Friday, June 30, 2017

Ivory's Adventures as a Gymnast

Ivory has been taking gymnastics since she was six. She is such a short, strong girl, that we thought gymnastics would be perfect for her. And it has been an amazing road for her. I have only blogged about our experience here and there, so today I'm going to try to cover five years. (It's doable.)

We put Ivory in gymnastics at a place called Arete. It is actually quite a good facility. (Robyn even did gymnastics for a few months but didn't have the passion that Ivory had.) Ivory moved up quickly through the small classes. Each time a girl moves up, two things happen: 1) She goes to the gym for more time. i.e. from one day to two, or two days to three. 2) Naturally, it gets more expensive.

Gymnastics is a money sucker, for any parents out there who don't know. There is an annual fee for having your child enrolled. (Small, but always surprising when you are paying monthly and suddenly there is an extra charge.) There is a monthly fee which starts small, but builds until you could be making a car payment instead of watching your child do cartwheels. Then, there is the competition fees. Wow. There is a reason that we avoided those for so long. They are more along the lines of a mortgage payment (or two).

At Arete, Ivory was bopping along, enjoying her time. She even did a little mini competition that she did really well in. They seemed to bump her up to the next level faster than I thought she needed. I decided this was simply because the higher levels cost more, so why not put girls up there? Ivory eventually reached a level where she could compete, but there was no way we could afford it, so Ivory just went to the practices three times a week. We were content, but only to a point.

Because (I did mention the financial leeches, right?) every year, the gym got more expensive. They raised prices EVERY YEAR. Of course, we couldn't compete; we could barely pay the monthly fee. Then one summer, they had this strange parents meeting. I had never been to one before, but I dutifully showed up. It was basically a break down of cost and volunteering. There was a team fee (regardless of whether the girls competed) and then a minimum number of hours parents had to help at meets. (Also regardless of whether their girls competed.) This didn't make sense to me. And I knew our gymnastics time with Arete was coming to a close, which was too bad, because Ivory was really enjoying herself.

I went in to speak with the owners and withdraw my daughter. Not surprisingly, they sang a different tune. I now could  be exempt from the team fee and volunteering hours. But I wasn't fooled. That other shoe was going to drop eventually, and I knew prices were going to go up again the next year. So, I took her out anyway. It was a sad goodbye. We took a couple pictures with her coaches. (This was in August 2015)

(I know Ivory was sad to leave, but two years later, she can't remember the name of these coaches, so it wasn't too hard on her. Her favorite coaches had left the spring before. She does remember Ron's name. He used to call her Iverson at the gym. She still doesn't like me to call her that because it has tender memories for her.)

That meant we were out a gym. I started looking around for a place where Ivory could continue to develop her skills without the excessive price tag. (I know...good luck.) A friend of mine had moved her kids from Arete to High Altitude, so I went to check it out. High Altitude was a tumbling and cheer gym, and they were just starting a gymnastics program. And because Ivory was new, it was back to once or twice a week instead of so much time at the gym. (I was really starting to miss Ives around the house.)

I signed her up for tumbling and gymnastics. Ivory found out two things: 1) She didn't love tramp and tumbling as much. A lot of this was because of coaches. If Ivory doesn't love the coach, she doesn't love the sport. The regular coach was not her favorite. Here she is practicing one day with a sub -- who she also didn't like.

2) She was pretty darn good at gymnastics after all her time at Arete. Ivory gave up the tramp and tumbling side and focused on gymnastics. She quickly moved up to the advanced class. In fact, she was the only one in the class for quite a while, since it was a new program. Her coach Kiki was great and Ivory loved going.

We hit a good groove. Ivory was learning new skills, she wasn't gone too much, and our pocketbook could feel the difference.

Here is a video we made in 2016. Ivory had a talent night with the girls in her ward. She wanted to do gymnastics, but it is hard without the gym part. So we went to a park and she did a bunch of tricks. Props because it is much harder to do those things on grass than on a springy floor.

A year later after coming to High Altitude, Kiki made a gymnastics team. Team meant extra practices and the gym was talking about doing competition. After all, a gymnast can't feel fulfilled unless they have medals and can say they are the best. (Sense the sarcasm.) But it is what most gyms eventually go to - competition. (And I get it. Competition is a healthy way to test your skills. I just can't stomach the cost.)

