This weekend is the state meet for our Level 7-10 gymnasts. For some it it is the meet before the Regional Championship, and for some it is end of a season. Still for others it is the end of a career. This year we say good-bye to 4 seniors (one of which will compete in college) and one long term term member who is hanging up her leotard. I received this e mail from Linda Nedelcoff, mother of one of our seniors. Her daughter is an amazing young woman who defines what it means for a coach to be proud of a gymnast. This email told so much of why Maddie turned out to be such a great kid; because parenting with perspective is an oft unacknowledged gift.
I asked if I could re-post her letter to gymnastics to give comfort (and a little guidance) to some parents of younger gymnasts who may, at any of a million instances, ask….why are we doing this?
My letter to Gymnastics
I wish I could say we had a long love story of a relationship. In truth, there were times when I really didn’t like you (gymnastics). I endured you, of course, because my daughter loved you. But, I didn’t always think you were the best for my daughter. Let’s just start with the most common complaint, the scores. I mean really, that was a great routine. Did you see how she nailed that 1 ½? She has been working on it and finally landed it. I watched two other girls do that same skill and hers was clearly better, yet her score.. ☹
How can it be that she can work so hard in practice and be so committed- Even in warm up, she nailed that beam, but a couple little balance checks and that fall, really you pick now to show those? Speaking of the beam, there are so many numbers to choose from and somehow you decided 4 inches was the perfect width to make that apparatus? The beam has generated numerous 1 and ¾ minutes of my life I haven’t taken a breath, I can’t even count them.
And the wear and tear on her body. Do you not see the calluses, the sore muscles, the twisted ankles, the sprained knees, the painful backs and shoulders? Do you take pride in creating this grueling experience? (that is rhetorical, don’t answer)
There have been many disappointments and frustrations, you have brought tears to my daughter. I had hoped you would be a friend that would care for her, not make her upset. Seeing other girls getting awards for their results, wishing she was on that podium as well. I often reminded you, we were the customer paying for this experience, but you didn’t seem to care.
One would think that after 13 years I would be glad to say goodbye to all of this and to you. The countless hours of practice, late night homework, weekend travel, hours in the gym for 5 minutes of competition, numerous recycles of the same floor music during compulsory, missed friends and school events for practice or competition. Why am I not jumping for joy that this week is the last practice, the last meet?
Because deep down, I know, you have loved my daughter. I handed over to you a young girl, that loved to spend more time on her hands than on her feet. That little girl that quickly taught me the difference between a Yurchenko and a Tsukahara and many other terms too numerous to mention and candidly too complex for me to understand. You took this girl, who doubted herself, was willing to put anyone ahead of herself and might let others walk over her and brought back to me a beautiful young woman. The woman that knows what it means to work hard and still not achieve your goals- but not to give up. That recognizes success isn’t in the prize but the process. That she is capable of more than she ever imagined and has learned to find a passion and follow it, to make it a hobby, a sport, a career. That she has a voice and can be a voice. You returned to me a lifetime of memories of trips together, tears together, celebrations together and learning together. We have traveled afar, she has met sisters for life, and I have watched this beauty grow over time. For that, I am eternally grateful. And for that, I know that saying goodbye will be one of the hardest things I will do. As it is saying goodbye to a relationship that is so key to our being. I will try to fight the tears, I will try to celebrate the future, I will try to hold it together- but I can’t promise anything. We will move through this “last” to make room for the “firsts”. In the end, all I can say is thank you.. and one more thing, those scores 🙁
– With love, a gymnast Mom