I remember the old school building where I started doing gymnastics. It was my first team. We vaulted in a hallway. Our balance beams were in a former classroom with sunlight streaming in through windows. Uneven bars and floor exercise were huddled together in the small gymnasium.
I miss running down the hallway to practice my squat and straddle vaults. I miss learning how to do my full turn on beam without a wobble. I miss pullovers and back hip circles on bars and cartwheels and back walkovers on floor. I miss being in awe of all the older girls on my team.
I remember running around the brand new gym, so excited for the team to have our own building. We tried to help however we could to get the gym ready for our practices. We set up the mats under and around the equipment, moved chalk bowls into place, and rolled out the vault runway. We couldn’t believe how bouncy our new spring floor seemed to be. Now we could practice all four events in one giant room together.
I miss all of the Class III compulsory routines. I miss handstands on beam, handspring vaults, sole circles on bars, and tumbling round off back handsprings on floor.
I remember going to team practice four days a week. I remember working so hard to learn as many skills as I could each day, each week, each month. And then working so hard to perfect all those skills, as any gymnast would. I remember competitive meets with dozens of girls marching in unison to enter the gym to the music from the movie, Rocky. We were so proud to be competing for our clubs.
I miss the fear and exhilaration of learning that really challenging and scary new trick. I miss saluting the judges at our meets and taking that deep breath before starting my routine. I miss vaulting and tumbling into the foam pits where we practiced skills we weren’t quite ready for on floor. I even miss fluffing those foam pits to get them ready for more vaults and tumbling passes the next day. I miss my first optional floor exercise routine set to music from Herb Alpert. I miss Tsukahara vaults, double fulls on floor, free hip handstands on bars, and back handspring series on beam.
I remember high school gymnastics practice after school. Every day we set up our own equipment, including the two inch thick wrestling mat that served as our floor exercise area. I remember struggling to get the uneven bars in the appropriate spot in the gym. It was fun because our school classmates would pass by the gym each day where we were practicing and they would peek in to watch all of our gymnastics. I remember taping my ankles and wrists so that they would hold up through each practice.
I miss being on a team with girls who were somewhat new to the sport. Watching them learn a new trick and seeing their excitement was a lot of fun. I miss choreographing my own floor routine to the music from the movie, The Black Stallion. I miss the meets with teams from all sorts of different high schools. I miss the section meet with the challenge of qualifying for a state meet appearance held in a large auditorium. I miss being at the state meet where I stuck my second vault perfectly for a great score and I jumped up and down so high with joyful exuberance.
I remember my senior year in college gymnastics, my last year of competition. We were lucky to have a superb facility for our practices and meets. I remember learning new skills during my college years and breaking in my first pair of dowel grips on bars. Now I could swing without fear of peeling off every other trick. I loved those grips!
I miss finally learning giants on bars which had eluded me for so long. I miss being a team captain and giving my teammates inspirational treats to fire them up before a meet. I miss home meets, where our team’s fans would crowd the bleachers in our gym to see us compete. I miss traveling to away meets and especially the national meet where a couple of times we got on an airplane to jet off to a faraway college for our competition. I miss the flood of emotion following my last meet when I was dealing with the reality that there would be no more practices, no more learning new skills, no more vaults, no more dowel grips on bars, no more stuck beam routines, no more tumbling into the pit, no more competitions. And all of that was ok. Because I knew that though I might not practice or compete in gymnastics anymore, I would be a gymnast forever.
What I Miss Most
I miss my coaches cheering in the background during practice and meets. They were always there to help me with learning my skills, to spot me when I needed it, and to calm me down when I was nervous. All of my coaches will be in my heart forever. Thank you Jan, Lance, Sharon, Mike, Mark, Jerry, & Nancy.
I miss all the other people who helped me be a gymnast for all those years. The gym owners, athletic trainers, assistant coaches, spotters, judges, team managers, doctors, nurses, runners, scorers, meet volunteers, etc. who helped me learn more about gymnastics, learn how to stay healthy and strong, and also learn how to get through the tough times when I was injured.
I miss my teammates who hugged me no matter how my routines went. They helped me through the good times and the bad times, through injuries and frustrations, through learning new skills and routines and through practices and meets. They supported me throughout and this I will never forget. My love goes out to all of my gymnastic friends.
I miss my family cheering me on from the sidelines. They would sit through hours of gymnastics every week, never complaining, always there by my side. Taking me everywhere gymnastics would lead me and helping me to understand that though gymnastics was something I loved very deeply, there was life outside of this glorious sport too.