The Gift of the Rip


In her wonderful and wise book The Blessing of the Skinned Knee,  Dr. Wendy Mogel talks about raising resilient children in an age of entitlement.

I love the book, and I love the title even more.

Blessing of the skinned knee: taking what seemingly is unfortunate, even damaging, and using it as a moment to teach growth and demonstrate perspective. It is the life lesson of letting children fall and learning from their mistakes. It is the gift of resiliency.

In gymnastics, we certainly have many “skinned knee” moments. From the day-to-day hiccups in practice to the major disappointments that can accompany competition, children who participate in gymnastics have all sorts of opportunities to learn to respond positively in the face of failure.

And in gymnastics we also have another great (and somewhat bloody) lesson that I will call The Gift of the Rip.

For those of you less familiar with gymnastics, a rip is the removal of one or more layers of skin from the palm or wrist of a gymnast. Sometimes blisters will also form (and occasionally they are blood filled!). Caused from the friction of training on bars, rips are an expected and common part of gymnastics.

Yes, those delicate little girls flipping around in their pink leotards with ponytails high on their head have the hands of a lumberjack. True story.

Much like the skinned knee analogy, the rip parallel provides an opportunity to rise over discomfort.

Yet the rip, unlike the skinned knee, does not come from a stumble. Rather it is a result of working hard. A gymnast with rip needs to cope with the discomfort of training or competing through it, or if a rip is serious enough then it causes a small set back for the athlete as she must wait for the hand to heal before resuming full work-outs.

So what exactly is The Gift of the Rip? It’s the gift of grit.

Grit is the perseverance and passion for long-term goals.   While grit is not something you can touch or see, it is often accompanied by hard work.

But hard work alone does not a gritty person make.

For grit to develop there must be challenges, failures and adversity that pose obstacles that are in the way of the goal that the person works through with a relentless drive.

In other words, grit is not just resilience in the face of failure. It is also having a unwavering commitment to a longer goal.

And that is the Gift of the Rip: a bump in the road of a gymnast’s progress that is caused by the tireless pursuit of her goals which gives her the opportunity to fight through the discomfort in order to pursue her dreams.