Parent to Parent: Letter to my gymnastics team
Every day we expect so much of our girls. We expect them to deal with extreme amounts of physical and mental stress at such a young age. We expect them to understand what it means to be a team without a real example. We expect them to self motivate and find encouragement outside of us. This is a lot! This is not football, soccer, or cheerleading. This sport may be a true individual sport but the strength and motivation comes from the team. The only one that truly understands what it really takes is their teammate. At this stage in the game emotional pulls are getting stronger. Friends at school are making them chose between them or gymnastics because they don't understand why practice is more important than hanging out!. This may seem like a no brainer to you and me, but this is huge to a kid.
Gymnast thrive on their "Need to know". The meet is so important to the girls because they need to know how they have been doing. They need to know if all their hard work has paid off. Being judged for the average person is intimidating, stressful and painful but for a gymnast it's life. But what they don't "need to know", is how we rank them. Our children are not 9.8 or 7.6, the routine at that moment was a 9.8 or a 7.6. Telling a child that she ranks 7th to the girl standing next to her in the locker room is not right. It's not easy walking up to the floor with a hundred people watching and two judges dropping their heads every time they mess up. The energy that pushes them is not you or me it's the girls sitting on the sideline waiting for their turn. Leave the judging to the judges.
The team is the team. During practice, the only thing that separates them is the skills. When the girls mess up or fool around during practice, they are all punished. So the only thing this team does together is fail? If the girls felt equal, they would feel comfortable enough to motivate, push and even correct each other. The other day my daughter gave all her teammates goody bags. That moment was priceless to me because for the first time I saw a real connection between teammates. My daughter didn't understand how it worked, but for some reason it made practice better. A granola bar is a small price to pay for a stress free start to practice. These girls are more important to each other than their classmates in school. Unless their classmate is doing "real" gymnastics, they don't get it and they never will. When my daughter forgot her sports glasses for practice, it was an older team member that helped her connect her regular glasses with tape and pre wrap! Our girls need each other!
Friday was very hard for her. She said it seemed like the team was falling apart and EVERYONE was crying. The girls have a meet coming up, where is the strength supposed to come form? Where is the motivation supposed to come from? The coaches are doing their job, but we the parents are not. Dropping off and picking up is not the end of it. So much is going on between that time period. The girls love this sport, so it has to matter more. If they are willing to suffer to do this sport we have to rethink our approach to gymnastics. Yes they are little girls, but they were blessed with the amazing ability to handle adult problems. But even adults have their breaking point. I tell my kid, "You only break down, when your heart is in it"
When I had an issue, i didn't call my sister, I called another gym mom. If we expect our team to survive, we have to be united ourselves. Sitting together but secretly wishing that the other girl falls of the beam, so your kid has a chance at a metal, is just awful. Worrying about how other teams feel about us is fine but sacrificing unity to do it, isn't the way to go. Our team should be the definition of Team, sisterhood and unity. Our team will be seen as the best, not because we sit together, but because of the bond between our girls. How many of you can get through the day with your hand ripped open, muscle pain and sever exhaustion? I had a tough time doing 20 min of Zumba!
Our girls are extraordinary and according to the sports world, "Super Human". So please help me help our girls connect. We can't afford to lose any more team members.
I am doing this for my daughter, because she loves this sport. She is trying to motivate herself, alone. She is trying to push herself, alone. I know my daughter is not the only one who feels this way.
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