This is a photo of one of my sons. Next week he and I will travel to Ohio so that he can compete in the Junior Olympics National Gymnastics competition.
Am I proud of him? You betcha.
This kid has been on a gymnastics team since he was 5 years old. The story goes like this – he was the only one of my kids who was a climber. When we would bring the family to the playground on a Sunday morning, all the kids would either be on the swings or on the climbing structure, well except for Trevor, who would always be on top of any high structure.
Yeah, I was the mom that all the other moms would send dirty looks to when Trevor climbed. Where was I? Why wasn’t I telling him not to do that? Didn’t I know he could fall?
Trying to keep Trevor from climbing would have been as effective as telling him not to breathe. It was in his blood, it was who he was. I signed him up for gymnastics classes hoping that if I couldn’t keep him from climbing, at least he would be taught how to fall safely.
After the second class, the instructor took me aside and in his Russian accent told me “your boy is on team.”
Trevor is now 16. He spends 24 hours a week in the gym with his team.
He’s good, he’s very good.
And he’s also an inspiration.
Often I hear from writers who are discouraged because their writing has not been published, a query was not picked up, or their manuscript lies in a drawer unfinished. They see themselves up on the podium, a gold medal winner, a published New York Times best seller, but in reality they are not even close.
Writers can learn a lot from hanging out with gymnasts.
Have what you need to write with, ready
Have your equipment ready for when you need it. Gymnasts, like writers, do not need much personal equipment to practice their sport but if you leave your grips at home, you can’t practice on the high bar. If you don’t have a pad, a pen, a computer, or even a recorder on which to take notes, then you can’t write. Always have your equipment handy and in good working condition.
Put your butt in the seat
If you don’t put the hours in, you won’t be able to do the routines. Gymnastics is a tough sport. One wrong move and you can get an injury that can take you out for months, if not years. In order to work up to the more complicated moves you need to spend time in the gym, nailing down each move before you try the next. In this particular case, (as in most other cases) practice does make perfect. If you don’t spend the time doing the work, you won’t ever improve.
Listen to your coach
A gymnast needs to listen to his coach if he wants to get better. A good coach will point out weaknesses, tiny changes in position that will increase height, or ways to calm yourself down so that you can perform at your peak. Even the best gymnast needs distance from his routine in order to make it better. This is done by listening to someone who has the eye and skill to make suggestions for improvement from an outside point of view.
Line up your awards
At this point my son has hundreds of ribbons and awards and while he can get embarrassed if we display them or show them to guests, there is no doubt that when he sees those awards on the shelf, he gets a bump of confidence. Every single award is confirmation of a success which helps to give him the confidence to try something new. Affirmation of previous accomplishement is a strong motivator.
So you fall off the horse, get back on
As a gymnast you can practice a specific routine for months and months. Even if you’ve perfected it in practice what counts is the meet. Sometimes you are going to fall off the horse (in this case the pommel.) It’s not the end of the world or your career, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad gymnast. It simply means that you need to keep your ego in check, learn from the experience, and try again.
No top athlete has ever said that being a gymnast is a breeze. Just as it is for writers, it takes years of practice, of ripping skin and muscle, of putting yourself out there to constantly be evaluated before you can ever hope of rising to the top and getting noticed by those who appreciate your sport.
Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.
Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens).
I’ll be in Ohio next week, cheering my baby on.