When You Give A Girl A Leotard

When You Give A Girl A Leotard

You give her a lot more than just the sport of gymnastics

The sport of gymnastics is somewhat of a fantasy to little girls across the world, getting to wear sparkly leotards and do cool flips for the world to see. Across the US thousands of little girls are enrolled in gymnastics classes, but only a few will get to experience all that gymnastics has to offer. If they’re lucky enough, one of the luckiest little girls, they will get to compete in the sport they fell in love with and see it in a whole new light.

When you give a girl a leotard, you give her the ability to dream to be something bigger than she is. You give her motivation to work hard because hard work will always beat talent. She will strive for greatness and with it perfection, not only in the sport but perfection to be the best version of herself. You give her a work ethic that will follow her throughout her life.

When you give a girl a leotard, you give her someone to idolize. Maybe it will be an older teammate that she trains with or an Olympian that she aspires to be. Growing up she will pretend to be that person and worship her. You give her a positive role model and the concept that she, too, can achieve greatness.

When you give a girl a leotard with it comes confidence. Something about a leotard covered in rhinestones makes a little girl feel like Superwomen and Miss USA all at the same time. You give her the courage to believe in herself every time she steps on the floor to perform a routine in front of a crowd. You teach her that failure happens, but it is important to get back up on the beam and continue the fight. You give her the ability to realize her uniqueness and that she is more talented than she ever thought possible.

When you give a girl a leotard, you give her an extended family and escape when the going gets tough. With teammates, coaches, and a gym, she will realize that she is never actually alone. She will always have her teammates as sisters, coaches as parents, and the gym as a home no matter how many years pass or distance between them.

When you give a girl a leotard, you teach her the importance of discipline and structure. With sweat stains down the back and long hours of conditioning, she will realize how strong she actually is, mentally and physically. When she wears it, she wears it with pride knowing that the sport can be snatched away from her at any second.

When you give a girl a leotard, you give her the greatest gift you could ever give; Because it will always mean more than simply a piece of fabric with a pretty design. To a gymnast, it becomes an identity.

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From Student-Athlete to N.A.R.P.: Identity Theft

For a lot of athletes, we tend to feel like the sports we play define us. Learn more about the journey in Part two of the "From Student-Athlete to N.A.R.P." series.


So you're done playing... now what?

When you abruptly stop playing the sport you've played your whole life, something happens. I like to call this, Identity Theft.

This is something that many athletes, including myself, have experienced. Instead of waking up for conditioning at 6 am, you're waking up 15 minutes before class to get ready. You're no longer looking forward to or dreading practice (me) in the evening. Maybe you find that you're no longer "important" on campus. People aren't looking up to you anymore, and maybe you feel like you've just become a number. Some portion of your self-esteem has disappeared, you don't know where you belong anymore, and all of a sudden it's more difficult to make friends.

For some people, being an athlete is their main characteristic about themselves. Maybe even a personality trait, some may argue. Once you stop doing something you used to do everyday, a self-discovery journey is necessary. It's a journey that's for sure, and not a short one.

It's a marathon, not a sprint.

You may struggle to figure out who you are, all over again. It's comparable to recreating yourself. Some retired athletes will continue to thrive in their sport, even if they aren't playing for their school anymore. Some, like me, will go through the days, weeks, and months, not knowing what to do with themselves, or who they even are anymore (I didn't lift a weight or break a sweat for 6 months straight).

Before you know it, you begin to question yourself.

What am I good at? What am I passionate about now? Am I good at anything besides basketball?

These are the questions I asked myself every single day. Tearing my self-confidence down piece by piece because I didn't have the answers. I haven't always been the most social person, that being said, the friends I made were through sports. Teammates, opponents, fans- these were all friends I didn't need to work for. Not only that, I all of a sudden had all of this free time and had no idea what to do with it. Yeah, I could do homework, but that got boring after a while.

So what happens next? For me, it was depression.

Something that once defined you is no longer a part of your life anymore. The one thing that people thought about when they heard your name, is now nonexistent. The best way to describe life after being an athlete in my opinion is Identity Theft, because it almost feels like you've been robbed of a vital quality of yourself. And what's funny is I never thought it would be this way for me, because I never let basketball define me, yet there I was.

I'm here to say this:

Pick yourself up and remember who you are. Being great at that sport you once played was just one of the qualities of the stellar human being you are. You are more than your sport. You do have a purpose and a place in this world, even if you don't know it yet. This journey will be scary, but you'll discover new things about yourself that you didn't even know existed.

Since completing this self-discovery journey, I have learned that I am not as introverted as I thought I was, or at least used to be. I like art, music, and even writing. Never in a million years did I think I'd be writing articles that would be shown to the public. Helping people and learning about people is something I am now passionate about. I look back at my old self and sometimes can't recognize her because things are so different now, but I am grateful for those chapters in my life because they helped mold the person I am today.

I've learned the best life lessons from playing sports my whole life, and that is what should be taken from that whole experience. Very rarely do you end up playing your sport forever- everyone can't be a professional athlete.

Identity theft is a real issue that occurs in retired athletes. It is important that you, the athlete, understand what is going on, as well as the people around you.

This isn't the end of your life, it's truly just the beginning.

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