Welcome to the Team
My daughter was 7 years old when she begged me to take her first gymnastics class. She had been doing dance for four years and we did summer soccer, but gymnastics was something that I had zero experience with. After the first class she was hooked, and after the 8 week session was coming to a close, her coach approached me and asked if I would mind if she was evaluated by the team coach. The team coach pulled her aside at the next class and afterwards came to me and said they would love her to join their pre-competitive team.
I admit my first thought was “They would love more money,” but after talking to my husband and daughter, we all agreed to give it a try. She did pre-team and shortly after asked to join the competitive team as a level 3 compulsory gymnast. I still had no idea what being on team meant, as far as commitment, cost, time and physical and mental demands of the sport on the entire family.
It Costs How Much?
Wait, it costs how much? I get this question from so many people when I say something about the financial aspects of gymnastics. For most team sports you pay a monthly rate, and in that rate fees for uniforms and gear may or may not be included. For us it breaks down to an annual fee for USAG, monthly class fees, a fee for each meet we enter (about 5 a season), every 2 years is new attire (leotard, warm up leggings, team jacket, and backpack), and travel expenses are our own.
This summer she also went to the LSU Flying Tiger Gymnastics Camp, which was a great experience for her. The LSU gymnastics team and coaches worked with the gymnasts on new skills, drills, motivation, team building, and most of all had fun. Camps and private lessons are all extras and not required for team. We’ve utilized private lessons when she has needed some extra time on an event or skill. Most of all, I am not just paying for a sport; this sport has taught my daughter life skills and lessons. Because of gymnastics, she has learned how to win, how to lose, how to support others, along with the importance of focus, time management, respect, and that shortcuts don’t cut it. We have made friends that turn into family; we’ve been blessed with coaches that have been amazing teachers and loved my daughter like their own. Taking all these things in account, the money is well spent.
It’s a Family Commitment
My daughter spends approximately 22 hours a week in the gym during the school year and close to 25 during the summer. This year she is in high school and she was able to register for off campus PE, meaning that her time at gym earns her the credits towards graduation. To compete, attendance is mandatory unless you are sick or injured, and in the case of an injury, most often you are encouraged to come to practice and do what a doctor clears you for.
My younger child has spent many hours in the waiting area of the gym and in the car traveling to gym meets. When he was little he would be just as excited for meets as my daughter, because it usually meant a new Lego set to keep him busy during the meet. Now it means extra v-bucks for Fortnite since he doesn’t come to the meets much anymore. My husband tries to attend local meets and the state meet, but we have decided as a family that the expense for the four of us to all travel to all the meets is too much. On average we have 2-3 meets out of state – we drive to all of them and usually stay in hotels. My daughter and I have become quite the road tripping pair.
When it comes down to it, we have all adapted to this crazy life over the years. We are thankful for grandparents who have offered to pay for practice and helped with meet fees, the family members who have tagged along with us to meets, friends that let us spend weekends at their homes, and gym family dinners. It is a lot of time, but again it is totally worth it.
Not Just Physical Strength
Gymnasts are strong, their physiques are very recognizable, but more than the physical strength required for this sport, is mental strength. No one prepared me for how much emotion goes into gymnastics, for not just my daughter, but for my husband and I as well. My daughter has always performed well, she is focused and poised, she works hard for every skill she acquires, and because of her passion and dedication when she has a performance that doesn’t meet her personal expectations, it hits hard. The one thing I told her when she decided to be on the team was when it isn’t fun anymore, she can be done.
This past season was the most mentally draining season yet. Almost every practice ended in tears, frustrations with mental blocks and not always feeling valued or supported by her coaches. All of these factors destroyed her joy of the sport. As a parent, it is heartbreaking when you can’t fix what’s wrong, I offered emotional support and tried to remind her that that this was all part of the journey. When she was at her lowest point, I came across a video of Katelyn Ohashi and how she had lost and then rediscovered her joy of the sport. I sent it to my daughter and she said it spoke to her, and she was determined to find that joy again. She pushed forward and even through she was feeling broken, she put her all into her practice and her performances, as she always does. She did have an amazing season; on the events she was allowed to compete, she scored well and performed beautifully. However after her last meet of level 7, she said she was done. My heart broke, because I knew she still loved gymnastics, but I had told her that when she said the word, we were done. She had fulfilled her commitment to the team and that was my only request.
A New Chapter
Her retirement lasted all of 15 days. She still loved her sport, she had the passion and the skills, so we decided to try a different gym. When I picked her up from her trial class she was smiling and ready for a new chapter. She still has rough days, but she is in a much better place mentally than she was last year at this time. She is looking forward to this season, saying it is her comeback year, but mostly she has rediscovered her joy of gymnastics and I can’t wait to she how far she takes it.
“What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?” ~ Erin Hanson