Everything My Daughter Needs to Know She’s Learned From Gymnastics

by Charlotte Bronte

LIFE, believe, is not a dream
So dark as sages say;
Oft a little morning rain
Foretells a pleasant day.
Sometimes there are clouds of gloom,
But these are transient all;
If the shower will make the roses bloom,
O why lament its fall ?

Rapidly, merrily,
Life’s sunny hours flit by,
Gratefully, cheerily,
Enjoy them as they fly !

What though Death at times steps in
And calls our Best away ?
What though sorrow seems to win,
O’er hope, a heavy sway ?
Yet hope again elastic springs,
Unconquered, though she fell;
Still buoyant are her golden wings,
Still strong to bear us well.
Manfully, fearlessly,
The day of trial bear,
For gloriously, victoriously,
Can courage quell despair !

The Tortoise and The Hare

My job as a mom is not to raise a child, but to raise an adult. The whole process is overwhelming and seemingly impossible. I mean seriously, I can’t even train my dog to come when called. How in the world am I going to raise daughters who are independent, honest, self-assured women of their word who also show compassion, selflessness and unconditional love to their fellow human beings?

When DW and I put our kids in sports it was for a handful of teachable moments: leadership, teamwork, mental and physical strength, how to be competitive. The Tortoise has been in soccer for almost 7 years. There is no doubt in my mind that she is more of a team player in life because of learning how to be a team player on the field. She has also learned the value of working hard, the joy of winning and the sting of losing. But beyond that, she has not fostered any greater vision of herself or her future through her soccer experiences. An experience that she has recently grown tired of and ready for a change.

I fully anticipated The Hare’s experience with gymnastics to be the same as her sister’s soccer experience, and I know  it is for most kids. But, this year has proven to be more of a foundation of life lessons that will carry into The Hare’s adulthood, help mold her into the woman who I picture her to be, than just a series of exercises in gymnastic skills. In fact, I would say that two of her coaches have surpassed any of my expectations and been more like mentors than coaches.

The Hare at a recent meet.

The Hare has gained an understanding that success does not happen without its share of falls. Sometimes those falls hurt longer than we anticipate, come back to haunt us when we least suspect, yet we have to work through them to get to the goals that we have set. The Hare sees the importance of setting goals. She has learned that her efforts and attitude effect not only her progress but the success or failure of others, and that her achievements are not more important than the achievements of others. The Hare’s mentors have shown her that hard work can be mentally as much as physically draining but worth the reward when balanced with fun and encouragement. She understands that there is always room for improvement, that we are never done learning. My daughter has learned that relationships are built on trust, honesty, communication and respect. She has learned to not only be respectful of others but to encourage those that don’t encourage her, extending grace and compassion as often as possible. Her uniqueness has been celebrated, creating a strong sense of self. In moments of doubt or fear, The Hare has learned to accept help from others, trust her abilities, and move forward on faith rather than be paralyzed.  Her coaches have instilled in her an understanding that it is a waste of energy to worry about the things that we can not change, and should just focus on the things that we can. She has also learned that it is okay to be sad as long as you let it go.

Hard to believe that's my kid!

Although we are in awe of her incredible achievements this year, it is not the medals that I am most proud. My hope is that the life skills she has learned this year from these two wonderful coaches mold her in a way that I alone could not have taught. Some of these lessons were things that I needed to put into better practice in my own life as well, and am forever grateful for the opportunity to see my daughter through someone else’s eyes.

89 thoughts on “Everything My Daughter Needs to Know She’s Learned From Gymnastics

  1. I would love to have all parents acknowledge what this awesome sport is all about just as you do. This sport has given me so much and the life-cycle continues; started a mommy & me class in ’84, pre-school classes, pre-team, team, coach, judge and now myself am a mother to a funky girl who loves to be up-side down.

  2. I agree with you and this thing also teach her other hidden lessons of life. So that in future she can handle the bad situations in a better way. I like your thoughts and views. Good work done.

  3. I love this post! I’ve been a gymnast since I was 2 and I’m 19 now! Gymnastics not only takes a physical toll on the gymnast but a mental toll as well. The sport teaches kids self-discipline and how to be a stronger individual. I can honestly say that through gymnastics I have learned many life lessons that have helped me in other areas of my life. I’ve developed such a passion for the sport over the years and would not give it up for the world. I’m proud to say I’m a gymnast.

