Gymnastics isn’t for Sissies!

by Nikky Manausa on February 8, 2014

The Scream that Silenced the Gym The Good Kind of Split!

Thanks to watchful eyes and careful coaching, the gymnastics gymnasium is usually a happy place full of eager boys and girls flipping their way across the floor, often with dreams of one day being in the Olympics. Spectators, especially parents, sit in awe as they watch incredible children athletes accomplish what most of us would not ever dare to try. At the same time, those onlooker seats are filled with sweaty palms, prayers, and sighs of relief when certain skills are landed. And gasps when they are not. My breath was taken away as I watched my daughter, Maddie, “split the beam” and fall helplessly on the floor. 

Maddie Gymnastics 4 Years OldAn Early Start

Maddie was 2 1/2 years old when I took her to her first gymnastics class. I had called to inquire about her taking gymnastics and they said they had an open spot in the 3-year-old class that she could be “tested” for. Apparently, the only requirement was the ability to listen to instructions because she looked like a fish out of water compared to those other kids! When she was 4 years old, they asked her to join the “pre-team.” She is currently 7 years old and just completed her second competitive season. During the school year, Maddie trains 3 days a week for a total of 12 hours.


The Wrong Kind of Split

When Maddie fell off the balance beam, she was practicing her “half turn,” a skill she has done literally hundreds of times before without any hesitation. In a split second of lost concentration, each leg fell to opposite sides of the beam (in gymnastics, they call this “splitting the beam”), and then she fell on her back. As I mentioned, Maddie spends a lot of time in the gym; however, I do not. For better or for worse, I happened to be there to witness the fall.

Ignoring My Instinct – Sort of

Maddie’s initial scream was deafening and seemed to bring the entire gym to a holt. I immediately jumped out of my seat, and although every part of my motherly body wanted to sprint over to her, I stopped myself at the gate that divided the seating area and the gym floor.  The coaches instantly prompted her teammates to get off their beams and relocated them to another part of the gym where they continued their beam practice on the floor. A mother next to me of a recreational gymnast (non-team gymnast) questioned me, “How are you just sitting there?!” My voice shaking, I explained that I knew: 1) She was in good hands, 2) She needed to trust her coaches (and I needed to, too), and 3) She would have seen the panic in my face and reciprocated that fear right back.

The Real Coaching Began … Years Ago Maddie Beam Fall

The crying stopped as the REAL coaching began. I would have told her, “You’re going to be OK. Let’s go get some ice-cream!” Instead, the coaches softly asked her what hurt, evaluated to make sure there were not any injuries, and coaxed her to relax. Maddie did lay there for over 15 minutes (it seemed like an eternity!) before they let her get up. They brought Maddie over to me. I anticipated picking her up, holding her tight in my arms, and carrying her immediately out. Instead, Maddie insisted on staying to complete her practice. Her coaches asked that I talk with her and make sure I also felt she was not hurt, and with my permission, would be allowed to finish practice.  She only had 15 minutes remaining, but she returned to her team.

Maddie GymnasticsWe All Fall, It’s How We Stand Back Up 

When she said she wanted to stay at practice, I let her know that it was perfectly fine to go home. I quickly realized that going home was NOT what she wanted. Gymnastics has taught Maddie that it’s OK to fall, but you always get back up. It is important as parents that we recognize our children will experience defeat, and understand that sometimes they need to look to others, and within themselves, to rise above life’s challenges. Maddie has accomplished some pretty impressive gymnastics skills. I was delighted the day she was “accepted” into the 3-year-old class, I smiled from ear-to-ear when she landed her first backhand spring, but never have I felt as proud as I did the day she fell, looked to her coaches for comfort, and finished what she started.

Icing on the Team Cake

Maddie left gymnastics last night with a greater respect than she had three hours before the fall. Her teammates admired her for returning to practice and her coaches appreciated her desire to overcome. Best of all, Maddie left with a respect for herself knowing that nothing can bring her down.

This morning, Maddie and her brother, Randy, ran a 1 mile race. One of her teammates, Mackenzie, met her at the race and handed her a white envelope. It was raining (yes, we run in the rain!), so I took the note and stuck it in my bag. On the way home, Maddie asked, “Can I please have the note that Mackenzie gave me?” As she read Mackenzie’s message out loud, tears fills my eyes. Yes, God, all the hard work and commitment has a purpose. It IS worth it. She is a “true champion.”

Mck Letter to Maddie




{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristi February 8, 2014 at 5:15 pm

My heart was filled with joy when you told me, not only that she was ok but got back up and finished. Gymnastics is a great sport and teaches most of all how to lead by example.

Laura Gibson February 8, 2014 at 5:31 pm

Nikky, I’m not sure you can see what I posted after Vlada commentented. So, I am sending to you this way. You have a very special little girl!…

Nikky, I so understand where you were yesterday as I was there a year ago. I did the same thing you did, standing at the red railing. I was lucky to have another daughter on the floor who asked coach Body if I could join them on the floor. At that point, it became my job to keep Amanda from looking at her arm. I agree with you, the coaching staff handled it wonderfully. Unfortunately, Amanda required a trip to the hospital for her broken arm. However, as soon as she could, she was back out there conditioning. I think I probably would have stopped there and then. Turns out floor became her best event despite having broken the arm on a back handspring. No doubt you are supper proud of your daughter. Kudos to her for such a great attitude! She is a great example and inspiration to her teammates.

Nikky Manausa February 8, 2014 at 10:29 pm

Laura, I was there that night and vividly remember Amanda’s scream. I was also there at the practice when we got to watch Amanda do her first backhand spring after her arm healed; and I can still clearly see the smile and excitement on her face from accomplishing that! All the gymnasts absolutely astonish me with their commitment, maturity, and determination.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: