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!

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