  4. Many students in my class participate in gymnastics and I had no idea how talented many of them were until I spent time watching them at recess one day. They were doing one handed cartwheels with ease and began chatting about no handed cartwheels (to which I quickly ran over and encouraged them to practice at home.) Even from a young age, it’s amazing to see what kids can be capable of!

  5. As a parent, I can totally relate. Sometimes it can can be overwhelming to balance everything but the rewards are amazing when you see you kid excel in something she loves. congrats for being pressed but more importantly congrats for being a great parent!

  6. Wow! I love this post. I am a ski coach and an early childhood educator, working with kids from 3-9 years old. (I have been coaching for 12 years now – started when I was 21, and have been working with kids since I was 11.)
    What I read in your post, however, is a rare phenomenon among parents…It is so refreshing to see that there are parents out there who think like us:
    “Although we are in awe of her incredible achievements this year, it is not the medals that I am most proud.”
    I wish all parents would think this way.

    I ask children to “do YOUR best”, which means a lot more, than “being THE best, when you could have given even more”.

    I was just trying to summarize to my parents why I love coaching, and I realized that it is LEAST about a certain sport, it is about psychology, ethics, nutrition, sportsmanship, empathy, compassion, knowledge of the mountains and snow conditions, teaching decision making, teaching independence, instilling team spirit, problem solving, fun, laughter…etc…and most of all teaching children life skills by being there when they experience disappointment, and when they win gold. Teaching them how to respectfully lose and win. How to believe in themselves and their own value as a person and as an athlete when others try to put them down…
    It is endless! And this is what I love about my job, and why I never get tired of it, every day brings new challenges, new personalities and group dynamics – and most of all – tons of fun:)

  7. I love this post! I’ve been a gymnast since I was 2 and I’m 19 now! Gymnastics not only takes a physical toll on the gymnast but a mental toll as well. The sport teaches kids self-discipline and how to be a stronger individual. I can honestly say that through gymnastics I have learned many life lessons that have helped me in other areas of my life. I’ve developed such a passion for the sport over the years and would not give it up for the world. I’m proud to say I’m a gymnast.

  8. What a beautiful post! I feel like, sometimes, parents can really feel the pressure (burden?) of being the sole people responsible for raising their own little adults. And if we looked around us, we might even see some scary influences. But if we opened our eyes AND hearts to the world around us, we are able to see the balance in the universe (like you so beautifully did), and see the positive influences and opportunities that exist for the growth and evolution of our children into strong, motivated, compassionate and forgiving (towards others and themselves) beings. And then, it is pure joy to learn lessons through our children who have grown to be the people they are, and the people they are going to be. Great post; much love.

  9. You are no doubt a great mom, who is teaching her child not just good manners and discipline but also enhancing her abilities by letting her do what she likes. Really a talented daughter of a talented mother.

  10. About 15 years ago I commenced the task of clearing out my parents’ house. I telephoned my sister and asked if there was anything that she wanted me to keep for her. Without hesitation she replied ‘my gymnastics certificates.’ My sister has many accomplishments, a lovely home and wonderful children.
    I was slightly surprised but I shouldn’t have been – my gymnastics medals have been stored with my jewellery for most of my adult life.

    This is a lovely post – I am charmed.

  11. Congrats on another FP! I live for my teachable moments, now accompanied with teen-ager eye rolls and “Oh Moooom!” My boys tried gymnastics but lost interest after 3 years. My daughter will be starting her fourth year of marching band (GO Vanguard!) and one of my boys just joined the program. I thought I was excited for Blondie, but my enthusiasm was renewed with The Boy. “Walk it Proud, Play it Loud!”

  12. hi, I just want to say that you and your daughters look more like sisters than mother and child. They surely took from you. Regards to the family! =)

  13. When I saw that your blog was called “My Pajama Days,” I thought I’d found a fellow author/editor. Instead, I just found a bunch of impressive blog entries. This is the newest, so I’m commenting here with my little pajama hook.

    1. Ah Michael – although I admire your success and appreciate you referring to my blog entries as “impressive”, I’ll be honest, your comment was a little punchy.

      In the spirit of supporting the writing community and a desire to make your website available to other writers, I approved your comment.

