They say a picture can paint a thousand words yet, I feel compelled to explain what I see, as a mother, when I look at my child from the stands. It is in these moments that I feel safe and comforted knowing that the coaches I entrust my child to, not only teach and coach the physical skills of the sport of gymnastics, they are also their mentors and guides in life as well. They say it takes a village to raise a child nowadays, I say chose your community well.
The day this photo was taken was competition day and we had an early start. We ran around, got things together, did hair (2 or 3x), grabbed a nutritional breakfast and out the door we went.
Excited, we arrived at the competition and I can sense she feels a bit jittery. She grabs her stuff, checks in and runs off to finish getting ready and meet her team mates.
I find a seat with the other moms as I watch her warm up with her team and I see her smiling. I think to myself “this is going to be a good meet for her, I can feel it.” She glances up to me and I just smile back at her. I think “I can’t believe how big she is getting, and she is mine. I feel so lucky that she gets to call me mom, I am so proud of her.”
As we wait for them to finish up and walk in. She’s looks happy (a little nervous), but happy. The girls walk in and present and off to their first event they go.
Her first event was vault. As I am watching her from above she looked great. Her coach says good job, tells her to pop some more as she walks down to do her next one. Her second vault looked good to me. I excitedly yell “good job” as she smiles and walks away.
After they are done they walk over to the second event. She is on bars now and father away from me. Her coach is warming up with her.
After a few warmups they are ready. She presents and off she goes. From what I can see her low bar looks great and then she does her squat on and jumps to the high bar (good), she keeps going and as she goes for her free hip her hand suddenly slips.
“Oh Noooo!!” I gasp as my heart drops. She swings down and then swings again and completes with her fly away. She lands and just walks away.
I think to myself “She didn’t present to the judges, is she hurt? upset? what is wrong?”.. I see her one coach call her over and wave his finger as he is talking to her. From up above, I am guessing he is not happy she didn’t present to the judges. She walks away in tears.
As I watch closely I can see now… knowing my daughter she is upset with herself. She has done that skill hundreds of times and she slipped in competition, the one time she needed to be perfect. She walks over to her teammates and they put their arms around her and try to cheer her up.
Inside I think “I wish I can go down there and console her, just give her a big hug and tell her it will be ok… I hate to see her so upset.”
Just then I look up only to see her other coach talking to her as they get ready to go on beam. I grab my camera and as I zoom in closer my heart opens. She is wiping her tears. It’s almost as though she is an extension of me. My heart warms as she talks to her, gives her a big hug and my daughter walks away with a semi-smile and gets ready to go on beam. From that moment on, I just smiled and knew she was going to be ok.
Her beam routine was shaky. She had to pull it together as I see and hear her coach encouraging her saying “come one, you can do this”. She finishes and her coach says “good job as she puts her hands on her shoulders, smiles at her and walks away.
She finished that day with a great floor routine and seemed to bounce back although I know (being somewhat of a perfectionist), she was still a bit upset with herself.
It wasn’t her best competition that day. She didn’t make podium on some events but it didn’t matter in the scheme of things. It was just one competition on one day and yet, she learned such a valuable lesson. She learned that mistakes happen and when they do finish and present anyway. Forgot about that one event and move on to finish the competition strong. Of course, you can be disappointed in yourself but just don’t live there.. let it go and move on. This can apply to so many things that happen in our lives.
My favorite picture that day was not of her doing any particular skill or presenting on podium… it was this shot, this moment. The picture that casts a thousand words as I have come to understand and really appreciate what coaches do.
They spend 15+ hours a week with my child. They are molding and teaching her not only gymnastics skills but life lessons such as this one. They know their athletes and see things in them that they or we don’t see. Your athlete may come home angry at them some days for being tough or happy when they compliment and encourage them another.
Either way, I say know who your coaches are. If you do not like the way they are being treated or if it goes against your values then by all means you are not a tree, you can leave and find a better environment for them to grow. But if you have found a coach or gym that your child loves to go to, is growing, learning and is generally happy and your gut tells you its the right place then by all means… TRUST in the process! Because even when they don’t win, they learn.