“Somewhere behind the athlete you’ve become and the hours of practice and the coaches who have pushed you is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back… play for her.” - Mia Hamm
This is a pretty famous quote, and I’ve always found it helped me whenever I was struggling in gymnastics and needed perspective. With this being my last blog post for a bit, I wanted to end on a high note and talk about all the things gymnastics has given me.
Gymnastics kind of snuck up on me. I never saw it consuming my whole life. Yes, other sports are similar, as in you’re always practicing and going to games or competitions, but I don’t think any sport sucks you in as much as gymnastics. It requires a certain amount of dedication, grit, and resilience to be involved in gymnastics, not just from you but from your family as well. I was lucky enough to experience more of a regular childhood thanks to my parents and coaches, and to them I’ll always be grateful for giving me that freedom. Yes, I did have to miss out on some school dances, football games, and spring break trips, but it was all worth it. I have no regrets when it comes to that because I got my childhood dream, I got to be a gymnast at the University of Michigan. How cool is that?
Not only did I get my dream, but I learned life lessons that I honestly think typically take people a whole lifetime to learn. Obviously, there were ups and downs but those got me to where I am today, reflecting and applying those lessons. Gymnastics will forever be one of the most influential aspects of my life, and I don’t think there’ll be a day when I don’t miss it. In the gymnastics world, people always correct others when they ask if they “play gymnastics” because we usually say we “do gymnastics”. For me, I think I’d rather remember it as “playing gymnastics”, because that’s what I did. Simply doing it, doesn’t give the sport the justice it deserves. When you take away the negative influences in the sport, and look at how amazing and superhero-like flipping through the air is, it truly is just a kid playing.
All athletes should view their sports as “playing” and not “doing”. It’s the same concept as “I get to do this”, rather than “I have to do this”. Many of us are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to play the sports we want, and to play outside without any worries. That needs to be appreciated more. I know I lost sight of that for sure throughout my time in college, but once gymnastics was over, all I wanted to do was play again.
I’ve talked to some of my former teammates from club and college gymnastics and we all agree, nothing will ever be as hard as gymnastics was. Gymnastics made us strong, it made us driven, and its legacy in our lives continues to teach us to stand up for ourselves. That’s the beauty of all sports, they allow us to keep learning even when we're playing. So love your sport, play it with all your heart, and give it all of you, because it’ll give you more than you could ever imagine.