Friday, 24 May 2013

Work, work and more work

I honestly thought that something had ben lost in my little gymnast. Not the love and the passion, not the perseverance so necessary in this sport, but something of the drive, of the spark... My parents and friends told me to be patient, told me that she will find it again... I worried for her, about her...

It took her a while to find her footing in the new club, took her a while to start putting the effort into it again, to trust the coaches... But that certain spark that was Leyla, that spark that left trainers in awe of her determination, it never seemed to come back. And I wondered. I wondered if she still has it in her to go past the point of pain, to forget about everything else but what she is doing. She did not mention not going to training anymore and she seemed happy enough. But that one thing that at the beginning separated her from all the other little gymnasts, was gone, and I did wonder if she will ever get it back, or if the unhappiness at the old club just covered that flame.

Went to the State Championships and she did well. Very well. I did not really understand how hard she pushed herself until the following week wen she complained so much about being tired.

Because I had promised to myself to listen to her and to leave her career into her own little hands, I let her have a day off, thinking she will spend it playing around like every other normal kid. When she came to be and asked me to move a mattress in the lounge for her, I did it, thinking she will be playing at gymnastics for a bit. Six hours later every little muscle on her body trembled and she kept going on the same one skill. Time after time, hour after hour, another and another somersault. At some stage she was so angry with herself she was punching and kicking the mat. At another, she sat down crying saying she will never get the landing. At another stage, there was a ferocious determination. We argued, me saying that enough is enough, she screaming that it is her career and she will keep going until she gets it or can't move anymore. Sweat dripping, muscles shaking, she kept going, hour after hour.

Looking at her, part of me though that the sport had created a little monster. Another part of me felt like crying, seeing that insane determination back. After more then one year, the little gymnast that one had left coaches speechless with her determination was back with a vengeance.

When I gave her no choice and told her we are going out for dinner, the poor child could not even walk. And yet, when we came back home one hour later, she took her pants off, back in te leotard, and started again. With every jump, she lost height and power, and every time I told her that is enough, she ferociously answered that she will get it.

As a mother, I always knew that my children will but heads with me. As a mother, I am well aware that bedtime is at times a clash between me sending them to bed and them wanting to play some more. But I did not think that I will ever but heads with her because she wants to work more.

After she was safely tucked in bed, I cried with pride and respect. And when later still, I went to bed myself, she came and cuddled into me and announced me that she wats me to speak to the coach so she can start morning training as well. And then she asked me, for the first time, for a massage.

It took a while for her to find that spark again. But she did it and it left me proud and speechless.

Changing Clubs

I have to wonder what do I really want for my daughter. Not from her, but for her. As a gymnast, as a child. And the first thing that always comes to my mind is that I want her to be happy. Happy with herself, happy with what she is doing. Yes, I do want her to succeed, but I firstly want her to be happy. And lately she has not been happy. She still loves gymnastics as much as she did from the beginning, but she has been sad and unfulfilled.

My little one, is a quiet child. Not that she does not have things to say, because she does, and the things she says are well thought. But she rarely complains. And because I am not allowed to watch her at training, I had no idea what was going on. I could see that her eyes lost the sparkles that were so much her, but when I asked her, she said nothing. Until one day, about a month ago when I tried to rush her to get ready for her training session and she just exploded. Needless to say, it left me speechless. Not so much her anger, which she was entitled to feel, but the bitterness and the complete loss of confidence that came up.

Leyla was always a very confident child. In a very quiet way. But a child that could not conceive the fact that there might be things that she might not be able to do if she really tried. She was always a very quick learner as well. Not that she ever showed off the things she learned, but when the opportunity was there, she would express her educated opinions in a confident manner. So it came as a shock to me when she screamed that she is no good. Once that she calmed down enough, she was able to explain to me that the coach was putting her down and ignoring her between put downs.

Leaving aside the insane number of hours she spends in the gym and I spend waiting, leaving aside the crazy amount of money I spend to have her in the international program, forgetting about talent and determination, at the end of the day we are talking about a not yet seven year old child that is entitled to be treated with care and respect. She wants to be a champion, which considering all the put downs was never going to happen. I, on the other hand, want a happy, healthy child. And she stopped being so.

