How I Developed An Undying Love For Gymnastics

How I Developed An Undying Love For Gymnastics

Gymnastics is about more than just flips.
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Gymnastics is my sport. It has always been my sport, and will always be my sport. Even when I am too old to continue competing, it will still be my sport (although at 22 I have no intentions of stopping).

How do I feel when I tell people I do gymnastics?

Proud, strong, unique, respected, grateful.

I’ve been doing gymnastics since I was about 7 years old. I'm 22 years old now, which is supposed to be way past retirement age for a gymnast... but I don't care.

I can assure you that the reason I’ve been doing gymnastics since I was 7, the reason why I competed for my club and high school teams at the same time, the reason why I continued in college, and the reason why I am now planning to compete with an adult gymnastics team is because the gymnastics experiences I’ve had have always been about the love for the sport. And yes, in case it wasn’t clear, I LOVE gymnastics. It is a hard sport, and without the undying love I have for it, I wouldn’t still be doing it.

I’m proud of the skills I have and for the fact that I do the sport at all, and couldn’t be happier with my overall experience. Yes, the Olympics are incredible and every so often I wish I could do those crazy skills Simone Biles does. But I’ve never had any intention of being that committed to the sport to reach that level. It’s not for me.

What is for me? Going to gymnastics where you can’t wait to see your coaches and teammates, because they are your best friends and the people you most enjoy spending time with. Laughing at practice because you’re having fun. Learning new skills where the process is just the right balance of challenging and gratifying. Competing at meets and showing off the skills you know how to do, the best you can do them.

I am thankful for the gyms I’ve attended and for the coaches I’ve had (who know who they are) who have cultivated a supportive and fun atmosphere surrounding gymnastics, and have allowed me to thrive in a sport which tears many down.

Gymnastics is not a sport you can sugar coat with adjectives that make it sound any less difficult than it is. There is of course the physical strength required to be successful in gymnastics (or even to be semi-successful). You will get nowhere without muscles that you may not even know you have. Take a break from gymnastics for a week or two, or even longer? You will feel those muscles the next time you are back in the gym. You’ll feel where they are lacking, and you will absolutely feel the soreness afterwards. And don’t even get me started on the calluses on your hands…

No one can deny the physical aspect of gymnastics. But I would argue, as I believe many others would, that the mental aspect of gymnastics is even more important. You could have all the strength and fitness in the world, but without mental toughness, you will not be able to do 99% of the skills in gymnastics. Gymnasts who make it to the Olympics have minds of steel…they are able to get up on that beam in front of the world and throw flips in all directions like they are on the ground. (I can’t even do those flips on the ground…)

If even for a minute you let yourself think how crazy a skill is, or how things could go wrong, you’re screwed. I know from experience that the mind will shut down, and there will literally be a wall between you and the skill. It doesn’t matter if you’ve done it a million times or if you have the strength and flexibility for it. Once your mind says no, you’ve fallen to the bottom of a hill, and you’ve got a long climb in front of you.

Throughout my gymnastics career, I’ve had many mental blocks, which, at any other gym, might’ve irreversibly hurt my progress and burnt me out mentally. Fortunately, with the coaches I’ve had, I’ve been able to slowly work through those blocks, and as I got older and my gymnastics career became more independent, I was able to move on to other skills that I wasn’t afraid of.

This is not to say that my mental blocks weren't incredibly difficult to deal with, but their existence did not become the one thing standing in the way of me continuing in gymnastics.

Gaining mental toughness isn’t easy, but it has benefits in all facets of life. I’ve faced so many challenges, physical and mental, had to push myself through grueling conditioning, searing pain on my hands while on bars, tears when my mind wouldn’t allow me to do a skill, feelings of accomplishment when finishing a beam routine without a fall, unrestrained joy when doing a skill for the first time, and on and on. The ups and downs inherent to gymnastics teach you how to roll with the punches, and fly high when something goes well.

With all the tough physical and mental challenges gymnastics brings, you’ve got to have people going through it with you…

I have made many lifelong friends from the sport of gymnastics, several of whom I would consider to be my best friends. These are the people I trust, the people I go to, the people I laugh with, the people I cheer for, the people I cry with.

Gymnastics has been my free time activity my whole life, so it is inevitable that I am going to spend lots and lots of time with my teammates. In college, I spent so many hours with my friends on the UVM Gymnastics Team, they were the hardest goodbyes (but actually see-you-laters) at graduation.