  14. I should learn from this and teach my daughter the values of real life..through sports hopefully. Wonderful topic, a nice read and made me value my little one..congrats!

  15. Thanks for writing something like this. As an ex-gymnast who’s been coaching for 17 years I have seen my share of parents who don’t understand what we’re trying to do – teaching a child how to deal with the “real world” through sport. Sometimes it’s tough – sometimes we’re too hard on a gymnast and other times we are not hard enough. Sometimes we care so much our emotions get the best of us and other times they carry the gymnast through a tough situation (especially as they get higher up in levels – the fear and long hours and little injuries can take their toll). I hope you always appreciate the effort and dedication her coaches have even if you don’t always agree with them or understand what they’re doing. MOST coaches are doing their thing for the benefit of the athlete – there is always a method to our “madness”. Good luck to your daughter.

  16. This is a beautiful post about someone I assume is just as wonderful. So many things can teach us life’s lessons and I love that it’s not the accomplishments that bring pride, but rather the things we have learned and the way we get through the falls. Best wishes to your daughter. I always wanted to be a gymnast, but was only able to play other sports (which I loved dearly anyway) so this post makes me smile. Thanks for sharing and congrats on being freshly pressed. ~Meredith

  17. Love it. I did gymnastics from ages 5-11 then again in High School and it shaped my life. Some of my best memories are in the gym and you can see in my profile picture that even at 23 I’m still doing handstands whenever I can.

    1. WOW! Thanks so much. I know that my impression of gymnastics was vastly different before we started on this journey. Thankfully we have had some great coaching. I appreciate you sharing my post.

  18. This is an extraordinary post, and I can relate to it in all sorts of ways. Thanks for your words of wisdom.

  19. Being a gymnat myself for over 15 years and being apart of a college team has taught me so many life skills. I am so thankful to be in a sport that has taught me so many lessons that I know I will be able to carry when gymnastics is over. Great post and good luck to your daughter!

  20. Awesome! This is why sports is so beneficial to our youth. You just painted a beautiful picture.

  21. My daughters are both in gymnastics. My 10 year old is on a tumbling team and the 7 year old loves it to be with friends and learn “cool tricks”. I have the privilege of also teaching there classes (actually using my health and physical education degree- evn thought I can’t get a teaching job). All three of us love it and your blog is totally on with gymnastics and coaches. Loved it. My daughters also run 5k races (3.1 miles) and believe it or not love it. Read about then on my blog look under children I think it is listed in.

  22. My girls did competitive gymnastics for years and I believe the sport taught them some very important lessons about themselves and life. Nice post. Look forward to reading more of your posts in the future.

  23. Nicely done, I never thought of that. I had always kept the poem and paragraphs separate. Great post!

  24. What a touching and inspiring post. It is fantastic to see that you are encouraging your daughters to do gymnastics and soccer for the qualities it will teach them, rather than simply for the medals they could win. It is a pleasure to know that parents are helping their children’s spiritual development.

  25. Parenting. Probably the most challenging job out there. I love the line “my job….is to raise an adult.”

  26. Hey my name is Jamie. This brought a smile to my face. I did competitive gymnastics for 8 years, then coached for 4 years, and now I am a gymnastics judge. By the pictures I can tell in this year of gymnastics she is a natural and has been trained at a great gym. Make sure you know about the college scholarships that are available and that her dreams stay alive! Any time you guys have a question about gymnastics in general feel free to leave me a comment!! Tell her to keep up the good work!

  27. i was a high-level gymnast for almost 10 years. and you’re right…it teaches youth everything you need to know (with the right coach). hard work, dedication, how to handle failure, competitive drive, sportsmanship…it’s an amazing sport.

  28. I loved this post. As a former gymnast, I wholeheartedly agree with what you’ve written. Gymnastics also teaches you routine and how to manage your time- both skills that are important in college and in life.

  29. (I have stumbled across your blog courtesy of the WordPress site featuring your blog on their homepage.)

    Incredible post! I did gymnastics competitively for eleven years growing up, and I don’t regret a second of it. It has most definitely shaped me into the person I am today, and I am eternally grateful to my parents for allowing me to pursue this sport. You are absolutely correct; the lessons she learns in gymnastics will carry her through the rest of her life.

    Best of luck to your daughter!

