Sport can teach so many amazing lessons. And this story will demonstrate just why that’s what it’s really all about.
A seven-year-old smiled her nervous self through all four apparatus in her first gymnastics meet of the season. Her mom could tell she was nervous because before each event, she would look at her coach with these bright excited eyes and take a deep breath with a little chuckle, it’s the way she handles that stuff. She soaked up every single cheer from her teammates, and she put every ounce of her little body into everything she did. And SHE WAS PROUD. Her parents were up in the stands cheering, clapping, and catching her eye to give her a thumbs-up. She would look at her scores and her eyes would light up because she was so much better than last year. She repeatedly counted out her score on her fingers just so her parents could really see what she had just accomplished. She congratulated her teammates, and her teammates did the same to her. The camaraderie was amazing to watch.
All the while, her mom kept thinking about what her daughter said to her the night before this meet. While readying for bed, the little girl had said, “I am so excited to win a ribbon or a medal tomorrow.” Her mom wanted to prepare for all possible outcomes so she gently replied, “You know, not everyone will get a ribbon so if you want one, you have to think about all the little things and try to do them your absolute best. But no matter what, daddy and I are SO incredibly proud of you because you have been working so hard. You have truly dedicated yourself.” She smiled. She was already proud of herself, and she didn’t seem worried.
The little girl was giddy as she walked from event to event, confidence building throughout the meet. And then it came time for the awards. She was in the 6-7 age group. They handed out ribbons and medals up to 10th place with 14 girls in the division. Our eyes were on one kid, our daughter, as they announced 50 names, 10 for each of the four apparatus and 10 for the all-around. We watched and our hearts grew heavy. We watched her eyes follow all her teammates as they went up to accept their awards and then come sit back down next to her admiring them. She didn’t smile and she didn’t cry. We were wondering when it was going to hit her, when she was going to realize she was the only one not to win a ribbon or medal. And then it did hit her, but it wasn’t what we expected, and that’s when it hit me that my kid is a better person than I am.
At seven, our beautiful little girl didn’t even hesitate to congratulate her teammates. She didn’t shed a single tear. She watched her friends as they were comparing and examining their medals, and she never once showed jealousy or wondered why she didn’t get one. The first thing she said to me when I got a chance to give her a hug was, “I am so excited I did my back handspring!” Here I was worried about my precious little girl and that she would be upset, when in fact she’s just much stronger than I ever was. She gets it! She understands what sport is all about!
The true reward in sport is achieving your own goals, and THAT my daughter had done! Which of course, broke my heart a little more as a mom. Because it was at that moment when I realized my 7-year-old had already learned this amazing, yet hard lesson, a lesson that a lot of adults have yet to learn. She was an incredible teammate. She shared in their joy and was motivated by it. It’s a lesson that will benefit her for life. And it was reaffirmed with the second words that came out of her mouth, “I can’t wait for our next meet!”
The team as a whole earned 3rd place in the competition and won a beautiful trophy. I watched as Skye made her way up to the podium with her team, smiling from ear to ear. And then her coach said she could take the team trophy home with her until Monday. Oh how proud she was of that! That she got to share the that team trophy, that she was a part of it. We went to dinner right after the meet, and the trophy came into the restaurant with us quickly being placed on the table. When I asked her how she felt about the meet, she said she was so proud of all the new girls on the team because they had done so well.
I know it will happen time and time again over my lifetime as a parent, but I learned from my daughter that day. She is such a good person. And she inspires me to be better. Thank you Skye for reminding me of the true joy in sports and that it still exists, even amongst all of the medals!