And I believe that the people I have met along the way are the reason why I am still in this sport. I love gymnastics in part because of them. Practicing gymnastics alone does not sound fun at all…but practicing with my closest friends who understand just how hard the sport we’re doing is? There’s nothing else I’d rather do.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that gymnastics defines me, but I would say that I have been shaped and developed for the better because of the sport.

Check in with me in 5 years to see if I’m still competing… odds are, I will be. :)

Cover Image Credit: Cassandra Albrecht

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20 Signs You Were A High School Cheerleader

You got really tired of hearing, "Point your toes."
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Cheerleading is something you'll never forget. It takes hard work, dedication, and comes with its ups and downs. Here are some statements that every cheerleader, past and present, know to be true.

1. You always had bobby pins with you.

2. Fear shot through you if you couldn't find your spankees right away and thought you left them at home.

3. You accumulated about 90 new pairs of tennis shoes...

4. ...and about 90 new bows, bags, socks, and warm ups.

5. When you hear certain songs from old cheer dance mixes it either ruins your day or brings back happy memories.

6. And chances are, you still remember every move to those dances.

7. Sometimes you catch yourself standing with your hands on your hips.

8. You know the phrase, "One more time, ladies" all too well.

9. The hospitality rooms were always one of the biggest perks of going to tournaments (at least for me).

10. You got really tired of hearing, "Point your toes."

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11. If you left the gym at half-time to go get something, you better be back by the time the boys run back out.

12. You knew how awkward it could be on the bus rides home after the boys lost.

13. But you also knew how fun it could be if they won.

14. Figuring out line-up was extremely important – especially if one of your members was gone.

15. New uniforms were so exciting; minus the fact that they cost a fortune.

16. You know there was nothing worse than when you called out an offense cheer but halfway through, you had to switch to the defense version because someone turned over the ball.

17. You still know the school fight song by heart and every move that goes with it.

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18. UCA Cheer Camp cheers and chants still haunt you to this day.

19. You know the difference between a clasp and a clap. Yes, they're different.

20. There's always a part of you that will miss cheering and it will always have a place in your heart.

Cover Image Credit: Doug Pool / Facebook

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Motorized Scooters Are The Newest Trend Hitting College Campuses

Nobody asked for them, but they're here anyways. Electric scooters from competing brand Bird and Lime have begun appearing in major cities and college campuses across the county and government officials have had enough.

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Tech innovations move at breakneck pace nowadays and it's hard to figure out what's going to become the "next big thing."

Companies in the Silicon Valley seem absolutely infatuated with cramming tech and conventional modes of transportation together and seeing what happens. Uber and Lyft blew the doors wide open on the issue which eventually gave way to driverless cars and now HyperLoop technology (which Missouri may be getting a route which connects Kansas City to St. Louis).

But innovations, especially in transportation, can act as more of a flash-in-the-pan as opposed to a long-term, sustainable solution. Remember when "hover boards" took the world by storm in 2015? The sheer amount of media coverage that I saw surrounding these things was unprecedented.

It felt like every YouTuber and online personality was riding around their city on one of those things which only added to their popularity. Full Disclaimer: I would be a liar if I said I didn't spend dozens of hours figuring out how I could get one from China for cheap.

However, I really have no idea where Bird and Lime came from. I'd like to think I'm pretty well informed and that I'd at least hear some sort of rumblings or catch an article once in a while. I feel as if I just woke up one day and suddenly everyone was flying around on electric scooters.

The peculiar thing about these new electric scooters is the way they're picked up and dropped off. For instance, every Bird scooter is tracked by the Bird app, but there's no central location where they're located. Instead, the scooters can be dropped off anywhere. Which means Birds are left in the most random places on campus, and in some instances taken into houses and apartments.

Cities and college campuses are looking to take action against companies like Bird and Lime, often citing safety risks due to a low number of users wearing safety gear. The way I see it, however, why is it the companies who are being reprimanded for the lack of proper safety on the part of the user? An equal number of students and citizens ride bikes in a reckless manner and without safety equipment.

Whether or not these motorized scooters remain on campuses has yet to be seen, but it'll be certainly interesting to see what will take their place. If there's anything I know about college students, they're always looking for the fastest way to get around campus regardless of the method.

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