A New Awakening with Young Coaches
I recently learned that a few top Division I college gymnasts are planning after college to become coaches in club gymnastics and eventually in college. Wow, what cool news! We all admire college gymnasts, their talent, hard work and character, and they have a lot to give when it comes to girls and boys and our gymnastics community.
It was after the NCAA National Championships, I spoke to three women gymnasts in Fort Worth who competed in the meet: two rising 5th-year seniors who want to coach, and a third who wants to become a sport psychologist. These women are not only talented and determined, but very smart. They are committed to education, healthy training, and have worked with sport psychologists in their gymnastics career. They’ve pushed their bodies to the limits and endured years of strict regimens to reach their goals. These mental and physical experiences have been great teachers alone. But looking outside of gymnastics, as human beings, they’ve also grown up with a scope of collective pain and uprising in the world: school-gun violence, March for our Lives, Black Lives Matter, injustices against women, Rachel Denhollander speaking up in the Nassar case, the rise in teen suicides, the crazy social media world, Simone Biles vulnerable at the Olympics, and the losses and mental health issues from Covid-19.
For any human, these are visceral and emotional events. College women gymnasts today are part of a wave of young adults and future coaches who’ve seen a lot of human strength, vulnerability, pain and suffering. As these women graduate and begin the path of coaching and working in sport psychology, they have a great opportunity to forge a new awakening in sports. As they move into a professional work life, they’ll be looking through a unique lens, standing up for those who are smaller and weaker or don’t have a voice. They can lead with passion and contribute their voices to the gymnastics culture for young girls and boys who need inspiring coaches and sport psychologists to guide them.
It is not a trivial or simple task to “be the future of gymnastics.” It is a brave process to create real change, which requires persistence and a sound connection to human values. As a former NCAA competitor, myself, I know the transition into coaching is exciting, humbling, and a lot of hard work. But I put my trust in these college women gymnasts, because I see and hear the maturity and compassion in them, I see the light in their eyes. For the rest of us, it’s letting go of our ego as young coaches step up. It’s important to honor them, their real experiences, and welcome their energy, ideas, and point of view. Finally, for mental health and wellness in gymnastics, and for changing the culture, I believe these women – soon to be coaches - will lift us up to new heights. So do not only cheer for these college gymnasts, but open your hearts and minds to them as leaders of the future.