When I was in kindergarten and early elementary school I was on a gymnastics team in York. This gymnastics team was for children ages 5 through 10. We practiced five nights a week and had competitions on Saturdays. I loved gymnastics because it was a lot of fun and it gave another opportunity to be a normal kid. I did floor routines, the balance beam, and the bars. The first floor routine was tumbling. My coach first taught me how to tumble by getting into the tumbling position and getting my body use to rolling my weight around. After I got use to this my coach had me do one tumble at a time. My coach would have me practice tumbling across a mat. After I got use to the pattern of tumbling, my coach had me tumbling continuously down the mat. After I perfected this technique I started to learn to tumble from a standing position. I went through the same learning process for tumbling while standing.
I also did the balance beam. The balance beam was the most challenging part of gymnastics for me. I had a difficult time walking on the balance beam because I had to walk with one foot in front of the other. I had to get use to keeping my balance while walking this way. My coach had to support me while I learned to walk on the balance beam. Once I learned to keep my balance while walking on the beam my coach taught me how to tumble on the beam.
I also did the bars and the rings. The bars were so much fun. I was able to swing in between the two bars. This was scary but fun. The fun part was floating in midair. The scariest part was making sure I caught the other bar. I learned how to flip on the bars and spin in circles. My coach had me do pull ups as well increase my upper body strength. I also did the rings. My coach also did pull ups on the rings. I did flips on the rings. My coach also had me put my legs up and hold myself up. I also did flips on the rings.
My favorite thing in gymnastics was the trampoline. I loved jumping. I learned to do flips in midair. I also ran on the trampoline to start jumping and tumbling. I also jumped from different starting positions. I started jumping from sitting on my knees. When I was in midair I had to quickly straighten my legs to continue jumping. I also started jumping from an Indian style position. I also jumped up on the spring board into a foam pit. I loved pretending the foam pit was a swimming pool. I also did summer salts after I jumped off the spring board into the foam pit. I also throw the foam around and tried to go to the bottom of the pit. In order to get out of the foam pit I had to climb up a rope. This was good for my upper body strength because I had to pull myself up the rope. My coach would have me jump off of the spring board repetitively in order to see if I could land further into the pit.
We had competitions every Saturday. I competed in tumbling, the balance beam, and the bars. My best event was tumbling. During tumbling competitions we would have to do tumbling routines in front of four judges. The judges would give us a score on 1-10 based on how far we could tumble across the floor and how well our routine looked. My coach had me do a tumbling routine consisting of front flips, back flips, and cart wheels. I would begin my routine by running into a standing tumble and switching back and forth between the three flips. I usually received a score in between a 5 and 7. The biggest challenge in tumbling for me was balance. I still had balance issues due to my Cerebral Palsy at this point in my childhood. This made parts of gymnastics hard for me, but I still enjoyed it. Tumbling helped my balance and when I was to keep my balance better my scores improved. By second grade my scores increased to 7s and 8s. I was able to switch in between the three flips quicker and made a smoother transition between my flips.
I also competed in bar competitions. During these competitions I had to perform routines on the bars. There were two sets of bars. There was a lower bar and an upper bar that was above it to the right. I would flip off of one bar and grab onto the other. In between the bars I would do flips in midair. I would begin my bar routine by running to jump onto the bar. I would do 9 or 10 flips from the lower bar to the higher bar. At the end of the routine I would to a flip off of the lower bar and land on the mat. The judges would give me a score from 1-10. I would usually score at about a 5 or a 6. This was the event I had the most difficulty with because of my coordination. I couldn’t grab the bar at the right time which messed up my routine. My routine improved the more I practiced and developed the coordination to swing in between the two bars. My last competition I was able to score a 7.
I also did the balance beam in gymnastics competitions. The balance beam is one of the hardest events to learn in gymnastics. The balance beam takes a lot of coordination and there are many components to the routine. The first thing you need to learn for the balance beam is how to walk on it without falling off. You need to walk with one foot in front of the other. This took me a while for me to learn. When I was younger I had problems keeping my balance. I fell off of the balance beam the first several times I tried walking it. After I learned to keep my balance I was able to walk on the beam without falling. After this I was able to learn how to do flips on the balance beam. In order to do flips on the beam I had to take a couple steps and started flipping down the beam. I also learned how to do spilts on the beam. Learning how to do spilts on the beam p very difficult. I had to make sure my legs didn’t go off the beam during the spilt. My coach first had me practice doing spilts on the floor. This helped me keep my legs in a straight line as I was going down into the spilt position. Once I got comfortable doing spilts on the floor, I started doing spilts on the beam. I practiced doing spilts on the beam for a while. Once I got comfortable doing spilts on the beam, I started switching in between walking and doing spilts on the beam. My coach would have me get on the beam and call out if she wanted me to walk or do spilts. This taught me how to switch in between the two with a steady flow. After a while my coach had me add flips to my routine. My coach helped me develop a good rhythm between all three by calling out which one she wanted me to do on the beam. She did this until I was able to transition in between all three of them smoothly, and then I was ready to compete. My balance beam competitions went better than I thought they would. I was able to transition between walking, jumping, and flipping really well. My last balance beam competition I scored a 5. Even though I didn’t receive a high score in the balance beam competition I was proud of how well my last competition went. This was my most challenging event in gymnastics because of my poor coordination due to my cerebral palsy at this time. When I began to practice the balance beam event I fell off the beam a lot. Towards the end of gymnastics I was able to complete this event without falling off the beam.
When I was in second grade my coach moved to England. My parents could not find another coach and I had to stop gymnastics. I was very disappointed because I loved gymnastics. Gymnastics was very beneficial for me. This gave me a lot of self confidence because I had a sport to participate in and was succeeding in. Gymnastics also gave me a way to develop a social life with my teammates. Gymnastics also helped strengthen my leg muscles. The events helped me walk better and have more endurance. The biggest thing gymnastics shown me that I am able to have a normal life with cerebral palsy and be an athlete. I also learned how to take care of my body and improve my cerebral palsy. I learned which workouts strengthen my hamstrings, which was the muscle that was the tightest in my legs. I think I was more willing to stretch outside of gymnastics than I was willing to stretch outside of therapy because the rest of my teammates had to do the same workouts as I did. I didn’t feel singled out because of my disability. I finally saw that everyone needs to stretch and workout to be healthy.