WAG Looking Back on Gymnastics...

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flippinam

Coach
Coach
Proud Relative
Gymnast
Nov 8, 2014
242
Country
USA
It's been years since I posted on here, but reading the "If you knew then what you know now" thread really made me feel emotional about my experiences in gymnastics. I am now in my senior year of college and competing in my last meets ever (college club), and all the "lasts" are hitting hard. I just wanted to share my experiences looking back from the perspective of an older gymnast, since I can't post in the parent thread. I also want to hear from other older gymnasts about how you feel looking back!

Would I do it all again? I think so. I absolutely love the sport, and it has opened up so many opportunities for me, even starting at age 12 and only making it to level 7. I have met all of my close friends in college through the club team. I lead the team, which has been an incredible experience of growth in my communication and organization skills. This leadership position has allowed me to build relationships with professors at my university, and they have been amazing support in my crazy journey as a pre-med. Gymnastics has taught me how to set goals and work for them, along with time management skills. My grades improved A TON once I began competing in gymnastics (in middle school), and even in college, I do better on exams when I attend practice the night before because it forces me to manage my time well and avoid procrastinating. It is also how I relieve stress about grades etc, even though it is its own source of stress. In some of my most stressed or saddest moments, I will do routine dance throughs in my room because that's what is familiar and comforting lol. I love being strong and being able to do skills, and the thought of all of that going away after this year makes me really sad. Most of my happiest memories from high school/college revolve around competitions and the time I spent traveling with teammates. I also had an incredible coach that I still love dearly. She was my sounding board and helped me to get through so many difficult situations.

All of that said, a lot of negatives have come out of this sport as well. I love gymnastics but almost like an addict. I know at this point, it is bad for me to keep doing it, but I feel like I need it to be happy. Despite this, my body is in constant pain. I fidget around throughout class because sitting in one position for too long makes something ache. I also struggle to sleep at night for this same reason. Every time I have shadowed doctors, my back is in extreme pain by the end of the first day. After a week of shadowing, my back is usually so stiff and pinching so badly it is hard to get out of bed. This makes me worried that I won't even be able to enjoy (or even be capable of) my dream career in the future due to the back injuries I have sustained in gymnastics. I had one particular coach from 7th grade-10th grade that singled me out and really destroyed my confidence. She made me feel like whatever I had to say wasn't important and that nobody cared to hear it. This has unfortunately stuck with me even through college. Looking back, I also regret some of the sacrifices I made in high school for gymnastics. At the time, it was always my choice. My mom tried to get me to skip gymnastics things, but I was too stubborn/dedicated. I wish I would have listened to her advice. Now, when I get together with my friends from high school and we start reminiscing, it makes me really sad to know that I was at gymnastics during all the fun memories they are laughing about. I missed so many dances, homecoming celebrations, sports events, etc. At the time, I thought going to my gymnastics meet was absolutely worth missing my best friend's Sweet 16 or my senior year homecoming, but now, I don't even remember much about the meets that caused me to miss these milestones. I probably have a participation medal from them lying around somewhere, but that's really all I have to show for it.

Overall, I do love gymnastics. I know it has helped me to grow in so many ways despite the negatives. However, I wasn't even at a competitive gym or a high level, and I still have so many negative lasting effects. Granted, if it weren't for the one abusive coach I had, most of these negatives wouldn't exist. If I could guarantee that I would not have that one coach, I would absolutely do it all over again. I would also tell my younger self that missing a practice or a competition here and there is not the end of the world. I plan to sign my future children up for recreational gymnastics, but I honestly don't know if I would want them to compete. Hopefully, things are going to start changing for the better in the gymnastics world and abusive practices will become less commonplace!

Wow, I literally wrote a novel! Sorry this post is so long! Older/retired gymnasts, how do you feel reflecting on your experiences?
 

Splat

Coach
Coach
Gymnast
Feb 17, 2016
154
Country
USA
I feel the same way. Last year was my last year and I knew it going it to the competition season. I had decided against doctors orders to continue gymnastics two years prior as I knew I would retire in 2018. I now have a lot of the same physical problems as you do. I convinced myself that the pain would only be temporary and would be gone when I retire, which was not the case. I can't say I would go back and change it, but I can't say I would want to go through it again or have a child go through it. Gymnastics is such a tough sport and kids learn from a young age that is just how things work in the gymnastics world and if they want it bad enough there will be pain. I don't think that is how things should be, but we learn to love it. I never had an abusive coach, but I did have some that didn't know a lot about what they were doing and I still think about the way they taught daily. I have continued doing recreational gymnastics one hour a week, because I can't stand no being in the gym 24/7.
 
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