An Open Letter to Little Gymnasts
You just slipped on your hot pink leo, slid on a purple headband, and put your hair back in pigtails. You're ready to go to the gym--your favorite place in the entire world.
It's where you get to jump and run and leap and twirl with nobody to tell you not to break the furniture or be careful of the lamps. It's where you get to see your best friends and your coach, who can teach you every cool trick you've dreamed of learning. It's the place you daydream about when you're not there.
It's the beginning of a truly amazing journey.
Every skill you learn, every time you fall, every medal you earn, every friend you make--this sport is about to shape your life for years to come.
Here are a couple things to remember as you go...
The first intention you ever had for doing the sport is the one that should always carry you through. In the beginning, your primary motivation probably wasn't earning a college scholarship, getting a double back off bars, or standing on the top of the podium. You became a gymnast because you wanted to run around and have the time of your life with your friends. Of course, having goals is great (and necessary for success!), but make sure you're having a blast while doing it.
Remember why you started
In a few years, you might find yourself afraid to try new skills, sick of all the conditioning, and tired of rips on your hands. You might even feel like quitting. The long hours in the gym will start to take a toll on you both mentally and physically, and you'll wonder if it's all worth it. You'll be making a lot of sacrifices and might feel like you "have no life" outside of the gym. These are the times that you must remember why you started the sport in the first place. It was because you love it. You love the challenge, and your success means so much more when you fight hard to achieve it.
Know that your identity is not in your scores
This will be one of your biggest battles. Gymnastics is a sport of chasing perfection. You're hard on yourself because you want to be successful and reach your goals. But if you start to search for your self-worth in your success, you'll find yourself in a very sad place when adversity or injury comes your way. You are more than the trophies on your nightstand. You are loved beyond measure by God, your family, your coaches, and your friends, regardless of any score next to your name.
Believe that falling is not failing
Falling is something you simply can't avoid in this sport. You'll fall hundreds…thousands…of times (but don't worry, you'll learn to fall safely and relatively painlessly). Don't pout when you fall, especially at a meet. It's an opportunity to learn. It's an opportunity to get better. You haven't failed unless you believe you're a failure. So get up, wipe the chalk off your face, and try again. You'll get that skill one day, and when you do, you'll celebrate like it's your birthday.
Be a true teammate
After you're done with gymnastics for a couple years, you'll reflect on the wonder of that incredible experience. I guarantee some of the most memorable moments will involve the people who flipped alongside you and loved you through the entire process. Learn to support your teammates in every moment, even when you're competing with them for first place or for a spot in the lineup. At the end of the day, the relationships you create mean so much more than a piece of stainless steel on a string. Your teammates become your friends for life.
Say 'thank you'
Remember to appreciate all the people who support you endlessly. And I mean truly appreciate them. Your parents will spend hours in the car driving you to and from practice. Your siblings will sit through four-hour-long gymnastics meets and post proud Instagram photos with you afterwards. Your coaches will work tirelessly to make you a better gymnast and person. Your teachers will adjust your assignments and work around you missing class for competitions. Think about everyone who becomes part of your journey, and let them know that you couldn't do it without them.
You don't understand quite yet, but gymnastics will become something so special to you that it will impact the rest of your life.
It may even become your first true love.
Cherish every moment, because it flies by faster than you could ever imagine. I was lucky enough to get to pursue my passion for 19 years and come out on the other side with friends and memories I wouldn't trade for the world. My dream for you is that through it all, you'll always remember who you are, why you started, and where you are going.
All photos courtesy of Antje Rester via Emma Rester's Instagram
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