit, I wanted to offer some advice to parents that might be considering joining the program at Gymfinity.  I am a parent, and I get the parenting concerns. My kids have been in our program and in other sports too, I have seen the best and the worst of kids activity options. I am a coach too, I have answered many questions and concerns over the years, so I feel particularly qualified to offer a few “remembers” to you here. So here are 10 things you should know about your time at  Gymfinity.

  1. Remember that coaches are people too.

We work for you and we have goals and aspirations for your kids just like you do. We have knowledge of skill and a basic understanding of child psychology, but we are human. There will be times when we say something that may be misconstrued, but we are not mean people. We might forget to return a call, that doesn’t mean we don’t like you or your child. We might ask your child to work hard, that doesn’t mean we don’t understand that they are human too and sometimes get frustrated or tired.

  1. Remember that this is for your child’s development

Our program naturally provides skill and confidence, but we also have the goal of teaching kids to think. Analytically, like why do I lose balance when I wave my arms? Critically, like I know that I can do it but I want a mat under the beam too. And independently, like asking for consideration like a mat or permission to try a new and different skill. We want them to be able to not only do gymnastics but to understand gymnastics and how to think things through. Gymnastics is a great vehicle for understanding many broader concepts outside the skills they are taught.

  1. Remember that coaches very rarely bite

We know that some kids are shy, but we need them to communicate with us and share their fears, goals, and concerns. When we better understand your child, we can better serve them. Shy works for a 6-year-old, on an 8-year-old it can be tolerable, but after that we need kids to speak up for themselves. This is a goal for us, to have every child in our program be able to speak their mind.

  1. Remember that we really do like your kid

There will sometimes be occasions when we tell your child that they are doing something wrong. There will be times when they may be corrected and they feel like we picking on them when we make corrections. We are not. Once we get to know a kid we generally like them, that’s why we are in this business. Our job is to be critical and to make corrections, sometimes it may make your child feel deflated. Through correcting and applied effort, together, we will get your child to feel great about their outcome. It may take a while, and it will require patience on all sides.

  1. Remember that we are striving to surpass your expectations

Our staff is background checked, safety trained, and under constant supervision. Every one of us has a required amount of continuing training credits that we must fulfill each year to stay on staff. We travel to seminars, clinics, and conventions to learn to be the best we can. We bring in national and international trainers in our industry to teach us to be better teachers. We will never stop trying to be better than we are right now, but if we don’t live up to our reputation or your expectations we will gladly help you pack and move to another program.

  1. Remember that Gymnastics is not the world.

It’s close, but c’mon. In the end, it’s a game. It’s a sport that you play for as long as you can and you hope it leads to good things while having an amazing time. If your child struggles with a skill, or they have a rough performance it does not diminish their effort. The game has ups and downs, like life, and sometimes it makes us smile, sometimes it makes us cry. These are both OK. Don’t value your child on how well they compare to anyone else, nobody is like your child. They are wonderful, warts and all. Just know that they may be great at this. They may not.

  1. Remember that Gymnastics can be the world.

When your child is in a sport like gymnastics, it can feel like it’s everything to them. Some of our kids go on to do college gymnastics and some become coaches too. When I was a young gymnast it was how I identified myself. It was why I didn’t party in school. It was why I did my homework. It was what I wanted to do my whole life. If my mom would have told me when I was younger that it was not important, I think I would have been crushed, or in the least, resented her for saying it. Should they choose this sport, let them love it.

  1. Remember that you hired us to do this.

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    We’re here to help

You hired us to provide your child with something. Some want their kids to develop confidence, some want their kids to be more coordinated, some want their kids to make friends in a positive place with good fun and fit objectives. Let us do that for you. This is what we know. We’ve been in this business for many years (I started coaching before some of the parents that bring their kids here were born). You came in, saw the program, met us and tried us on. Be sure you let us do what you expected us to do. Sometimes it’s hard to let go, but trust us. It will be worth it.

  1. Yes, we know your child is special.

Every child has the right to feel special. But when we have a group of children in a class, we try to make every child feel loved and appreciated. No one is entitled to be special-er than anyone else. Part of the process of growing up is sometimes taking a backseat to someone else on occasion. Everyone will get their turn in the front seat. It’s OK. Re-read number 4.

  1. Remember that even honeymoons end.

When a child starts a new program, they usually have a great time for the first few weeks running on the novelty alone. The gym is great, the teacher is awesome, the class is their favorite thing ever! But then the novelty wears off. It’s still a great class but they may not seem as excited. This is pretty typical. There are stages to their involvement, the first is the honeymoon, and everything is amazing. The second can be a slow down, motivation is lessened and they seem to have lost a little interest. Kids may seem to lose some of the passion when they are getting ready to come to class, but they do fine once they’re here. This is a time when your encouragement and support is needed to deliver a little bump to get to Stage 3. The third phase is a renewed interest and an acceptance that this is THEIR class and they are now a part of a bigger program. They feel at home and their renewed efforts start to produce skills and smiles. It’s phases one and three when they are doing cartwheels all over the house. The only time cartwheels stop is phase 2 and when they leave for college (sometimes not even then).

It’s often a new experience and it takes some getting used to. But thankfully there are veterans around who can offer advice and guidance on this journey. Many of the parents of kids in your child’s class started out with questions too, it’s OK to talk to them. And, as always, feel free to ask us, we are always available for you.

18
Apr
17

How we do things here.