As a parent, it leaves me with two choices. One of them is forgetting about it all and pull her out of gymnastics completely, giving her the chance to just be a child. A valid choice all considered, except that we are talking about a child that spends her lunch break teaching her school friends gymnastics, a child that does cartwheels with he school bag on her back, a child that lives and dreams gymnastics. Or we can change clubs. Go further away, through insane traffic...

I left the choie to her, because it is her life in the game, not mine. She chose to look around, see how other clubs work... She ended up choosing a small club, with a tiny international program... And because I want her to be happy, that is the club we are going to.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Back to normal

Oh well, little miss Leyla seems to be back to normal with training... No more talk of wanting to give up, no more complaining about being tired... She is back to the old "I can't wait for the next class", and in a way I am grateful because selfishly, I don't need to wonder if I am doing the right thing by her...

For the second day in a row, she was the hardest working gymnast in her class and her coach is pleased. I am more pleased by the fact that at the end of class she excitedly talks about all the new skills she is trying and how fun it is. Yes, in her words, strength hurts and flexibility training is not her favorite, but she is happy and that's what matters.

Like an obsessed parent, I asked her what the problem was before. Leyla, looks at me for a while, considering how much should she actually tell me, and ends up saying that she was getting bored of doing the same thing every time. In a way, I can certainly understand how doing the same thing, three times a week for months at end, it is boring. But, knowing my daughter, I think that part of her problem was that she was feeling that she was not getting enough recognition for her work.

Leyla is one of those kids that likes to see results and while she can deal with a tough approach, in order to give her best she needs the praise and the rewards. And maybe, for a while, I started to take it for granted that I have a very talented and hard working daughter, and I did not praise as much as I did in the beginning. Maybe. At the moment, I am making an effort to remember to praise her after very class. And I promised her a new leotard for working hard, not that she needs another one, but hey... Plus, I am taking her to the Australian Championships next week so she can watch the 'big' girls live. Bribing? Possibly.

But I am so happy to see her happy!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Daily Grind

I don't know if my little gymnast is going well... She works hard, or at least, I think she does most of the time... I watch her day after day, week after week, a barely six year old trying to juggle intense training with school and life. She wants to play as all her friends play day after day. Wants to have fun... Somewhere along the way gymnastics stopped being a game, and worse, it stopped being fun. Now it is work... Hard work...

Her coach admits at pushing little Leyla hard, harder then other girls. "Because she has a perfect body in strength and flexibility, because she has more talent then any other girl". Little Leyla is also the youngest in her class, the one girl that did gymnastics for a much shorter period of time then any other girl in her class. At six years and two months old, she does not understand why so much more is expected of her... She gets frustrated at seeing her efforts ignored when other girls are praised for less effort...

My little Leyla is tired. In between school and gymnastics she pulls forty plus hours a week, every week, with no holidays and still manages to do well at school and well enough at gymnastics. There are still days when her little black eyes are shining in joy during training. But there are other days when with her little strong muscles tight as ropes, she just goes through the motions in pain.

I feel sorry for her. And I am proud of her in the same time. Sometimes she talks about giving it up and having fun like the other children her age. And yet, at home, what she plays most, in the little free time she has, is gymnastics. And at the end of another long training session, she tells me again that she does not want to give it up, that she loves it...

Little Leyla, who I tried so hard to teach to be independent and to speak her own mind, my little child who I taught to be her own person and that we can discuss everything, has trouble having to go through training where she simply has to do what she is being told. And because she is strong minded and often too stubborn for her own good, she rebels against the norm by refusing to conform and requesting in detail explanations for why should she do one thing and not another... Who do I explain a six year old the difference between the democracy at home and the theocracy at training? At the moment I resort myself to the oldest trick in the book, bribing... If you do all that your coach tells you without comment you get such and such... And yet, with her perceiving as getting no rewards at training, I am wondering if indeed I am bribing her or just rewarding?

But mostly, I just remind her that the coach expects more of her simply because she is more talented... Hard, hard road for a tiny little child!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011


Leyla's three month trial in Elite is nearly ended. Time flew like the wind raging between the trees. Just yesterday it was the beginning of October... Nine weeks went by in a frenzy of school and training for her and in a battle to understand for me.

Leyla only started gymnastics in July, when she was just a baby. A baby that went to school, but only a little baby, still cuddly, still slightly chubby. Gymnastics was meant to be just a way for my girls to do something healthy. In only 5 short months it became a dream, a life...

