Thursday, November 15, 2012


Recently, I’ve had two occasions where I wished I could have done more for a gymnast of mine.  The cases for these two girls are similar.  The relationships went deeper than just coach/gymnast and were layered with siblings and parents.  Good families, military, both Fathers officers in the U. S. Air Force.  In both cases, circumstances were governed partially by injuries.  In both cases, I came away feeling as the beneficiary of our relationship.  If I was an accountant, I would say that the credits and debits didn’t balance out in either case, and that I came out ahead in both instances.
One of these girls is leaving the sport.  Injuries not necessarily due to gymnastics but compounded by training have finally reached a point where it’s time to stop.  Maybe, in time, she will be able to return.  That’s still an unknown at this point.  If the only factors in this decision were grit and determination, I would expect her to walk through the door sometime in the next several months.  Unfortunately, there are other factors that have a higher priority (as they should). 
The other gymnast’s Father was re-assigned a few months ago and the family moved to another state and another gym (as military families quite often do).  This gymnast came to us after a shortened season, due to injury, with her team in Hawaii, where the family was previously stationed.  She had a complete season with us and made tremendous progress.  In her second season on our team she was peaking at precisely the right time.  After scoring over 38 all around in early March, landing on the edge of a skill cushion took her out of the state meet only two weeks later.  The injury required surgery and the following season was in jeopardy.  To make a long story short, SHE made the season happen and was a key player in her team’s victory at that year’s state meet.
Like most coaches, I spend a lot of time thinking about my gymnasts.  I know stories similar to these happen all the time, but these two seem to be on my mind a lot.  Perhaps because I wished I could have done more for these two gymnasts and now the opportunity has passed.  Perhaps because I still wonder how, after being dealt the hands they were dealt, they came through smiling and happy.  Don’t get me wrong, accepting their fate was tough.  Persisting through a second comeback from injury in one case and persisting against an immovable opponent in the other case created some heart wrenching moments.  But through it all, they have become young ladies who most parents would like to have their children look up to as role models.
As I’ve thought more about this, I’ve come to realize these two gymnasts are living examples of the old saying “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”  The words honor, integrity, service, commitment, courage, resolution, honesty and excellence are words that get thrown around a lot in the sports community, their meanings becoming diluted due to over-use or misuse.   But, these same words are the FOUNDATION of the military spirit.  For these families, they aren’t just words on a poster or a coffee cup.  Their meanings are taught and modeled by the Fathers/Officers, their wives and their children.  These words aren’t simply part of their vocabulary they are a way of life.
I’ve always believed a coach’s job is to give.  What I gained from these families involvement with my gym is more than I will ever be able to give back.  I wish I could have given more, but I’ve accepted the fact that in these cases I’m the receiver, not the giver.  And, for that, I am thankful.


1 comment:

Ted Manner said...

That was a pretty touching story from a coaches perspective. Injuries do happen though and families do move. With doors that close there are sure to be ones that open. That doesn't mean what we saw or experienced will ever disappear as those girls will remember you and your coaching.