We took the gymnastics team to Bloomington IL this last weekend to compete in the Horton Invite. It was a good meet, run on time in a well lit gym that had great viewing for the parents. Our team was by far the biggest team there. It wasn't what I really wanted, I want a lot of competition but it is early in the year and not all the teams are ready to go yet. Truthfully we use competition this early in the year just to get ready for our home meet. We want the kids to have a meet under their belt before they go against their families and friends back home.
The one team there that over the last few years has been a thorn in our sides was Midwest Twisters. It is a small gym with not a lot of athletes but they have a few groups that really compete very well. I was sure that our level 8 team had the competition sewn up but we were unable to take the day, losing to MT. Our levels 8s last year lost to MT as level 7s as well. It appears that those kids will be duking it out for the next 8 or 9 years. Our level 9 and 10 teams looked a lot better than we did at the intra squad about a month ago and that is all that I can be hoping for. Some of the girls still had a pretty tough time but that is going to happen. Those kids that really struggled had been sick a lot, and maybe they had not trained as hard as they could have. I know one of my top girls did not train as hard as she could have. She is a competitor and has always relied on her ability in competition. But she has grown taller, her routines are harder, and she has struggled with illness and injury. If she wants to have a year like she was having last year she is going to have to pick it up. And I think she saw that this weekend. She knows what it is like to win, and hates to lose. I think if I do not see a big effort from her in the gym over the next few weeks I will be very surprised.
I would have to say the quality of the athletes I have makes a huge difference. In the past I felt that I wanted "it" more than my athletes did. They didn't understand how hard it really was to be competitive. I guess that was because those athletes had never been expected to win. When mediocrity and failure is looked at as the norm, it is hard to change that mentality later on. The athletes we have are conditioned to know what it is like to win, and these girls learn to crave it. This is a tough attributed to instill in girls if not done early in life. I feel that our society tells girls that they are not supposed to compete and that everyone wins. For most of my early career I often found that girls would mentally pigeon hole themselves. They would see that they may not be the best athlete on a team, or in a competition, and instead of working harder to become the best, they would almost sabotage their training to remain in the same status.
The girls have a long way to go till they are going to be competitive on a regional, or national level. They have the skills and the ability, they just need to work harder to perfect what they have. The trick to gymnastics is making the hardest skills look easy. Some of our girls have routines that could end up being pretty competitive at the end of the season, but only if they are perfect, and perfection only comes after thousands of quality repetitions. It is a lot of hard work, but nothing worth doing is ever easy.