Sunday, May 3, 2015

Into the World of Competition

One of the amazing places my youngest, my beautiful and talented daughter, Adah, has
led us to, is into the world of competitive gymnastics.

We didn't set out to be gym parents but as a homeschooling family, we looked for opportunities to have our children interact with others and to be physically active. Play dates worked for quite awhile, especially when my children were toddlers and when my boys were under five. As they grew and their interests broadened, they gravitated toward the learning of more nuanced physical skills. While they still enjoyed and valued unstructured play, they desired the learning of specific skill sets. Developing and incorporating new physical skills requires teaching, training and practice. So we began to supplement the free play with some structured activities.

Organized sports programs.

Community organized sports offered interaction, physical activity and the opportunity to learn specific sports skills. Pursuing all of the above, we have found ourselves involved in organized sports programs with our kids for over a decade now. Our boys have participated in organized baseball, basketball, hockey to varying degrees, as well as in friendly neighborhood pickup games. There are more than a few stories, current and from recent family history about those activities to share. However, the given moment of the season is with my daughter; this post is about the amazing and demanding sport of gymnastics.

The gymnastics pursuit all began as an innocent interest on my part in getting my daughter into an activity of her own, where she could meet others her own age, where she could have an experience of physical activity in a structured class of her own. She had been spending a lot of time at her older brothers' baseball games and though they willingly taught her baseball skills, she showed no interest in following that beaten family path for herself. The most appealing thing about a baseball game to her was the park playground.

The climbing, tumbling fun of the playground, her interest in dance, her desire to meet and share time with other girls and probably significantly, winter, led us to a community tumbling class. I never dreamed that class would lead us into a competitive sport with my youngest. She enjoyed it and she was good at it. One class lead to another, to a training team and an invitation to join a competitive team. Eight years later, we are entrenched.

Gymnastics takes a huge family commitment for a child to participate beyond a class or two and into competition. 

As she achieves new skills and advances through the levels, I marvel at what we and so many families do to support the participation of a child in gymnastics. Despite the fact that it is her sport ( I work really hard to keep my own issues separate and to maintain the resolve that it is her sport, not mine, not ours, hers) it is a sport that requires a huge commitment from those supporting an aspiring gymnast. A gymnast's, almost daily, attendance at practices requires transportation and family scheduling to accommodate. Everyone else in the family has to adjust. We continue to eat dinner as a family regularly, but that meal isn't usually served until 8 pm, after practice. There is a substantial financial commitment that is placed on a gymnast's family that can be a burden when money is tight. (For more on that ask a gymnast's siblings).

The rewards are great as well. 

To watch a child grow and learn from the demands required is inspiring. To achieve the series of movements it takes to perform a seemingly impossible routine on a balance beam, or to finally tumble a dreaded pass across the floor with grace is a truly remarkable feat and a joy to behold. There are benefits that make providing the support behind the scenes worth while. 

The benefits of participation in the sport of gymnastics that I have observed for my now teen daughter include:
  • Excellent physical conditioning, 
  • a strong sense of what she can accomplish,
  • an understanding of what it takes to excel in an elite sport or in any endeavor,  
  • confidence,
  •  positive self and body image,
  • discipline, 
  • strong bonds with teammates and friends who participant in gymnastics,
  • appreciation of the challenges and accomplishments of others, 
  • required healthy eating habits, 
  • an interest in maintaining good health, 
  • an interest in women's sports in general.
So we are off to the next level of competition. I am looking forward to witnessing the culmination of all of the hard work my daughter has put into this endeavor. I am grateful for the opportunity. I am most grateful for the opportunity to have a very special trip together that rewards her dedication and her hard work and will more importantly, allow us to create lasting memories of love and support. 

Good luck, Adah! No matter where you place, you will always be a 10.0 in my heart!