Sunday, May 6, 2012

Thoughts of a season's close

There are only 5 days left in my 2012 gymnastics season. It has been a long one with our first competition being last on the first weekend of December 2011. The length of the season can often times make it feel like years have past. The improvements that are made, the changes in the athletes, it all seems like too much to have happened in the last 6 months.

Yesterday was a busy day. I had 4 girls competing over the course of the day in their national championships. All of them started the day very well appearing to be quite confident in their competition to come. None of the girls had won an event coming into the competition so I was just looking for them to all hit as best they could. There was an outside chance that one of two of them could bring home a medal if they hit a special routine. But I think the pressure of the day kept them all from being at their max. We did have a few falls, and one athlete had a slight meltdown. But all were able to hang on and finish with dignity, and all of them seemed proud of their accomplishments, and happy to be moving on to things to come.

This was only my 8th national championship, compared to; I have no idea how many state and regional competitions. I have learned over the years how to prepare for those competitions. But when you make it to nationals you are seeing the best of the best. And all of these very talented kids are separated by tenths, not points. It can, and is hard to stand out from the crowd and prove yourself to be the best. I could see where we needed to go to perhaps get on the level of those girls who stood on the podium. It will just take time, patience, and athletes who believe themselves worthy of that distinction. The athlete who stands on the top step of the podium, doesn’t get there in spite of the pressure, they rise to the challenge and embrace it.

On Wednesday I leave for the level 10 national championships in Hampton, Virginia. In some ways it can be easier to stand out here I think sometimes. You get more freedom to showcase an athlete’s talent. Girls can use more skills with higher difficulty, and sometimes that can make up for shortcomings in other areas. This is really just a hypothesis on my part though. My own level 10 is very good but will still have to have a fantastic meet to be seen on the podium. The one thing that could keep that from happening is her head. Like the others, she has to know she belongs up there, rather than hope, or even just think she could get up there. The mind is the ultimate tool in determining your athletic outcome. When all else is equal, the champion is the one who wants it more, and never doubts their path.

This is the first year I can remember where I was not dreaming of the end. I’m not sure what the reason really is. Maybe it is that we had so many girls go on to championships this year. It has been nice having six of our thirteen girls (four of which were injured) still training. In past years it has been more like two or three moving on. The success of the girls keeps feeding me with the desire to keep going. It is going to be hard for me to not push the girls in the gym and keep my plan of resting them. But like I have said before, less now, could equal more later.

Out to dinner the night before the competition.  The girls looked great, and had a blast.

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