Thursday, March 26, 2015

My Reluctant Competitor

Last fall, C and I filled out an Intent to Compete form for E. It listed every meet for each level, as well as dates and locations. We were to mark the meets in which E would compete, so that no money was wasted registering boys for meets they did not intend to attend. Knowing E does not favor competition or travel, we chose one meet a month, ending with states. We saw no reason for regionals at level 6, especially since regional costs (registration, coach fees, travel, hotel) can be upwards of $700 for that one competition! Meet season already does us in. When I showed E the paper, he said he'd like to do only the first meet and be done. Mmmmm no. But you can stop at states. I signed the form and turned it in.


E did amazing at his first few meets. He hinted that he might be starting to like competition. But as the meet season wore on, his anxiety grew. It became something I helped him through every single day. In January, his scores dipped. His worry had gotten the best of him. Then he cracked his sternum (though we didn't know it at the time; we thought bone bruise) a few days later. At the February meet, he still had a lot of pain so had to scratch two events. The three weeks leading up to March states were hard to bear for us all; E was so nervous that he felt every teensy pain and worried constantly about getting sick or injured. Then a miracle happened: he began to see that he was days, mere days! from the end of his season. The countdown began, and he started feeling excited rather than nervous.


Indeed, the kid nailed it. He sailed through each event. The other coaches sat up and took notice, making comments about wanting him in their programs, and the judge at still rings called him over to give him pointers (not a common occurrence!). Even falling from the parallel bars (turns out they were adjusted wrong, so he made sure to adjust them himself after that!) during warm-up didn't phase him. He earned his highest-ever all-around score: 63.3! Which also turned out to be the highest all-around score for his age and level. Let me say that again: highest AA score. Gold. First place. My child, who hates pressure. He had pushed through, knowing nothing was riding on this score because it was his last obligation of the season, and had done better than every other level 6 competitor in Virginia.

I knew there would be a state team chosen to represent Virginia at regionals, but I couldn't seem to find details. It was just this vague thing that another mom told me could happen. His coaches didn't mention it, and honestly I hadn't pushed for answers because I didn't think E would do better than average. Historically, more pressure equalled worse scores. In hindsight I picture myself as an ostrich, head in sand.


Awards were announced, but no state team was chosen. I asked a few nearby coaches and the announcer about state team, nobody knew anything, so we left. E was elated that his season was OVER! We headed to the Air and Space Museum Annex to see the shuttle.


Two hours later, on the road home but stuck in traffic, I received a call from another gym mom. She needed E's final answer as to whether he would attend state regionals or not. What?!? She gave me cost and date. C and I did some quick math, wondered how we would come up with that much, and asked E if he would like to accept the honor. Remember, he's still celebrating his successful completion of the season! He gave an adamant no. I breathed a sigh of relief and told the mom no thank you. E hadn't been the only one celebrating; with the end of season usually comes an end to the sleepless nights of panic and days of nervous misbehavior, and I was ready for a break!


It wasn't to be. One cannot give such a stellar performance and then bow out. We received an email, the first of many, from the head coach. I'll just say emotions ran high, both for the coach and us, and we got no sleep that night. The coach had forgotten that we are new to this- it is only E's second competitive season- and thus how very little we know about all things competition. No one had prepared E for the possibility of state regionals beyond the few times C and I mentioned it. No one had prepared us. And no one had prepared the coach for E's thoughts on the matter.


In the end, we presented it to E, he panicked, we talked him down, and now he is actually a bit excited about it. The coach held to his word and had a long chat with E about what to expect and why being on a state team is less stressful than individual. When E joined the upper level training group on Monday, he was greeted with handshakes and high fives. And there is no sleep for the least not for the next three weeks!


Which is okay. E lives and breathes gymnastics. We will never, ever be those parents who push for more competitions; E must lead his own charge. He told me today that he wants to compete in college. Three months ago he was worrying that he'd have to compete in college! My baby is growing up. Age 11 looks good on him.


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