July 24, 2017

An Open Letter to Gymnastics

by Sam Pellman ’20

Portfolio Staff

Photo courtesy of Pinterest.com

I’m not one to talk up gymnastics, or to tell you I love it with all my heart. In fact, I’ll tell you I hate it. I’ll complain about its difficulty, the stress, and the pain that comes with it. It wasn’t until this one moment, a moment that hit me all at once. Here I was at my final high school meet (aside from champs the following weekend) standing by the beam, watching my girls warm up. It was the last event of the meet, the last routine. Both my mom and dad came to watch me because they weren’t able to make champs. My dad called me over and whispered into my ear, “This is the last time I’ll see you compete since you were four years old. I’ve always been there watching you through it all. Show me what you got, show me that this whole ride was worth it.” That’s when it hit me. I started gymnastics at the age of four, and I was in love with it. Yes, I was in love with the impossible sport, the sport that literally made you feel worthless. For a while I was excited to go to practice almost every day. I went back to a time when I was younger, practicing for hours in my old gym, the gym I spent most of my time in. I was absolutely in love with the sport; my body was tinier and more in shape to do the moves, I was younger and I was braver, I didn’t think about how scary flipping off the bar was because little minds don’t have fear when it comes to that. I loved all my friends that I had made to this day, life-long friends I couldn’t go without. As I grew older, this love died down. I got older, bigger, smarter. My body began to give out, I couldn’t do the things I used to be able to. I was now afraid to throw any moves because I realized how dangerous it truly was. Other things got in the way, school, friends, family; gymnastics, which was always at the top of my list, but soon started sinking lower and lower. All the sport did was cause me physical pain, every bone in my body ached. My body was slowly deteriorating. I broke my arm and my ankle both in the gym doing skills. All the sport gave me was anxiety and made me feel worthless when the judge gave me a low score on something I had practiced hours on. All it did was show me that it’s impossible to perform perfectly even if you practiced the skill 300 times. It literally brought me down onto my face, crashing onto the mat after falling for the 50th time. It gave me rip after rip on my hands. It made me so frustrated, it ruined my mood and it made me unhappy. It gave me coaches that would scream at me and work me until I physically couldn’t walk anymore. And they’d tell me to get up and fight through the pain, and I learned how to. Yet I continued it in high school because might as well, right? I lost motivation in high school, I became envious of the seniors on the team who finished gymnastics for good. I couldn’t wait for that to be me. But in this moment I couldn’t believe that senior was actually me. My parents would never see me compete again, this was it. They had been there for me through the ups and downs, at all my meets, when I broke my bones, when I scored my highest. They spent money on the classes, competitions, leos, grips, etc. And this was it. I began to realize no matter how many times I say I hate gymnastics, gymnastics was the best damn thing that has ever happened to me. It’s all I’ve ever known, it’s my life. And to think that soon it would not be a part of it at all seemed unreal to me. There is no next season, I won’t ever vault or go on a beam again. The leos I’ve lived in will just sit in my closet. My grips, who for years and years were my best friends, will collect dust along with all my braces in my gymnastics bag. And in this moment I felt a sadness come over me, a sadness I’ve never felt before. I went onto the beam and did the best routine I’ve done in a long time. I actually tried. And I actually felt proud afterwards. This wasn’t just a beam routine—this was everything I’ve ever worked for into one. I looked at my dad who only smiled, he was proud, my mom was proud, my coach was proud but most importantly, I was proud. Indeed, this whole ride was worth it and words can’t express how much I’ll miss it in the future. Thank you, gymnastics, for truly changing my life.

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