A Senior’s Farewell Tribute to Gymnastics
Get the kleenex ready, because if you make it through this one without shedding a few tears you are a tougher person than I.
A coach reached out to me to share her graduation senior’s goodbye speech from their team banquet. And I am so glad she did. As much as I can (and do) wax on about the benefits of gymnastics beyond the obvious learning skills and competing for medals, hearing it from an athlete herself underscores it even more.
So thank you Coach Deb of Choice Gymnastics for sharing this with me and thank you Caroline McWhorter for so articulately explaining what your gymnastics journey has meant to you and for allowing me to publish it here to share with our larger gymnastics community.
“Saying goodbye to a part of my life for the last eleven years is extremely hard, especially when this part is gymnastics. Unlike most, I started gymnastics pretty late. I was seven years old when I decided to make the switch from cheerleading. Choice Gymnastics opened up right across from my cheer gym one day and my whole family and a couple friends, piled into the car and pulled up at Choice to sign up for tumbling classes. Coach Cliff always jokes with me and says it was like a clown car with everyone piling out.
We started tumbling classes every Tuesday and every Tuesday, Coach Cliff called me Squirt due to my size compared to the others. After a couple weeks of being mesmerized by the gymnasts, I asked my mom if I could quit cheerleading and start gymnastics. Starting off at level four, I built my skills up and became more confident as I fell in love with the sport even more. It’s one thing to watch gymnastics, but it is so much more to actually do it. I progressed through the levels, having to repeat a couple, overcame many injuries, like most of us do, and conquered fear, like we all do.
I pushed my body to its limits to see what I could do and I learned so much about myself in this process. The four hour practices, splitting the beams, ripping my hands, falling on my face, spraining my ankles, the soreness, the super tight competition hair, the long drives, the late nights, the money spent, the extra practices, the frustration, the tears. But I loved what I was doing, even if I hated it because there were also the coaches, the friends, the medals, the pretty leotards, Flip Fest, the competitions, the fun memories with my mom, the new skills, the encouragement, the accomplishments, the passion and most of all the experience of being a role model.
As I was growing up in gymnastics, I always looked up to the older girls, Taylor, Morgan and Maddie as role models. They were always positive and so helpful offering words of advice when needed. I was the little girl that sat back and wondered how they were so good and if I would ever be like them. It’s crazy to me to think that now, there are little ones looking up to me. The feeling of having so many younger girls looking up to me really makes me feel special and like I have accomplished an amazing feat in this sport. Even if I didn’t win every competition, I still won the hearts and respect of my teammates and have helped each and every one of them realize that they are capable to do whatever they put their mind to.
So thank you gymnastics for not only teaching me what it is like to be a role model but for also teaching me dedication, determination, toughness, respect, teamwork, consistency, balance and discipline. I truly am who I am because of gymnastics. But gymnastics didn’t only teach me different qualities, it also gave me the greatest gift of all, a family.
I was able to grow closer to my mom throughout the many road trips and eventful memories. She always helped me realize when I think I am trying my hardest; I can always try a little harder. Thank you mom for doing my hair every competition, always making sure I had enough to eat, laughing our way through the trips and always getting lost. I love you so much and I’m already missing our fun adventures.
The definition of family is a group of people who are related to each other. However, I highly disagree. A family is a group of people who love and are loved by one another. This is exactly what I have experienced at Choice. Coach Cliff and Coach Deb, I am so lucky to have two adults who want what is best for me just like my own parents. You two have been by my side since the beginning teaching me and guiding me to be the best I can be and I know you will always be here for me, supporting me like you have always been. I cannot thank the both of you enough for giving your time to me and loving me like one of your own. I am forever grateful for the impact the both of you have made on my life and I hope I was able to return the favor.
And to the girls that have grown up with me in gymnastics, Katie, Emma and Kaycie, I have truly loved watching each of you grow as I have. It was just yesterday when Katie’s cheeks were bouncing as she ran down the runway, Emma was a chubby little kid and Kaycie was so young and small. I will never forget the years we have spent together and the bond I have built with you three, my little sisters. I hope the three of you continue to spread the love and joy we each share for this sport to the younger kids this year as you three become the new role models along with Olivia Law. Olivia, I am so glad we have grown to be so close in the short time we got to experience together. Whenever you need someone to watch you, so you don’t feel afraid, I will always be here for you. Remember, we have some pretty awesome guardian angels watching over us. And Delilah, I am so happy we got to take on our senior year together. It is amazing how far you have come. Thank you for always making me smile.
The rest of you young girls, have the time of your life. Embrace every moment you get to spend doing what you love and don’t ever stop. Gymnastics is hard. I’m sure we all know that, but it wouldn’t be as fun without a little challenge, would it?
I hope all of you reach for your dreams and overcome any obstacle that stands in your way. You all deserve it. I set a path for you to all be guided but I hope you all stray a little from my path to do what is best for each and every one of you. Create your own path and leave your footprints in the chalk just like I have left mine.
Thank you, all of you.”
Good luck to you Caroline! We know that you will be a wonderful addition to the next community that is lucky enough to have you as part of them!