  30. This title is 100% true! I did competitive gymnastics pretty hardcore as a little girl until a bone disease kicked me out. I just turned that focused energy from gymnastics to academics and won myself a full-ride to college and a brand new car with all the left over scholarship money. Now here I am raising my son and trying to figure out what sport could equal gymnastics for him! Great post!

    1. Try rock climbing! You’ll be able to pass on your gymnastic knowledge on balance and strength and focus and trust in your abilities 🙂

      To pyjamadays- I think I love this post so much because it reminded me of all the lessons I picked up, fell in love, and grew with over my first year of climbing. With all the fears and frustrations attached to getting back on to the rocks recently, this post was definitely an important reminder.

      Kudos to you for being such an awesome mom. All the best to everyone on Team Hare 🙂

  31. Great post….especially for those who all girls — and women — doing competitive sports seriously.

    I took up saber fencing in my mid 30s, with a two-time Olympian as my coach. Ferocious! Demanding! But someone, like all great coaches, who could see into our core and know how to motivate us past pain, fear and failure.

    I learned a tremendous amount about myself on that fencing strip that I’ve used in “real life” ever since.

    Your daughter is a smart cookie and very lucky to have a mom who really understands what’s happening out there for her when she’s training and competing.

  32. I teach gymnastic a few hours a week to little kids. I try to make it positive and fun experience for them as it was for me when I was a young gymnast. It is frustrating when the parents come to me concerned that their little kids aren’t learning enough “tricks”.
    Your little gal looks very poised and accomplished.

  33. So true! Sports are a microcosm of the adult world and, if the child is so inclined, an amazing way to learn in a safer environment.

  34. A job well done. Great to see other people teaching their kids the values of life. So many parents are paralyzing their kids, by giving into the technology dark side of today’s society i.e, video games, computers etc.

    Sports activities are the best way to prep for: leadership, teamwork, mental and physical strength, as well as how to be competitive. Keep up the good job and finish the race.


    The student

  35. My daughter is 13, did gymnastics for a while and loved it. We’re trying to work out how to get her back into it. Great point about raising an adult.

  36. I loved the post. I was drawn to it because our 2.5 year old has been in (non-competitive) gymnastics since she was about a year of age. She began at the suggestion of her physical therapist (she had some issues with using both sides of her body equally) and has continued because she loves “nastics.”

    I really liked what you had to say about the benefits of gymnastics that have nothing to do with the medals. In our daughter’s case, we hope to encourage her to stick with it because she has only one functional kidney and her sports options are limited to non-contact sports, like gymnastics (which we’re told she has some natural ability at).

  37. Hello,
    I was a gymnastics coach for about five years. I really apreciate the shout out you gave to Hare’s coaches. Coaching gymnastic tends to be a way of life, it is hard and takes a lot of commitment. You are definetly right to say that gym gives you sooo soo many useful skills in life. Kudos to you for helping your children become the adults you want them to be. I have no doubt that with a thoughtful mom like youself, they will get there and soar.

    BTW, Hare has great form. Is she competitive? At what level? Your little one looks to have a bright future!

    I hope I have touched just one of my athletes the way your daughter has been effected by her coaches.


  38. My job as a mom is not to raise a child, but to raise an adult–if more people thought like this it would be GREAT. However, we do not have people who think like this–so sad!

  39. Hi! Saw your blog on WordPress Main Site and saw the word Gymnast and had to read. I was a gymnast (14 years) and now I’m coaching (6 years going strong) and you said it exactly right. Our sport isn’t about going to the olympics or wearing medals. It is about self confidence, responsibility and being fearless. Great post and good luck to your athlete!

  40. Lovely blogpost. Am sure as much as you are proud of The Hare’s achievements, she must be equally proud to have a mother like you.

  41. Loved your post! My friends and I often use the phrase “teachable moments” – there are so many when raising “an adult” (another point of yours I agree with). I also like that you mention life lessons. My DH and I also believe team sports are more about teaching life lessons than about developing a gifted athlete.
    Happy to have found your blog!

  42. (Sigh) They grow up so quickly…

    I’ve thought of getting The Tackler into sports for those reasons. He’s just so wild and teamwork… well, he’s a bit fuzzy on what that means.

    Winning versus losing… losing a game of Candyland can now cause a meltdown.

    I’m thinking martial arts or soccer…

    The Hare looks amazing in the photo.

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