A few weeks ago I was having a discussion with my team kids. We do a Word of the Week that focuses on character and motivation and the word was “Role Model”. I explained that it wasn’t the words that were important, it was the concept. The concept that, good or bad, other people are observing us and we are showing them what WE are like. I explained to the girls about a study that was done involving monkeys and I actually wrote about it in a prior post about 5 years ago. Here is a clip from that post:

The first is a study of monkeys placed in a cage with a set of stairs. If any monkey stepped on the top stair the entire floor surface was given an electrical shock (minor, but uncomfortable). The monkeys started to think communally and punish any other monkey who attempted to climb the stairs, even if they did not reach the top. The offending chimp was pulled to the ground and physically punished.  When some of the chimps were replaced, the remaining monkeys were quick to “teach” the new inmates about the repercussions of the top stair. Over time the trigger was deactivated. Still no one was allowed to reach the top step. When all of the original monkeys were rotated out, the beatings still continued because the remaining monkeys, who had learned the lesson from other monkeys though never experienced the shock personally, felt compelled to teach the new simians.

The study demonstrates that culture begets culture. It shows how we have no problem teaching the new kids, or new monkeys for that matter, that this is how we do things here.

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Level 8’s, February 2017, New Orleans Jazz Invite.

I explained to the team how we present ourselves matters very much. When younger kids in classes look to the top-level kids; they are evaluating how it looks to be a team member, a high level, or even how to be a teenager. I asked them how many times they said hello to a class kid, or how many times they watched a younger gymnast and commented on their effort or their skill. I explained how much impact it would have on a little gymnast to be recognized for trying, by someone like them. I asked them if they knew how many kids ask us if, in our pro shop, they can get leotards like “the big girls” wear. What would it mean to compliment an up-and-comer on their new leo? I asked them if they remembered when they would play gymnastics at home and they got to be a team girl for a day. They remembered because it wasn’t that long ago that their role models were on the team, and they were just starting out. It was only a few years back when they dreamed of being in This group.

We talked about what they show the other kids in the gym when they have a tantrum, or when they cry because the training is sometimes hard. Is this how we do things here? And we talked about how they joke with, and support each other as team mates, how they cheer when one gets a new skill, or how they get loud when pumping up a team mate to “go for it”. Is that how we do things here?

The gist of the conversation is that everyone is being watched and evaluated every minute. Every one of them is teaching new generations how to behave and what to expect as they progress. Every one of them is showing our parents in the lobby that this is the program that they have their kids in, good or bad.

Now, I can honestly say that I have never been more proud of our team. They get it. They know they are evaluated by class kids, parents, and young team kids too. They represent themselves, their families, their team, and their gym with pride. They are not only great gymnasts but they show everyone that they are great people as well. After all, that is how we do things here.

04
Apr
17

Can you share in the feeling?

Meet season is ending up and it always leaves me pensive. Did we do ok? Could we do better? Should I have done more of this? Less of that? But one thing I am thinking this year is about how people, in general, often don’t get gymnastics, or maybe it’s that they don’t get gymnasts.

I think it’s difficult to appreciate what some of these kids (after all, they are still children) go through to be able to do this sport, let alone do it as well as they do. People who see gymnastics often are amazed at the young girls who flip and fly, defyin

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Level 9 and 10 Team in St. Paul,  Minnesota, February 2017

g gravity and demonstrating such great strength. But there is another level of appreciation that most people miss.

A lot of the kids in gymnastics live parallel lives with their school and neighborhood peers. Gymnastics kids make many sacrifices. School dances, weekend hangouts, or afterschool clubs often don’t get a lot of gymnast participation because most of it happens on weekends when we compete, or at night when we train. Yes, the small girl doing loopty loo’s and flippy flews is amazing, but does the average gymnastics fan see what they had to do to be able to fly so high?

In the television coverage of the Olympics we don’t see only the sport played or the contest carried out. In the breaks or slower periods the networks do “human interest” pieces; video of the athlete at home, with their family, or maybe the clip of the person training, usually at ungodly early hours or with great strain. They show the human side to let us warm up to the athlete. When we feel closer, like we somehow understand their story, the viewing becomes more fun. We root for the ones we love, the ones who move us, the one’s that we can identify with. I often joke with friends that if everyone had a “human interest reel” that people could see before interacting that the world would be a nicer place, to be sure, but we don’t.

I believe that it is hard to appreciate the beauty, the irony, or the justice of the performance when we don’t have the understanding of what went into arriving at that moment. If we are given the opportunity to see the champion being made, to see the morning training, or the ups and downs of a warm up, we have difficulty in identifying the great value in what we see before us.

As former athletes it may be somewhat easier to identify with what is happening then those who have never done the sport, but there is still often a disconnect. Some of us have experienced the struggle to attain success in a sport, and some have not. Granted, everyone’s journey is different, but there is still something to be felt, a kinship, that makes us care and makes the performances more valuable. We know that they work so hard, overcome such struggle, grow (complete with growing pains), sacrifice, laugh, cry, try again and again. They do homework in the car on the way to the gym, or eat dinner while mom drives. They study while their friends are asleep because practice ended at 9pm. They can tell you about great restaurants in far-away cities because they travel more during their gym years than most people travel in a lifetime. They review the pictures in their phones and rattle off cities they have been to, that other kids may never get to see. They meet friends from other gyms, other cities, and they stay in touch like long lost sisters through their whole lives. They sweat and sometimes their hands bleed from that one extra bar routine they did last night. They love their team mates and offer them support and attention at meets, yet they always find where mom and dad are sitting so they can visually check in from across the gym for a smile or a thumbs up. They tremble; sometimes with anticipation, sometimes from nerve and in either case regardless of the reason, they step up when the judge salutes. When it’s their turn, you won’t see all that, but you will see the performance they trained to show you and the judges.

Maybe with a little peek behind the curtain, you can understand everything that went into making this moment, this opportunity to share their glory with you, the fan. Maybe, with a little empathy, your heart can race, like theirs. Maybe you can feel the importance of this one moment, this  one chance to shine. Even without the video background, maybe you can feel the spirit and the love of what they are about to do. Maybe.




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