My 12-year-old, Rose, was a gymnast for eight years. Seemingly born graceful, she was a “natural,” we were told over and over. Practicing and performing made my girl come alive. Watching her learn a new move, wiping away tears when she nailed a landing at a meet, hosting team parties—it was a joy for me, too. Now, after leaving countless meets with my mascara running, it was over, sooner than either of us had imagined.
Shortly after coming in first place in her division at the state championships, she asked to quit.
Last year they got a new coach—a former Navy Seal. He really worked them. The team was winning, but three girls were injured. Seeing this, Rose suddenly lost confidence on the beam and uneven bars. We went in to talk to the coach about Rose's increasing stress and fear of getting hurt. Our intention was to—nicely—tell him to back off. But he convinced us that to fully bring out her enormous potential, she just needed a little pushing.
As the coach pushed, Rose started to bring up quitting. But her devotion to her teammates stopped her. The girls were tight as sisters—actually, maybe closer than most sisters are at that age. They were there not only for birthdays and mall trips but also for support. When a routine fell flat, they rallied with hugs and tips. Gymnasts are judged not only indvidually but as a team. And since she was one of the strongest team members, her leaving would be a big blow to their chances for making it to the championships. She couldn't bear to let her friends down.
Then Rose tore up her hand. Skin tears are common in gymnasts, but they're painful. After that, she became increasingly sullen. She kept going—the championships were just a few weeks away—but the joy was gone. Shortly after coming in first place in her division at the Pennsylvania State Championships, she asked to quit. The pressure and the fear factor at her level had just become too much.
I cried in private. Then I rallied around Rose, supporting her decision. She was growing up, and that meant making tough choices. I was proud of her for being so strong. Do I think about what might have been? Yeah. But more often I think about what is: a healthy, confident daughter—who is still surrounded by her friends from the team.