I actually wrote this post last week, but I wasn’t ready to share it with the world yet. It is something very personal for me. It may be a little long, but I couldn’t leave any of it out. Writing for me is often like therapy and it helps me to get things out and to reminisce, so here it goes…
As I sit here to write this morning, I am filled with so many emotions. My heart is hurting a little, and I am not sure how to deal with all of the things I am feeling. Today, my oldest daughter will be participating in her last Junior Olympic gymnastics practice. She has made the decision to walk away from her gymnastics career after all these years. I know that it was a very hard decision for her and one that she was hesitant to share with us, her coaches, and her teammates. We have known for a while that her heart just didn’t seem to be in it anymore. Her body has grown and changed, and injuries and illness have set her back in the last year. When she first admitted to us that she was thinking about walking away, my husband and I both were shocked as she has never wavered in her love and commitment for the sport. We honestly didn’t think she would ever follow through. We thought that she would change her mind. I think that maybe she would have had we not had this long break from real practice. The 2-hour conditioning workouts as a result of the pandemic have not allowed her to do the parts of the sport that she really loves and, unfortunately, resulted in sealing the deal. It breaks my heart that her career ended this way.
My daughter was born 3 weeks early weighing only 4 pounds and 8 ounces. Her small size led to low muscle tone when she was younger. Because of this, she was delayed in a lot of gross motor skills. She was delayed in sitting up, pulling up, and walking. She never really learned to crawl. Instead she learned how to roll to get where she wanted to go. Not long after her first birthday, her pediatrician suggested that we enroll her into a parent and tot gymnastics/activity class as well as have her evaluated for physical therapy as a way to improve her muscle tone and gain some strength. We signed her up for her first class at a place called Rolly Pollies and for the PT evaluation around the same time. Between the time she was evaluated by the physical therapist and the time she was supposed to start actually getting physical therapy, she began pulling up and walking. It was only a matter of weeks and she was on the go and never looked back. I have always atributed it to that gymnastics class. She loved it so much that she wanted to do everything, so she made herself walk and climb. She ended up never having to do physical therapy. Of course, that class at Rolly Pollies was not a real gymnastics class. It was basically just climbing, hanging, jumping, and playing back then, but I really do believe that is when her deep love for the sport began.
When she was two and a half, we moved and left that sweet little gym that started it all. At our new home, we enrolled her in a gymnastics/dance class at The Little Gym. She would do 30 minutes of gymnastics and 30 minutes of tap and ballet all in one class. It became pretty clear early on that dance just wasn’t her thing despite me trying really hard to make her love it. (I was a dancer back in the day.) She would much rather be hanging on the bars and doing summersaults over dance any day. Eventually we stopped the dance and just did an hour of gymnastics a week which she loved. When she was around 4 years old, it became apparent that she had outgrown The Little Gym and really needed a real gymnastics class. That is when we enrolled her in her first class at a real gym. At this point she was still just doing an hour class once a week in the smaller gym upstairs. However, she loved watching the “big girls” downstairs in the big gym and longed to be out there with them. Her dream finally came true when she was 6 years old and we received a letter in the mail saying that she had been chosen to be a part of the gym’s pre-team program. Back in the day the pre-team program was basically level 2 and 3 without the competitions. They just did a little competition at the gym that was more of a showcase of their routines than a real competition. Her love for the sport continued to grow. After two years on the pre-team, she finally made it to the real team. She entered the Junior Olympic sport as a level 3 gymnast. Even then, we had no idea where it would lead her nor any clue as to how our lives would quickly revolve around the sport. She suddenly went from that one hour a week recreational class to 16 hours a week of training, and finally got to compete in her very first competition. The rest is history.
So many people tried to talk her out of the sport over the years because it ruled her life, but she never thought about quitting once until now. That is how much she loved it. She was committed. Over the years, she has trained under 3 different gymnastics programs due to our many moves, spent up to 25 hours a week at practice, learned from several different coaches and coaching styles, traveled all over the country to compete, made countless friends, and moved up to level 8 while training as a level 9 before deciding she was done. I really think that her decision has been harder for me than it has for her. Maybe that is because she had been thinking about it for a while before she told us, and I just wasn’t prepared. Her whole life and identity has been wrapped up in gymnastics, and she has always been known as “the gymnast”. It is hard for me to imagine her as anything else. I don’t want to think about her growing up and moving on. Had I known that the last time I saw her compete was going to be the last time ever, I would have savored that moment so much more. I hate that her last season was cut in half by this stupid virus. I hate that it forced her into the decision to walk away. I hate that her last time with her teammates and coaches was over a dumb computer screen. I loved watching her do the thing she loved more than anything for all these years, and I’m going to miss it and know that she is too. Gymnastics has consumed so much of our life for the last 15 years. It’s hard to imagine life without it. I love all that this sport has taught her and the experiences she has had because it has made her into the person that she is today.
Despite how sad this decision makes me, I am also more proud of her than I have ever been. I know it was not easy for her, and it took courage to come to this decision. I am also proud of her for stepping way out of her comfort zone and making the decision to try a new sport. To start something new as a 16-year-old isn’t easy, but she has made the decision to join her sister in the cheer world. I think she chose it because it gives her the best of both worlds. She gets the thrill and excitement of something new, but still gets to tumble and use some of her gymnastic skills and strength. She still plans to compete on her high school gymnastics team so she isn’t fully giving up the sport, but it will never be the same.
As this chapter of her life comes to an end, I want to take the opportunity to thank all of the people in the world of gymnastics that have had such an important impact on her life, as well as ours. To all of her coaches, thank you for devoting your time and energy into her and helping to raise her. The lessons you have all taught her will carry her through many years to come. To my fellow gym moms, I don’t know how I would have gotten through some of those years without you. Thank you for keeping me sane during all those beam routines and new skills. To all of her fellow gymnasts, thank you for supporting her, cheering her own, and lifting her up during those tough practices. I know she will cherish your friendships for life. I pray that you will all remain a part of our lives in the coming years as we embark on our new journey.
While this may be the sad end of one chapter, we are starting to look forward to whatever this new chapter holds. Stay tuned…
Anchored in New Beginnings,