Goodbye to Gymnastics

So. . . J quit gymnastics.

To paraphrase John Green, she quit gymnastics the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.

You might remember that I wrote in early July about how she was doing a ton of gymnastics along with a bunch of other activities in part because we were trying to keep her options open as she headed into 7th grade. She loves gymnastics, she really liked the idea of playing a school sport, she was excited about stage band, and she definitely couldn’t fit it all in. Even though she was really happy with gymnastics last spring, she was also already fretting about what she’d do in the fall. Going into the summer, she said that she wanted to work out very intensively for gymnastics. One of the things that she told me was that this was an age when a lot of people quit because you feel like you just can’t progress to the next skills, and then it’s discouraging and you feel like stopping. So I figured that she was planning on the summer being “make or break:” that she’d either progress a ton and keep going, or she’d decide she wasn’t going to progress in gymnastics and instead she’d pursue other things. Neither of us actually said that, but I knew she was anxious about it and there was no reason why she had to make a decision yet, anyway, so I was happy to send her off to do a ton of gymnastics.

Of course, she didn’t just do gymnastics. There was her Young Women’s Engineering Camp, Volleyball 101 Camp at Union, and Smirkus Camp. She wanted to do all of these, but she was also anxious about missing out on gymnastics practice when she did the other activities. That started making me anxious about her missing gymnastics, although that seemed crazy, too, because she was still doing so much gymnastics. And of course I mentioned that I felt like maybe we’d overbooked her for the summer, and I was wondering if that had been a mistake.

So we came home from Savannah and I was feeling relieved because we really didn’t have any activities planned except for gymnastics for a few weeks. At least, not as far as I knew. Early in the summer, J had been so gung-ho about gymnastics that she’d gotten permission to do a double session of practice on Mondays, so when we returned from Savannah on Sunday, I expected that she’d be practicing gymnastics the next day from 11 am to 3 pm, taking a little break, and then practicing again from 4 to 8 pm. Except at bedtime, she told me that she thought she just wanted to do the early session of gymnastics, then head to volleyball try-outs.

Okay, I’d totally forgotten about volleyball try-outs. That’s because the school has teams at the varsity, JV, freshman, and modified levels, and there are two phases of try-outs, with the older kids trying out early and beginning training, and then most of the kids in middle school (presumably the 7th graders and all but the best 8th graders) trying out a couple of weeks later. But I’d forgotten that the varsity coach had told J that even though 7th graders would be aiming for the modified team, it was a good idea to go to both sets of try-outs for practice. So, it’s Sunday night at 9 pm, and J tells me that she’s going to go to the varsity/JV try-outs the next day. Okay.

On Monday she did gymnastics from 11 am to 3 pm, and then I picked her up and drove her straight to try-outs at the high school, where she didn’t know a single other person who was trying out. Oh my gosh, you guys, she was so adorable and brave. I parked the car in the lot and literally two spaces away from us, a jeep convertible packed with fully-grown young women who were clearly old friends and old hands at volleyball parked and jumped out of the jeep, talking and laughing. And there I am with my little pipsqueak of a daughter. We had already decided that I would walk her in to ensure that she could find the correct gym, and then she’d give me the signal when it was time for me to leave. We went around a couple of hallways and got to a point where you could hear a bunch of older girls laughing and moving around just around the corner, and she just waved me away and squared her little shoulders and went on without me. I mean, it was freakin’ intimidating. I walked out of the building, and on the way I encountered one other younger girl with a mother who needed directions to the gym, and I thought, at least we’re a smidgen more acclimated than they are.

I picked J up an agonizingly long three hours later, and she was happy. It had been fun. It turned out that that girl who’d needed directions was the only other 7th grader who showed up, and she had a hand injury that prevented her from actually playing, so J was the only 7th grader to play at the try-outs. But the coaches and older girls were friendly, and she felt that her volleyball skills, while modest and new, were not entirely terrible. Phew.

Cut to the next day, Tuesday, and we had exactly the same plan for the day. J packed her volleyball gear into a backpack and put on a leotard and I drove her to Cartwheels. On the way I said that with the new bridge the traffic was likely to be better in the fall, and I also said that she’d need to choose whether to go to gymnastics or volleyball the next day, because practice and try-outs would conflict. She didn’t say anything. We got to Cartwheels and she got out of the car, and just before I drove away, she turned around and got back into the car. She said that she’d decided that she was going to quit gymnastics and she didn’t want to go into practice because for the last week or so, every time she went into the gym, she couldn’t focus on having fun doing gymnastics because the thought of quitting just made everything sad. We talked a little bit, and I ended up running into the gym and telling her coach that J was done.

Since then, she’s definitely felt relieved to have made the decision. She’s in mourning, a bit. She met with her coaches and said goodbye to her teammates and she cried a lot. She might take a weekly class or go to Friday night open gym, but of course that won’t be the same. But she’s also excited to start volleyball. She went to the three days of “big girl” try-outs and at the end the coaches told her to come to modified try-outs, too, but she will definitely be on the team. I don’t know if they even make any cuts for modified, but it was definitely nice of them to eliminate any doubt for her. J’s also psyched because older players at both the Union camp and at the high school told her that she’s a pretty good setter. She pointed out that one compliment could just be kindness; with two independent compliments, she feels like it might be true.

With no more gymnastics practice, J has a ton of free time on her hands. We talked about signing her up for something, but she decided that she wanted to “take it easy” for a little bit. It turns out that she’d not that good at taking it easy. She’s been practicing volleyball on her own, and we’ve got a net set up in the backyard. She’s been going on runs even though she hates running. And she’s been doing conditioning and stretching in the mornings. I’m telling you: this girl is hardcore.

I said that she should lead me through some conditioning, but even though she modified her routine to make it much easier for me, it almost killed me. Also, I was slow and it took her three times as long to get it done. Strangely, she hasn’t asked if I want to do it with her again. One of the particularly epic fails was when she had me doing a handstand against a wall–could I do that. Sure, I said. Except I didn’t realize that she wanted me to do the handstand facing the wall, which was a tough position to have me get into, and then she wanted me to stay there for 30, then 35, then 40 seconds. All while she was standing right by to correct my form. I got pretty whiny at this point. “I don’t think I can do that! It’s not safe! I could fall on you and hurt you!” But she was a strict task master and we got it done. Meanwhile, that was my modified option, while she was doing this:

Uh, huh. This is my daughter “taking it easy.” And of course there’s stretching. . . .

Obviously, for someone who’s “quit gymnastics,” there’s still plenty of gymnastics going on. Modified volleyball try-outs start on Monday, and we’ve even discovered that one of her friends is planning on going. So hopefully I’ll have some genuine volleyball images soon.


  1. Claire

    Wow, she is really talented! It’s so hard to balance all the different activities, and to know which ones to let go of.

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