Someday she will perform her final cartwheel, back tuck or giant swing.
There will be no more achievement ribbons to earn, compulsories or optional routines.
No coaches wrangling kids into classes, and no judges in blue handing out scores.
And the leotards will be tucked into storage or passed on to former team members.
Someday, for all kids who do the sport, gymnastics will come to an end. For some it may be after a few months, others after years and still others will only put down the grips when college is over or even beyond.
But this I guarantee: at some point everyone who does gymnastics retires.
So, while I am committed to making sure all the kids in my programs get awesome instruction and have a wonderful gymnastics experience, I am even more committed to ensuring that they take with them life lessons that will serve them far beyond the years that they spent in the gym.
After all, if all goes, as it should, a person should spend significantly more time in the post-gymnastics phase of life.
Gymnastics carries young people forward with a number of skills that aid in making them a successful adult. Here are some of them:
- Resiliency. You learn the art of resiliency, falling down and getting up over and over again, literally and figuratively. Being passed over for a promotion is disappointing, but so was seeing your best friend get moved up a level ahead of you. You survived that and you will survive this. It won’t cause you to quit, it will cause you to double down and work that much harder.
- Hard work. Speaking of hard work, you understand that hard work is the necessary ingredient to getting what you want. Sure talent is a nice thing to have and so is a little good luck, but you know that in order to reach your full potential hard work is the key ingredient.
- Determination. You have a resolute determination to be your best. You’ve developed your grit by staying the course with your long term goals even when frustrated. And, you’ve cultivated your willpower muscle by developing habits that keep temptation at bay.
- High Pain Threshold. Not just physically but also mentally. You can endure short-term discomfort for long-term gain.
- Patient (but not apathetic). You understand that success does not happen overnight and that there are no short cuts. You also are edgy about the time things take, always trying to work a little harder to speed up the process. In short, you are patiently impatient.
- Brave. Being brave does not mean that you have no fears. Rather it means you know how to overcome your fears.
- Goal Setting. You understand the importance of setting goals and know how to set them. You aren’t afraid to set big, lofty goals and you know how to break them into smaller manageable bites to ensure that you are making progress. You re-evaluate your progress from time to time, never taking your eyes off the final destination, but rather tweaking the steps to get there.
- Action-oriented. You know the difference between wishing and doing. You goals are set and then action is taken.
- Thick-skinned. After having coaches telling you what you did wrong repeatedly in practice and having judges attach a score to your efforts, you can take criticism. You can separate someone giving you critical feedback from someone attacking you as a person. As a result you don’t get flustered with someone doesn’t simply gush about your work. You listen and incorporate the feedback just as you have been doing since you first step foot in the gym.
- Reflective. All of those years of having your coaches ask, “What do you need to fix on your next turn?” has turned you into a self-reflective person. You can self-coach.
- Internally motivated. You learn to work not for rewards or awards, but for the satisfaction of doing the work. You know that the value of your work isn’t in a trophy or medal or even the positive acknowledgement of another; but, rather comes from within.
- Self-efficacy. After spending years learning new and difficult things, you believe in your ability to learn things.
- Growth mindset. And even when you are unsure as to how to learn something, you know that you can learn how to learn the things that you don’t yet know how to do.
- Confident. Standing in front of judges and an audience on a four inch wide beam while wearing a leotard has taught you much about confidence. Even when you are nervous you know how ot hold your chin up and continue.
- Physically fit. Gymnastics is the basis for fitness. By doing gymnastics you have a foundation for exercise that will serve you will throughout your entire life.
- Balanced. Literally, but also metaphorically. You learned from a young age how to balance your “gym-school” life so that now you effortlessly do the same with your “work-life” balance.
Did I miss any? What traits do you think gymnasts take forward into their adult lives?
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