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Look What You Taught Me

Written by: Morgan Lennon

Gymnastics is one of those wonderful sports with a finish line that's always moving and a new hurdle to get past. Much like life, it never gets easier, but it gives kids qualities that they'll carry with them for the rest of their lives.

Here's some important life lessons our gymnasts are learning everyday:

All too often we view failure as the final destination of some ill-fated journey, when in reality it's a useful tool. In life, we are constantly confronted with our inabilities and short comings. If we live in fear of failure, we miss out on some of the most beautiful mistakes that push us to grow. We can only move past our limitations when we allow ourselves the option of failure.

Much like life, gymnastics pushes you out of your comfort zone. It makes your body try things that it has never done before. Each new skill brings on a new series of failures. You'll fall, you'll peel-off, you'll crash, and you'll fail, over and over again. But guess what? It's through that failure that you'll learn what corrections and changes you need to make. It'll teach you how to push through and keep going even when you can't see the finish line.

If your child is a competitive gymnast, there's a good chance that they're a little “gymnastics crazy”. You know what I'm talking about. They cartwheel around the house, talk about their coaches and teammates constantly, and never want to take off their leotard. Gymnastics is their life!

It's incredible to love something so passionately at such a young age. They'll likely carry that love with them for their whole lives, but eventually their bodies will give out. Their interests in other activities will grow and, as they get a bit older, they'll move on from the sport. Here's the thing: that is okay.

Over the course of our lives we'll have many loves, whether that be people, your career, or your childhood home. There comes a time when that love is no longer what’s right for you. For many gymnasts, that transition away from gymnastics can be such a powerful tool in helping them learn about letting things go when the time is right.

When you’re in the gym, working out for the next competition feels like it is the center of your whole world. When you fall or just can’t seem to figure out a skill, you think that you’re never going to get it. Much like viewing a picture with forced perspective, we feel like the thing that is closest to us, is the biggest and most important, but with a little space and time, those things begin to appear a little smaller.

We like to remind our gymnasts that there was a time when they couldn’t do a cartwheel or walk on the beam or even swing on the bars, but they eventually figured it out. Gymnastics allows us the opportunity to prove that challenges are conquerable.

Ask your gymnast what score they got on a specific event at a meet last year? Chances are they won’t be able to tell you without looking it up. Why? Because it wasn't a memory worth keeping. They won’t remember what they scored on each event at a meet, but what they will remember is feeling proud of themselves, overcoming their fears, and doing something even though it was hard. They will remember the sleepovers with their teammates, the silly dances they made up during practice, singing along to their favorite songs on the long car ride to the meet, and most importantly, that they were part of a team. Those things that feel so big in the moment are often the things we forget first.

One of the most profound lessons I’ve ever learned came from a simple statement made during the last stretch in a yoga class. I've always had particularly tight feet, so I dreaded the part of class where we would sit back on our heels with our feet flexed and toes stretched. Every class I would find myself squirming and ending the stretch before the other students. The instructor saw my struggle and very kindly and softly placed her hand on my back and said, “I know that it is uncomfortable, but will you allow yourself to be uncomfortable and just sit in it?” The instructor was talking specifically about the pose in that moment, but I have taken that same phrase and adopted it as a powerful mantra in my life.

In times of struggle, when I feel so uncomfortable and ready to give up, I ask myself: can I just sit in it? Can I let something take the time it takes without rushing? Can I be ok with the fact that something is not perfect, that it doesn’t look or feel the way I think it is supposed to?

From stretching to conditioning to learning new skills, gymnastics teaches us that change involves discomfort. So often in life we run from what makes us uncomfortable, but gymnastics forces us to run towards it.

For our team members, we have a pretty strict rule about not getting upset at a meet because they are disappointed with their score or because they didn’t win a medal. That's not to say that you aren't allowed to feel your feelings and that the second you get in the car you can’t burst into tears, but in that moment, when they are announcing awards or when they applaud a competitor’s success, you have a responsibility to celebrate with them.

You may not have won the meet, but someone else did. You owe it to your competitors to allow them their moment to shine, just as you would expect them to celebrate you, when it's your turn to have your moment. It's important to be present to celebrate the successes of others and not just our own. Other people don't exist to serve as a barometer of our own self-worth. All too often, we only experience things in how they relate to us and forget that in that same moment, someone else is living that situation and having a completely different experience.


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