My 8-year-old son Gus had his second competitive gymnastics meet this morning. As we were leaving the venue to head home, I asked him if he had fun, and he gave me an emphatic “Oh yeah!”
Gus knows what’s important – he’s doing gymnastics because he absolutely loves it. Because he has some natural ability and a good body type for the sport, there’s nothing to prevent him from succeeding at it. But because he LOVES it, he works his tail off at it and continues to improve. To the outside observer, success FOLLOWS enjoyment of the sport, but to him, success EQUALS enjoyment.
As a proud papa, it’s fun to see him enjoying a sport and getting good at it, and I’m learning a lot, too. I’m impressed with everyone I’ve met in the sport. I like his coaches, and I get along very well with the other parents on his team. I’ve also been very impressed with the attitude of sportsmanship I see embodied by all the coaches and other gymnasts I’ve seen at his first two meets (and the prior “practice” meet). There was a kid in Gus’s rotation today who was the only one on his team. Gus’s 6-member team adopted him, and he had plenty of kids to share high fives with. This is a great sport.
I’ve made the decision never to “coach” Gus myself. Obviously, I could encourage him to keep his legs together better on a certain skill, or I could incentivize him to keep improving his scores. I don’t want to do that. It’s so cool to see Gus motivating himself – it would be less cool if he were doing something to please me. He has good coaches. My job is to cheer for him.
I can also film him and show him the video. That way, he’s coaching himself. I ask him questions, and it’s truly interesting to me. At lunch after the meet, I asked him if he feels pressure or if he just does it. He says he just does it. Interesting. It sure looks pressure-packed, but maybe that comes later.
Gus faced a little adversity today. He got off to a great start, doing an excellent pommel routine and earning a 14.9 (scoring is on a 16-point scale – all the kids do the same routines with some opportunities for bonuses). That turned out to be good for his first podium finish, a 3rd place! After a solid rings routine and a really good vault, he was on his way to an exceptional parallel bars routine when he did a swing handstand that went too far, and he fell, right before the dismount. He got back on and finished the routine but didn’t get a good score for him.
I was really interested to see his reaction. He cared, obviously, but he wasn’t devastated. He ate a Clif bar before the next rotation and tried to regain his focus. He had a significant bobble on high bar that showed his confidence wasn’t fully back. He had another bobble on floor, but then he finished strong with a fine roundoff-back-handspring, a skill he added last week. His all-around score was lower than the last meet, but it was great to see how well he could handle adversity. I wasn’t sure what he’d say when I asked him if he had fun afterword, so I was thrilled to hear his enthusiastic “Oh yeah!” Clearly, he knows what’s important.
I think I’m going to learn a thing or two from this kid.