Tag Archives: kids gymnastics

Helicopters At The Gym

6 Sep

Photo:Naperville Gymnastics Club

Every Wednesday night, I go to the gym and I sit. Now, I’m not a slug, by any means, but I’m not there to get my weekly workout. I’m there for a different kind of exercise: watching my daughter fling her body around bars, jump in the air over a wooden beam and travel the length of a mat using her arms as if they were legs.

My daughter does gymnastics. My daughter thinks it’s fun, so I ignore the freaked out voice in my head that screams, “She’s going to break her neck” every time she jumps more than one inch on the beam.

I’m not alone, of course. There are all kinds of parents at the gym. There are parents who read while they wait, parents who work while they wait and parents who surf the web while they wait.

And then, there are those parents.

Like “I’m Having A Meeting Here, People!” Mom. Hogging prime real estate in front of the viewing window (parents are not allowed in the gym), she very loudly discusses with her clients how she is going to make right what she has clearly done wrong. I wish she would shut the hell up, but none of the other parents seem to be bothered.

I sort of feel sorry for Binoculars Dad. My daughter is in the recreational program, which is code for these kids are never going to the Olympics. Binoculars Dad has a daughter in “Team” and she’s a Level 10, the highest level you can go in competitive gymnastics. Apparently, Olympic contenders go to eleven.

Binoculars Dad needs binoculars because the team athletes work out on the far side of the gym, “far” as in far away from prying—and distracting—parental eyes. The recreational kids are right up front; no one cares if they get distracted.

I feel sorry for Binoculars Dad because, well, he needs binoculars to see his daughter practice. Team gymnastics costs a butt load of money; the compulsory leotard alone is $140. I feel his pain. Every month, I give a lot of money to Hix Brothers music for my son to have lessons in guitar and drums. This has been going on for years; I have heard my son play guitar three times. He insists he practices in his room, which shall be the subject of another post, but I’m thinking of bugging the place for proof.

My favorite parents, though, and I mean that in the “Oh, man, these people are un-freaking-believable” sense, are The Sports Announcers.

This couple follows their daughter’s progress around the gym, providing commentary on every aspect of her performance, the coaching, the other members of the practice group and what they’ll do with the intel they’ve gathered when they get home alone with their kid.

Let’s say their daughter, Stephanie, is practicing with her group on the floor exercise mats.

“Oh!” says Mom, “he’s having them do back handsprings,” referring to the move the coach is having the girls do. “Stephanie should be able to do that,” says Dad.

“Oh!” says Mom. “Cara did a nice one. Stephanie’s turn!”

“Ok, Stephanie,” says Dad. “Don’t lose focus.”

A minute passes.

“She didn’t do a back handspring,” says Dad. “I wonder why.” Like me, Stephanie’s mom clearly doesn’t care; she’s busy analyzing the team.

“Oh!” says Mom, because she starts every statement with “Oh!”, “there’s a new girl.”

“And a new boy,” says Dad. Both parents are clearly disturbed that Stephanie’s universe has been invaded.

“I wanna know her name,” says Mom. “I wanna know his name,” says Dad. I want you to shut up, I think, but by now I am drawn into the play by play of Stepanie’s practice session. I decide to move closer to the viewing window to watch my daughter. She sticks her landing and we flash each other a thumb up.

The Sports Announcers follow me. Stephanie’s group is now doing front handsprings or back walkovers or front-to-back walkover springs. I have no idea what the names of all these moves are but I’m sure the Sports Announcers will let me know.

Unfortunately, the Sports Announcers have become distracted by Stephanie’s hair, which seems to be coming loose repeatedly.

“Oh!” says Mom, “her hair is loose again. Look! Coach is telling her to put it up again.”

“Is her hair too thin for a Scrunchi?” asks Dad. This stops me in the middle of thinking Will you shut the hell up? Sports Announcer Dad has used the word “Scrunchi” appropriately. My husband probably thinks a Scrunchi is an Italian appetizer.

Mom ignores the Scrunchi comment; it’s Stephanie’s turn.

“Oh! She’s really focused. Oh! She did a back handspring.”

“It wasn’t very good,” says Dad. “Just like with bars. It took a while so we’ll work on this now. We just have to get her to not put her head on the mat. We’ll talk to her when she comes out.”

I decide I must see this Stephanie child, so pull my eyes away from my daughter’s group. I scan through the practice group next to hers, looking for a seriously focused athlete with scrawny hair. I find her.

“SHE’S FIVE!” my brain screams. It can’t be true, I think. I’ve made a mistake. That taller, ten-year-old must be Stephanie. But it’s not. Stephanie is an adorable five-year-old girl with a sweet smile, a chubby little tummy, really fine hair and parents from hell.

I look away just in time to see a girl do three perfect back handsprings in a row. Her coach runs up to her, grabs her under the arms and swings her around and around as they both laugh. And then, the session is over.

My daughter runs out of the gym and meets me in the viewing area. I see Stephanie greet her parents, bouncing up and down, but I don’t stay to hear what they say. I give my daughter a hug, ask if she had fun and kiss the top of her head. Next week, I think, I’ll bring my headphones.

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