Kiki was a little slow getting things moving. I actually figured they wouldn't get everything organized for another year, but then Jess was hired. She has been coaching for a while and she knew her stuff. Although the girls were already practicing three times a week, she made the practices longer. Ivory was suddenly missing dinner three times a week. But Jess made competition happen. We were right back in the boat that we had bailed from two years ago.

That said, it was time to let Ivory try it out. She had practiced hard and it was high time we saw if she wanted this to be her life. As her mother, I had already chosen for her. I wanted my Ives back. She was gone all the time, and my money with her, and when I picked her up, she was often gloomy or disappointed. The smile that came with gymnastics was fading. That was partly due to harder workouts, and partly to Jess, who was the bad cop to Kiki's good cop. I talked with Ivory quite a bit and together we decided that Ivory would compete, but then she would reevaluate with the possibility of quitting.

So, we did it all. The warm ups, the leos, the sparkles, and the practices. (I do have to hand it to Jess. Ivory's skills improved quite a bit under her coaching. Watching that video from the year before I could see that Ivory had gotten much better at bars and most of her tumbling skills.)

 Ivory's first competition was right before our cruise. We were all excited. We were experimenting with hair dos because she needed her hair off her neck. (Her hair was different at every meet.) I also sent her up with her teammates because I didn't want to be that mom who shows up late. Plus, Ivory wanted to go with them. It worked out well. I think Sofie's mom took her to all the events. Cute Sofie and Ives.

I have videos of her routines on each apparatus, but I'll put them with the meet they were in. I would like to apologize to my blog book. I know videos don't work in you, but sometimes I just need to put them on here regardless. So, kids, if you are reading this, you'll need to go to the blog to find these videos. Unless the zombie apocalypse has already happened and there is no internet. Then you should stop reading this and find a shotgun.

Meet one was called the Flower Power Meet. They get some kind of bling with each meet. I believe they got knee high socks with flowers on them. Strange, but unique, I guess. This was the first meet we had ever attended. I probably drove the other spectators crazy asking questions, but I had most of it figured out by the end.

Each gym starts on a different apparatus, but they always go in the order of vault, bars, beam, floor. In this case, our girls started on bars, which means they would do vault last. I was not very good at getting pictures throughout. I was either watching or taking video. I did get this fun picture of Ivory doing a practice routine on bars. I'm very sad because when I went to record her bar routine, I took a still instead of video. It was the best view and best routine she would do all season and I missed it. (Thanks Karma.)

Tyler got a great video of her floor routine. All the girls do the same routine to the same song. Trust me that you want to shove cotton in your ears after only listening to it a few times. It goes the entire two hours.

This was a strange meet. For some reason, the judge on floor did not like our team. They scored everyone so low. Her teammate who didn't complete her tumbling pass scored higher than Ivory. I was a little bugged. But there isn't much you can do. I would say that she performed about the same at each meet and never was her score that low again.

Ivory's scores: Flower Power Meet
Vault: 8.2
Bars: 9.0 (awesome job)
Beam: 6.4 (She fell off on her cartwheel)
Floor: 6.75 (lame judge)
All Around: 30.35

The awards ceremony is always super long. They call out every event for every age group. But the smiles are priceless.

These girls worked so hard. They did a great job. (Kiki is on the left, and Jess is on the right.) There are only four girls on the team: Ivory, Sofia, Kaitlin, and Ashley. All the girls are genuine, nice girls.

Off to dinner afterward. A gymnastics competition can sure work up an appetite. 

Ivory reminded me of a little German girl with her braided buns. I really liked how her hair looked when she took it out. It looked so soft and wavy right before bed. What a cutie pie.

Ives got a bit of a break after the first meet mid April. She didn't have another until May, but then the next three were back to back for three weekends straight. The second meet was Fun in the Sun. (They got towels.) At the beginning all the teams line up and they call roll so to speak and each team waves. It is one of my favorite parts.

I tried to redeem myself here by taking a video of Ivory's bar routine. She does a good job although she wobbles just a little while doing her squat-on (That is when she stands on the lower bar and gets ready to jump to the high bar.)

