Hello gymnastics people! I’m excited to share my thoughts on the blog today. Gymnastics has been a huge part of my life and I’ve learned so much throughout the journey. I grew up in Southern California and was coached by two Chinese coaches with a different cultural mindset. For them, gymnastics was LIFE and the Beijing 2008 Olympics was the only goal in sight for me.At one point, I was training up to 48 hours a week to get there.
After competing my first season as an elite, my family and I moved to Utah where, up until I was 16, I trained, competed, and eventually ended my gymnastics career in the Junior Olympic Level 10.
Post gymnastics, I took up cheerleading (go ahead and judge me gymnastics people) and enjoyed the social aspect of it throughout high school. Because of that, I earned a cheerleading scholarship to the University of Hawaii my Freshman year of college until I transferred to Brigham Young University my Sophomore year. There, I also cheered until I tore my ACL which left my Junior year as a year of recovery from my injury.
That year, for some reason, I longed for my gymnastics days…and that’s when I had the far-fetched idea to try to compete on the BYU Gymnastics Team my senior year. I knew it was a long shot and I was terrified of getting into a leotard again, but I gave it a try. I felt so humiliated when I joined the team knowing that it had been 6 years since I had last trained and had relatively few skills compared to the girls there who were already so talented. I couldn’t imagine what contribution I would have for the team but with a lot of training and conditioning, I was able to compete my senior season! It was even harder than I imagined but entirely worth it.
I’d like to share a few things that I learned on my unconventional gymnastics journey.
1. Set realistic goals.
Parents and coaches: beware of imposing an Olympic dream on a child. This expectation can be damaging. It can leave a feeling of constant failure because the reality is a gymnast will statistically fail to reach this goal. If a gymnast happens to become an Olympian, that is great! But do not be so focused on this goal that the focus on short term goals is lost. Setting realistic goals will lead to success and fulfillment.
2. There is no need to rush through the levels.
Enjoy and succeed in every level! Testing out of levels and moving up the latter as quickly as possible, is meant for a rare breed. Unless you’re trying to make the Olympics (see my first tip), there is no rush. This can result in a burn out.
3. Do not go overboard on practice hours.
More hours do not necessarily mean a better gymnast. What matters is how productive the time is; not how long. I know gymnastics clubs set their own hours for teams, but if a parent or gymnast feels it is too much, speak up! Sometimes less is more!
4. Consider other options before quitting.
First off, gymnastics is not always rainbows and butterflies. Avoid quitting during a rough patch in gymnastics (injuries, moves, regression, coach problems, etc.). You’ll regret not waiting it out to see if you could get through it. If you’ve waited out a rough patch long enough and you still feel burned out, decide what to do from there. There is no point in investing all your time in something you don’t love.
Consider taking a break and leaving the door open to come back to the sport.
It wasn’t until I was a junior in college that I came to the realization there was nothing stopping me from giving gymnastics one last shot. Unfortunately by the time I realized this, I only had one more year of eligibility left for college. I learned that taking a break is a useful option, but not one without consequences. It is a time sensitive matter. Factor in at least a year of training to get back to where you were before you quit. It is not easy, but it’s something worth considering.
5. Don’t dwell on the negatives.
Sterling W. Sill said, “Hang on the walls of your mind the memory of your successes. Take counsel of your strength, not your weakness. Think of the good jobs you have done. Think of the times when you rose above your average level of performance and carried out an idea or a dream or a desire for which you had deeply longed. Hang these pictures on the walls of your mind and look at them as you travel the roadway of life.”
Successes don’t have to be big to celebrate. This is something I tried to remember in gymnastics, and something I’ve tried to carry on in my life after gymnastics. Every gymnastics journey is unique, but I hope these tips can help someone navigate their own. I wish you the best of luck with your gymnastics experience and hope the sport can be a positive contribution to your life as it has been in mine.