When she said without a shadow of doubt that she will be the second Nadia Comaneci, I did not believe her. I smiled, encouraged her by saying that as long as she really wants it everything is possible, but I did not take her seriously. I thought she is just a little child talking. At her age I dreamed of being a painter. Or a doctor. And while I still paint once in a rare blue moon, while I still sometimes heal, I am not a painter or a doctor. But she is a gymnast. Maybe she is not the second Nadia yet, but she surely started on the right foot.

When only a week after starting she was in Pre-Levels, I thought that she will stay there for a year or so... Eight week later she was in an Elite program, for a three months trial... Are only 9 weeks since the school term started... And now she is accepted into Elite on a permanent base...

This time around, I knew she will. I heard her coach praising her enough to know. And yet, I still feel my heart swelling and my head spinning... Where in the world will i find the 10 000$ a year? Is it the best thing for my daughter? Will she be happy? Can I keep up?

But I guess that it is out of my hands and I'll just have to really get used to it... And I am so proud of her! My tiny little baby that became so grown up in only 5 short months!

Thursday, 1 December 2011


It is hard, almost impossible for me not to boast about my tiny gymnast. Because tiny she is! Picking her up is like lifting a feather... So frail, so light, and yet so strong!

I can see her little muscles all over her tiny body. She is strong. Her coach was saying that even though she is by far the youngest in the team (6 months younger then the next youngest girl and over one year younger then the others), Leyla is one of the strongest gymnasts in the team.

Leyla is also one of the most dedicated. In more then half the classes she is the hardest working girl. Flexible, she bends into shapes I could not know the human body can bend.

Sometimes her very young age shows, when her concentration slips towards the end of the three and a half hours of gruesome training. Not for long, and she regains it quickly, but she does do it. And yet, when we get home, long past her normal bedtime, she is still bouncing around like a pin pong ball.

Her coach said that Leyla blew her mind away with her willingness to train through pain, to jump back on the bars when rips break on her little hands. Her palms and fingers, so soft before, are callused now. But are still the hands of a five year old that juggles long hours at school with long hours of hard training, and still has the energy to just be a normal child.

Last night, her coach said that Leyla amazes her with her powerful body, her flexibility and concentration, with her talent and strong mind. A coach that hardly ever praises said that she can see Leyla making it.

My heart just melts, when I look at this little child tht is mine while belonging to herself.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011


I am still very proud of my beautiful little gymnast. I am not very sure yet how do I feel about it, but I am proud. She is so small, and lean and so strong. She smiles so bright when she gets a trick right!

Trick... From my understanding, a trick is a combination of moves on either apparatus. I could be wrong, but that's what it seem to mean. Leyla seems to get her tricks right fast, which I presume is a good sign. Yesterday, her very tough coach told me that in a class where all her girls are very good at vault, Leyla is a star. In two weeks she perfected a trick that normally takes one year. I think that is great. Isn't it?

Where to my doubts start? It might have something to do with the fact that my already small and skinny now daughter needs to be on a low carb diet. Or it could be the fact that being sick is not a good idea and being tired is totally unacceptable. Or maybe the fact that half the girls are terrified of the coach.

It could be the insane competition and at times meanness of the parents. Parents which are not allowed to even take a tiny look at their daughters' training.

From where I stand, being the parent of an Elite gymnast is a status of its own. Ok, I get the sacrifices that are being made by families to ensure that their daughters have proper training and proper leotards. I make those sacrifices myself, not only in time, but also from a financial point of view. And I understand the pride. Because I feel it myself. It is hard not to feel it when your child was one of the very few invited into the very tiny group of Elite gymnastics.

But mothers that last school term would not even glance my way as we entered the change rooms, and totally ignored my daughter as well, now are smiling and chatting to us because we have the same status. Mothers that were chatting and smiling before, don't bother anymore because there is too much anger at the fact that my daughter was invited and theirs were not. And parents talk down to the parents of the non Elite girls.

And that is without even looking at the girls themselves who in one short month became all of a sudden arrogant and learned to look down onto the other girls that were not so fortunate.

As for Leyla... She is equally as arrogant as all the other girls are. Same attitude of I am better then you that was not there before. I will give her what she deserves, she is good. She is amazing. But I notice the change, and it makes me wonder.

And I think that this is my problem. I wonder. Is it the beast thing that my daughter will have to push her body past its limits? That she will miss out on having a childhood? And, even if she is happy and she loves it, I wonder...