Human beings have to learn everything they do from how to walk and talk, to how to do sports, as well as, everything in between. One thing I remember learning how to do was gymnastics. My grandmother was a gymnastics coach and a judge when my mom was nine years old. My mom did gymnastics for five years until she was fourteen, while my grandmother coached and judged just as long. Since it was a huge part of their lives, they put me in gymnastics when I was about five.
The first time they took me to class, I was a bad child who would not listen to the coach. She would tell me to do something, but I would not. My mom pulled me out of the class and took me home. I was not allowed to do gymnastics anymore. I was crying because I wanted to do gymnastics, so when I got a little older she put me back into the sport I loved.
Two years later, I was seven and at Precision Gymnastics. Since my mom and grandmother were into gymnastics I knew how to do forward rolls, handstands, and cartwheels prior to joining a gym. I had no knowledge on the beam, bars, or vault. I still did not listen much, but I was slightly better. I remember everyone having to run laps, then stretch before doing anything. Then we would be learning how to do a handstand, and flatback onto a mat to prepare us for vault. We would have stations set up, and have to rotate every 2-3 minutes. Sometimes someone in our class would show us how to do the station if they were good at it. Sometimes the coach would call on someone, and spot them through the rotations as our demonstration. When we would practice floor or vault rotations, sometimes we would have a station where we practiced vault with our coach. Other stations would be made to help us learn skills. We would have stations practicing handstands, or sometimes stations learning how to do backward rolls off of a cheese mat. A cheese mat is a mat that is higher on one end, while the other end of the mat is flat on the ground. It is a slope so it was easy to sit backwards on the higher end, and roll down the mat to do a backward roll.
After everyone did every rotation, we would have a water break. After our water break, we would go to another event and practice more rotations. On bars I remember using the cheese mats again. We would have the flat end under the bar and run up the cheese mat while holding the bar. This was to help us do a pullover. At the end of practice we would have to do conditioning to help us get stronger.
After being at Precision Gymnastics for about three years I switched gyms and went to Scats Diamond Elite. I switched gyms because, I wanted to compete in a different division called USAIGC, United States of America Independent Gym Clubs instead of USAG, United States of America Gymnastics. While there, I got good compared to what I was before. I was about ten years old, so I was older than most in my level. When a gymnast, you are normally in the sport as a baby. They have tots classes for toddlers. Therefore, I was older and less experienced compared to most people in my level.
I stayed at Scats for about a year and a half while moving up in levels. We had a second coach who would bully me by not allowing me to move up in levels when I was ready to do so. My mother and grandmother called a meeting with the owner who said I did deserve to be moved up. I moved up, but the price rose substantially, so we switched gyms again. Now I was about eleven and I was going to Flips Gymnastics. Flips Gymnastics is an AAU gym, Amateur Athletic Union, which means you do not compete to go to the Olympics. Therefore, it is slightly cheaper and you get to compete younger, since it is just for fun.
I stayed there until I quit for good at around fourteen. Some classes we had a dance instructor come and teach us dance for floor skills for competitions in the next level. I moved up in about a year. This was when I began competing. I was so excited, but also scared, since I had never competed before. Gymnastics competitions are individual wins, but you can also win as a team at State competitions. Flips Gymnastics beautifully polished up all the skills I learned at Scats. I learned quickly and soon was one of the best on my team. I was still learning new skills, of course. Any skill you learn is basically preparing you for a more difficult skill. At lower levels we learned how to do a backbend then kick over. It later turns into a backwalkover which is when you bend backwards and kick over with one leg all in a tied together motion. Which that later turns into a backhandspring. Mostly all gymnastics skills are like this, so you are continuously learning.
Competition season came around, which it was my first time competing. I had to learn how it was done, how the rotations would go and how to perform in front of a judge. My first competition ever I did probably my worst ever. I kept going to practice and working harder, learning new skills and improving what I knew. During my first season of competition I was getting better. I made it to States where Flips Gymnastics, as a team, won first place. I made it to Nationals in Florida where I won a medal in the all-around. I was not the best and when I look back at that first year now, I laugh. It was awful compared to my second year, but what I learned and accomplished even in that first year some people never do.
When the first season was over, I moved up a level. I now was able to make up my own routines. I remember working on my floor routine the most with my coach Freddie, who was the owner of the gym. My floor song was Hernando’s Hideaway castanet version instrumental. Sometimes if I turn on the song my whole floor routine comes rushing back to me. You have to stay on beat with your music at all times. Your landing of your skill passes land on the beats. Some of your dancing skills your feet hit on the beats. If you are off at any time the judge, more than likely, will catch it. I had learned this from my first year, so I knew more of what to expect second time around. We worked on our routines until my second competition season was ready to start. I did a lot better, but I was having major issues with my coaches.
I had a second coach, who was Freddie’s daughter, Amanda. Since the gym was run by the owners, you could not complain to them about their bullying. Everyone knew I was one of the best from the gym. Especially second time around when I was winning more. Amanda would try getting me put into the groups with ages lower than me since they were not judged as hard. She had an issue with me winning, since her favorite student Maddie was not good. If they could not get me into the lower age division, they would make me go first on events. Everybody in the sport knows when you go first you get scored harder and lower. Since it is the first person, the judges are not going to give you a high score because they have other people to judge. My grandma called a meeting with them, since she knew what they were doing to me, because she was a judge and a coach back in earlier years. They tried playing stupid, so I was going to quit for good after competition. Everyone knew I was quitting, and why. I kept practicing only working on my routines, since I did not need new skills, because I was going to leave.
States came around and, as always, my coaches put me first on two events. On floor, which was my second event, I was doing the routine I made with Freddie. My first tumbling pass came and I pulled and twisted my left hip when I stepped out of my front walkover. It hurt when I did it for a second, but I finished the routine and the other events. I still won and I helped us win the title for best team second year in a row. It was extremely close between first and second, but we won first. The next day, since my adrenaline was gone, I could not even walk or move my leg because of my hip, due to the pain. I stopped going to practice all together. My grandma had paid for Nationals already and told me it was okay if I did not go. She had spent thousands of dollars and I did not want it to go to waste. I went to Florida for Nationals. This was the first time I did the sport after my injury. The hip injury still affects me four years later. I had not practiced. This was the only time I practiced since States, which it had been maybe a month. My grandmother told me, “ If you get third or better in anything I will buy you a cellphone.” I did so much better than first season. I won way more. I got third on vault, as well as, three other medals. The look on Freddie’s face when I won vault was priceless. I was so ecstatic when I won. Everything I had learned over those eight years was worth it. My grandmother looked at Freddie and cheerfully said, “Wow I guess she really wanted a phone.” Freddie’s response was “A phone? Get her an icecream cone instead.” My grandmother replied saying, “ She got third on vault at Nationals. She deserves more than just ice cream.” I went out with a bang winning three National medals; one being a third place and it was my final rub in the face of Freddie and Amanda.
For this reason, gymnastics was my favorite thing I remember learning. I did not only learn gymnastics, I learned dedication, determination, and somewhat slightly better social skills. I used to be at gymnastics over six hours a week, so sometimes I do miss the sport. People ask me if it was easy. It was definitely not easy and took years of learning and practice. Anything is easy when you finally learn how to do it, but you are constantly learning. Some things were easy since I knew how to do it, but it was not always easy. Just like everything else you learn how to do as a human being.