Mar 21 2015
Layla participated in her first competition yesterday; it’s the first of many as she journeys with her school’s gymnastics team. Being completely new to school sports and competitive events in general, this was an eye opener for me! Some of my thoughts and experiences:
* The cost of gym has been higher than we’d ever anticipated, for something that’s a school sport. I first raised my eyebrows at a gym ball that cost $40, but now I realise that by gym standards, that was a paltry sum. In any case, the ball went unused after a few weeks because the coach had new plans. Layla spent her entire year-end holiday last year on additional gym training sessions because she was considered a “late” joiner to the team, and those sessions were not subsidised by the school. Till today, she continues to train on an additional day per week. Then came the hoop, hoop case, and clubs, but we took it all in our stride. I wasn’t alone in balking at the costume expenses, which comes up to over $200 per girl, but this is part and parcel of being in a team that’s brand new. This is part of the reason that I’m taking more work projects this year, to help pay for all this.
* The coach is wonderfully passionate and you can tell she loves the girls and has a plan for them, but she’s also the creative sort, which means there are often new plans with little advance notice. In practical terms, that means we have to adjust our expense budgets and schedules with very little time to prepare for the change. Or it may mean that we run errands that are ultimately fruitless. I’m not a highly involved gym mom, so I’m only seeing the tip of the iceberg, and dealing with things like training times being changed at the last minute, or a session being extended without warning. I really appreciate the efforts of the mothers who’ve taken it upon themselves to assist the coach and the team, helping us file registrations, disseminating messages from the coach and teachers in charge, running study groups, bringing snacks for the girls to enjoy after training, and basically doing everything they can to keep spirits high, which includes not sharing with the rest of the mothers the difficulties they’ve encountered. For instance, I only found out recently that getting the girls measured for costumes was a tedious process involving the coach and three mothers, who spent hours helping to measure the girls and double check the numbers.
* I learned a few things about sportsmanship and generosity in this period. A friend sent her two daughters to support Layla yesterday, and a few moms whose daughters weren’t competing bought tickets to attend to support her as well, and helped me with the two things I’m most clueless about–hair (it needs to be in a bun) and makeup! I’m a low-initiative, slow-to-action sort of person and I don’t offer help or support unless a need is blatantly staring me in the face, but these moms were so quick in their generosity and it’s something I’m trying to learn from.
* Layla is competing in a category where she’s among the youngest. The coach has her own plans and we trust her judgement, but some of us moms were concerned about sending our kids into competition where they were obviously disadvantaged–age aside, they’ve been practising their routine for a little over a month, compared to others who’ve been training all year. But the coach felt it necessary to give the girls exposure early on. It was a bit rattling to see the experienced gymnasts come on and perform their routines, but I thought the way this particular competition was set up was wonderful for the young girls–there was walled-off section for the girls to practise in while the competition was going on, and the coaches used it to the max, keeping the girls busy all the way until it was their turn! They hardly spent any time watching their competitors, and they weren’t told their scores until the end. Layla’s scores were on the lower end and it was as we’d anticipated, but she was so confident during the competition and handled the unexpected with great calm. For instance, her foot somehow got caught under one of the mats as she was sliding into a split, but she managed to free herself and complete the routine.
* There were certain things that I didn’t anticipate either, like Layla’s usually in a single ponytail for school and gym practice, and she had her hair in a bun for the first time yesterday, as per competition requirements. What we didn’t know, was that her bun would hinder her routine because her hoop got caught in it twice. So she either needs a flatter bun in future, which is hard with her thick hair, or she needs to practise with a bun on regular days too. Another thing was her shoes! Ballet shoes are pretty easy to clean, at least the tops are, if not the soles. I forgot that gym shoes aren’t made of the same waxy material; we did have a spare brand new pair, but the coach reminded us on the day before the competition that we were not to use new shoes–and Layla’s training shoes looked pretty beat up even after I tried using a wet wipe on them and I didn’t dare to chuck them in the machine for a quick rinse. Gymnastics coaches can be particular about grooming too, but it was too late to do anything about that so I just left it.
* And finally, for the competition itself–the best part for me was asking Layla how she found the experience and hearing her say it was mostly fun, and just a bit scary. As I mentioned before, the girls trained all the way leading up to their events, and after all their events were over, they compared grades, joked about getting “failing” scores, and proceeded to do their routines again, just for the fun of it! We watched a few more events and the coach told us we could leave early if we wanted to, so we went off with another teammate’s family to enjoy a well-deserved dinner together.
In all, I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome for Layla’s first competition, and I’m very proud of her and so glad to see her doing something where she’s in her element, and unafraid.