It was a very fun meet, made even more fun because Grandma Dargan came out to watch. My mom has always enjoyed gymnastics. I remember watching the Olympics with her when I was little, so it was a great time for her to watch a granddaughter at one of these events.

More smiles and medals. Fantastic job girls.

Ivory's scores: Fun in the Sun Meet
Vault: 8.15
Bars: 8.2
Beam: 7.575
Floor: 8.55
All Around: 32.475

Ivory was at level 4 for these meets. The cut off score in order to continue to level 5 is a 32. However, Ivory's coach wanted the girls to get a 34 in order to start level 5 training.

By this time, Ivory and I had already decided that she would not by continuing in the summer. Practices were going to increase to four hours a day, four days a week. It was going to be her entire summer. Not to mention the schedule in the fall when school started again. I love that Ivory has done well and become strong and confident (heck, she has a six pack) but this is not what I want her to do forever. I don't want this to be her life. So many times friends have called or activities have come up that she hasn't been able to do because she is at the gym. I feel like her youth will slip away and she will have a handful of medals to show for it. I would rather she have a wider range of memories to choose from than just the four walls of the gym. I do think the skills she has learned will be precious to her in many areas. I hope she stays strong and loves to do hard things. I think she will be amazing at anything she tries.

The third meet of the season was at Arete, so Ivory was familiar with the gym. That was one of the craziest meets in my opinion. May was the month of my driving everywhere. (Tyler hasn't quite got to that part of the ankle narrative, but he couldn't drive for a month.) We all went out to be supportive, but Tyler couldn't sit still long enough. (Ankle pain, blah, blah, blah.) Luckily, Arete was not far from home base, so I drove him back home. Sadly, I realized too late, that I should have taken the littles home as well. So I made another trip to get them home to go to bed. All this driving meant I missed Ives' bar routine and I barely made it back for beam. Here is a fun picture Tyler took of Ivory through the binoculars.

This meet was a Co-op Championship. I'm not exactly sure what that means, but there were girls from different levels there, and glory be...some of them had different music for their floor routines. It was a nice break, I can tell you. Ember, Ivory's friend, came along as well. It was fun to sit in the stands (when I was there) with her. I realize this next picture is truly awful, but that is Ivory up there on the third place stand. That is pretty great.

Everyone did very well at this meet. Ivory had some of her best scores of the season. Look how close she got to 34 points.

Ivory's scores: Co-op Championship
Vault: 8.4
Bars: 8.75
Beam: 8.3
Floor: 8.5
All Around: 33.95

I love this picture. These two girls look so different, but I love that they are great friends. We had a fun time going out to dinner after the meet.

The last meet of the season was State. Once again, I really don't know how this all works. I think you have to compete in at last three meets in order to go to the Utah State Championships. The day was also divided by age, so Sofie competed earlier in the day and the other three girls competed in the afternoon. That is why not all four are waving here. (Sofie is quite tall for her age. I believe she is only 8.)

State was very fun. I took video of all her events. Robyn and June came to cheer Ivory on. She did very well. I was particularly proud of her vault. I have never seen her make a large mistake on vault, but on her first vault, she fell. They only take the best of two vault scores, but it is very hard to compose yourself after a mistake, but you can see here how she does...

Pretty awesome. She ended up getting an 8.5 on her vault. She also had one of her most solid routines on the beam. I was very proud of her.

Overall, it was a great day for her.

Ivory's scores: Utah State Championship
Vault: 8.5
Bars: 7.775
Beam: 8.5
Floor: 8.35
All Around: 33.125

She missed a skill on bars, so her all around score wasn't quite as high, but I think she did a great job. However, at state there is fierce competition. Ivory didn't even place in any category. That was also the evening that we had to tell her coaches that she wasn't continuing on. But we still had a great ending to the evening. We went out to eat and enjoyed being together as a family and looking forward to more time to spend together. These girls mean the world to me.

Gymnastics has been such an engaging activity for Ivory. If I could go back, I would do it all again. The smiles and growth have been more than worth it. But I'm also excited for other memories we will make in the future.


meganmushrat said...

Since gymnastics has always fascinated me, I am thrilled that one of my granddaughters did so well in it. I accept that she'll never compete in the Olympics, but you are totally right that the top athletes have no life other than their sport - and that's really kind of sad. Great job Ives!

chen wish said...
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