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My Goodbye to Gymnastics

For me, starting something new is easy. But quitting? That’s something I never thought I could do.

Gymnastics was always my sport. Mine, and mine alone. My sister had soccer and softball, but gymnastics was entirely my own. I loved it.

Some days, I would come back from a gymnastics practice crying because of how exhausted I was. I cried because of how overwhelmed I was. I cried because of how challenging this sport was for me and so easy to others. And I hated all that crying and complaining coming from my own body. I had never cried over something like that.

But then there were those amazingly perfect days. The days when I went to practice and I adored it. If I could’ve, I would have never left the gym. Unfortunately, those days didn’t come around very often. But when they did, it reminded me of why I spent eleven hours a week at that smelly, humid gym.
I was on the Level 5 Gymnastics team for most of the time spent at that gym. Well, for two years of it at least. But in between those few years, almost a dozen people quit. I just didn’t understand how they could just abandon this sport so abruptly. How could they leave this team and not miss it at all? How could their calloused hands not ache for the chalky bars like mine did? How could they not spend another practice in a tight, shiny leotard?

And I never, ever thought I would understand, until this last summer. After I placed well at the state meet, I was invited to join the Level 6 team, which, at the time, consisted of about three people. Moving up to a new level was very demanding. Well, I guess that’s a bit of an understatement. It wasn’t just physically difficult; it was mentally draining, too. I had to master new skills, adjust to a new coach, and learn three unfamiliar routines.

Things just went downhill from there. My previous back problems decided to revisit me. I felt like I wasn’t making any progress. My coaches seemed to get even more and more biased. And coaches are a huge part of this sport. They control almost everything you do. And mine, well, they definitely liked to control things. Their critiques seemed to get worse and even harsher. Whatever I did was never enough.

And with our first meet and a new school year approaching, something inside me snapped. I didn’t want to go to another practice. I couldn’t go to another practice.

So I came in early one morning before a practice, and told my coach. I had become part of that group of one dozen quitters.

And then I told all of the other girls. Everyone cried. Even me, and I hate crying. It makes me feel so vulnerable and weak, I really can’t stand it. I’m still not sure exactly why I cried that day. From then on, I was going to be one of those quitters (not that that’s something to be proud of), and I wouldn’t miss gymnastics. That I knew for certain. I just couldn’t hold my tears back. Maybe it was because I knew I was finally leaving a sport that had been a part of me for so long. I was leaving some of my favorite coaches that I could talk about anything with. I was leaving what used to be my sport. I was leaving some of my best friends.

So now I’m not a gymnast. I never thought I could or would quit. But I did. Now I’m taking dance classes and playing volleyball to fill up a few of those eleven hours. And when I’m in the dance studio or on the court, I get that same indescribable feeling that I did on an incredible day at gymnastics. I just hope it never leaves.





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