Not-So-Pep Talk

Some say that you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. I’ve since come to understand that you don’t know how strange gymnastics is until you’re retired.

These realizations come at random times. They could be the moment you wake up the morning after your usual conditioning day not incredibly sore. Perhaps it is the moment when you realize you haven’t been upside down for a full twenty-four hours (shocking, I know).

One that really hit me hard was the day I gave a pep talk to a member of my school’s track team. At least, I tried to give a pep talk.It was the beginning of a new year, and it was time to try out all of the various events to see what you would compete in for the upcoming season. A freshmen girl was trying hurdles for the first time, but she was afraid of going over them. “Isn’t it scary having to run full speed at a piece of equipment?”

Count your blessings that you don’t have to run full speed at a lump of metal, hit it upside down, and do a flip before touching the ground. In a leotard. That’s right vault, I’m looking at you.

But the strangest part was when she told me that she was afraid of hitting the hurdle. What if it hurt smacking the metal with your foot?

Immediately, I sprang into a pep talk common in gymnastics: “What is the absolute worst thing that can happen? You break a toe, maybe sprain an ankle?”

You see, in gymnastics, this obviously isn’t a big deal. Heck, McKayla Maroney vaulted in the Olympics on a broken toe. I lost count of my sprained ankles before the age of ten. Besides, when the usual answer to “What’s the worst that can happen?” is literally death, a broken bone or two doesn’t seem so scary.

Apparently, that doesn’t apply to all sports. As soon as the words left my mouth, my teammate’s eyes widened in horror. “Can you really break a toe doing this?”

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I’ll admit, my response was somewhat… lacking. “Maybe, but probably not. Who cares about toes anyway? You’ll be fine!”

… Upon reflection, I should probably change my pep talk strategy for the future, at least for new members.

But in gymnastics, this would have worked. If the only danger in a skill it a possible sprain or minor fracture, then there is absolutely nothing to be afraid of. Isn’t it strange to think that— for most athletes— this isn’t normal?

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