Better to Fall and Fail than to Never Fall At All – My Gymnast is Back on the Beam!

by Nikky Manausa on February 25, 2014

Maddie Flip Flop

Two Weeks Ago Maddie’s Confidence Changed Like Never Before

Recently, I wrote the blog entry Gymnastics isn’t For Sissies. My story was a painful account of witnessing my seven-year-old daughter, Maddie, “split the beam” during gymnastics practice. I had to sit in the stands, hear her scream, and watch her cry.  I had to let go of my motherly instinct and allow Maddie’s coaches to help her through it. Thankfully, the story had a happy ending.

Further, I wrote that it is important as parents that we allow our children to fail so that they can learn how to persevere when life brings about its many challenges. Maddie is a dedicated and competitive gymnast. I never doubted that she would get back up after her painful fall; however, the way she has recovered has surprised me.

A Gymnast’s Worst Enemy

When Maddie was learning her round-off backhand spring last summer, just as she was gaining confidence in her ability to perform the skill, she had a non-serious fall on her head. With that fall came FEAR… fear is a gymnast’s worst enemy. Much of gymnastics relies on momentum. When a gymnast has fear, she loses confidence in herself, causing her to hesitate, and the momentum is lost. Steps backward are then taken.

Hal Higdon’s Marathon Facebook Update on Fear

If you are training for, or one day hope to train for, a half or full marathon, I highly suggest that you “like” Hal Higdon’s Marathon Facebook page. He updates daily with little tips and tricks that help to keep you motivated. Love Hal!

Today as I watched Maddie at her gymnastics practice, I reveled in her ability to overcome her fears. I then, ironically, saw the following status update from Hal Higdon:

“TIP OF THE DAY: If you want to be a runner, you need to feel free to fail. Consider for a moment the fact that even the best baseball players fail one out of every three times they step to the plate. But they come back swinging again. If you train intelligently, if you race intelligently, you should be able to do better than a .333 batting average. But if not, keep swinging.”

This advice does not only apply to running! This is relevant to anyone wanted to obtain success and reach their goals. We need to teach our kids to keep on swinging!

The Fearbug

Maddie’s balance beam fall happened on a Friday. She had a private lesson that following Monday. On our way to the gym, her stomach began to mysteriously hurt. I figured it was the “fearbug.” When we arrived at her lesson, I privately conferenced with her coach and we agreed she would not start the lesson on the balance beam. Maddie was all smiles and happy, and then she got a lump in her throat and her stomach-ache returned as her coach told her it was time for the balance beam. We ended up leaving the lesson early because Maddie could not train through her stomach pain. I believe she had a legitimate stomach-ache. The exact cause of it is questionable.

Never Assume

Over the next few days, Maddie’s coaches re-acquainted her with the balance beam and her confidence grew… and grew! Two weeks later she hopped in the car and told me that her favorite event was the balance beam! She was so excited that she did  “7 cartwheels in a row” on the middle beam (there are beams on the ground, low beams, middle beams, and also high beams). She was over the moon!

Kicking Fear in the Face

On Saturday, Maddie told me she was ready to do a round-off double backhand spring. This is a round-off backhand spring, followed by another backhand spring. I thought that sounded like a wonderful, yet unrealistic, idea.

Well, she let go of the fear between her ears and proved me wrong! Not once, or twice, but FOUR times! You can watch her video flip-flopping across the floor four times here.

Maddie Round Off Backhand Spring
















After her tumbling practice, it was time to hit the beam. She was pumped to practice her cartwheels on the middle beam. Her coach had bigger, better, and much higher ideas. She told Maddie she was ready to practice her cartwheels on the high beam. HOLD UP. It was apparent that Maddie disagreed. I saw FEAR hit her face. BUT she has come to trust her coaches, and what do you know, she did 10 in a row! Here she is doing a cart-wheel on the high beam!

Maddie Cartwheel on the High Beam
















Maddie Found Herself When She Stood Back Up

I honestly believe that something special happened when Maddie hit the floor hard with her coaches there to handle her tears, and then stood up to finish her practice. She learned from that fall that fear does not have to overcome her, that fear only holds her back, and when she lets go of fear, she trusts herself to land it.

Keep on swinging!

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