Finding Courage

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Ever since I joined gymnastics, I’ve been asked by relatives and friends when they would be seeing me compete in the Olympics. Of course, being the little shy girl I am, I quietly respond with a small chuckle, “Thanks, but I’m not sure that will ever happen.” I’ve never set my goals high in fear of failure and lack of self-confidence. Anyone in a sport can relate to having that one teammate that can always be counted on to motivate a teammate or keep our heads held up high. For me, during the most recent gymnastics season, I can proudly call that special person my team captain.

 

When I was on the club level team, I would go watch the state gymnastics competition. I got to cheer on the people I most looked up to. I would watch them train every day in the gym, keeping a positive attitude no matter what challenges they faced. Through tears of joy and sadness, they always stuck together as a team. I couldn’t wait until the year I was old enough to compete on a team with them. I loved watching the gymnasts compete at state, but I never thought that I would actually have a chance to be out there one day. I didn’t set my goals that high because thoughts kept racing through my mind such as, what if you aren’t good enough or imagine how disappointed you would be if you didn’t end up making it?


My first coach on the club level team ended up moving to Norway after only having her as a coach for one year. I was devastated. She had taught me so much and helped me through so many mental battles I faced in gymnastics. Little did I know that another great coach would come along. I was very skeptical about having him coach me at first because I missed my old coach so much, but I was also excited for a change. Similar to my first coach, he taught me so much in such a little amount of time. He helped me gain confidence and showed me what I was actually capable of accomplishing. Maybe now I could finally fulfill my dream of competing at state. Eventually, he too stepped down from coaching my team. After he boosted my confidence and revealed my capabilities, when he left, it was almost like he took my confidence and hope with him. I didn’t believe that it was possible to accomplish my goal if he wasn’t there to help me.


After a lot of thinking, I decided that I wanted to move up to the high school team. I was old enough now and if I was going to at least try to achieve my goal, this was the place to do it. After months of practice, I still felt that I wasn’t able to throw the skills I used to do. I would get up on the beam and tell myself, you can do this, or you have done this before, but none of it helped. I stood there on the beam, over thinking the skill, scared out of my mind, even though I’d done it a million times before. I had amazing new coaches that tried to show me that I was capable of competing all the previous skills I possessed, but I just didn’t have the courage. I didn’t have faith in myself, even when everyone else believed in me. Whenever I got scared of a certain skill, my coaches would ask me what I was scared of. My response was always, “I don’t know.” I was never scared of the skill; it’s just that I never had the confidence. The only thing I was scared of was failure.

 

The practices increasingly got more difficult and the mental challenges were getting harder to fight. It felt like during each practice, I would lose another skill. There was one practice near the end of season that was especially tough. I kept falling or struggling with skills that should’ve been easy for me. Our team captain had been constantly trying to help me overcome my fears and reach my full potential as a gymnast throughout the season. She always knew I had more in me. I never knew how much one little talk with a teammate could impact me. She made me repeat, “I am the best gymnast on this team” over and over again, even though I didn’t believe it was true; she had no doubt in her mind that I was the best. She convinced me that once I fought through some of my mental blocks, I would be on the path to state this year. I never thought that was a possibility for me, especially my freshman year.


She elevated my confidence back to how I should’ve started the season out. Practice was almost over that day, but after her talk with me, I already regained two skills that I had lost. I knew that if I put in the effort, I could actually have a chance at making it to state. There were practically tears in my eyes adding up after each word she said to me. They were tears of happiness due to the courage she gave me and fear of what was to come. After that talk, I was determined to make it to state, not only for me, but also for my coaches and teammates that encouraged me all year. That day, I finally realized that I had what it takes to fulfill my dream. I told myself that I would do whatever it takes to make it to state. I didn’t want to disappoint myself, my coaches, or my leaders and people I look up to the most.


Finally, the day came. It was the section meet, the day that reflects how much dedication and effort everyone had put in that season. This day determined whether I would advance to state or not. At the moment, it was the only thing that mattered to me. Before awards, I already knew the outcome. I wasn’t going to state this year. I knew I was capable of doing it, but I realized too late. Not having enough confidence early in the season cost me a chance to compete at state. I was okay with the outcome though because I knew that it was one of the consequences of not having enough confidence. I still have three years to accomplish my dream, which may not be going to the Olympics like my friends and family say, but I now know that competing at the state gymnastics meet is an achievable goal that I can see in my future. All due to one little pep talk, I finally have courage again. I have my team captain to thank for what my gymnastics career holds in the future.
 






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