It’s 8:45 a.m.; my car is loaded with two little girls dressed in leotards and oversized shirts, Gatorades and snack bars fill their hands. I’m the nanny to two elite gymnasts, but what does that even mean? Sydney, 10, is a level five gymnast at Georgia Elite. Her sister- Samantha, 11, is a level seven who spends five hours four days a week in the gym practicing. When I tell people what my girls do they often begin to question if this is something they want to do or if it’s something their parents want them to do. I quickly answer that it’s something the girls choose to do. In fact, they love it so much that their pool time is consumed with diving board flips and the living room furniture often serves as gym like apparatuses.
My girls seem to just be wired and committed to achieving their goals. I feel like so often these days’ parents are raising the question of how much is too much or are we pushing our children too hard in sports? Although I feel like these are valid questions I think we’re missing an entire side to the debate. What about the kids and what they want? Syd and Sam have had this passion for gymnastics as long as I have known them. When I was a kid I was the same way but with a little less beam, bars and vault and more saddles, arenas and horses. I can’t count the number of hours I spent at the barn preparing for shows. However, I grew up knowing that this was my dream, my passion not my parents.
On paper and in words 20 hours a week sounds like a lot but when they’re doing something they love should parents stop their kids from following their passions? I don’t think so, as long as it’s not hurting them emotionally or physically why stop? Sports, just like the arts, teach kids valuable lessons. Although I may not have kept with my sport into my adult years it taught me a lot. In between our multiple trips to the gym each day I still manage to write for the paper. I don’t think that I would have been prepared for this workload if I hadn’t been a horseback rider for as long as I was. Riding taught me about hard work and not to give up no matter how hard things get. It taught me about dribbling multiple tasks at once, like holding down two jobs while going to college full time. At gym my girls are learning the value of hard work and how to respect adults and leaders.
They’re learning about staying in shape and gaining a competitive nature but they’re having fun in the process. In my girls case I know that their parents are like mine, that if it ever came down to pushing their children to continue gymnastics or listening to what the girls want they would do what’s best for their girls. Sports, like other things, are a choice that takes sacrifices by both the parents and the children. Two weeks ago the girl’s competition schedule awaited me on the counter. Like in years past the two will have to travel across the state to compete. Samantha’s schedule also holds two out of state meets in Florida and California. As their mom and I discussed this is a huge deal, which will cost a lot of money.
However, this is a part of their choice sport and the family will do what it takes to get her to the meets. Much the same it took me years to find the right horse to compete on, costing my parents a lot of money. Years later, while I’m not into competing anymore my parents do not hold it against me that I chose to quit. One of my favorite questions to ask the girls is what their dream is. The gym that the girls are apart of hosts a number of coaches from colleges across the country. Syd and Sam hope to eventually go to college and do collegiate gymnastics. It’s something I admire in my kids; their drive to want to reach their goal is proven to me every day. As I wake them up to go to gym every morning at 8:15 they never hesitate to get up and get themselves ready.
I know that they are exhausted every day after practice but it never stops them from loving or wanting to continue to participate in gymnastics. It’s what they want, and that desire is contagious to their family and me to support them. My challenge to you is to think about the other side of the debate the next time you question another parent, or even nanny, if they are pushing their kids to hard to participate in any given sport. I challenge you to question them about their kid’s passions and ask them what their child’s goal is rather than judge them for pushing too hard.