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Spotting from the sidelines

Staffer supports sister in gymnastic competitions

Christina+Rodriguez+stands+beneath+All-American+Moon+at+a+state+competition.+
Christina Rodriguez stands beneath All-American Moon at a state competition.

Christina Rodriguez stands beneath All-American Moon at a state competition.

Marie Rodriguez

Marie Rodriguez

Christina Rodriguez stands beneath All-American Moon at a state competition.

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While watching a sports event, people see the athletes winning gold, people who have worked every day to stand on a podium and be labeled as one of the best athletes in the world. What we do not see are the people standing on the sidelines cheering for the person they helped reach their goal. I’m one of those people in the crowd. 

For the past two years, my little sister, Christina, has practiced gymnastics. She’s met many different people, experienced a variety of competitions and joined a community I’m not sure many people know exists. The group is vast and encompasses a wide variety of cultures and religions. In the end, people enter gymnastics because they love it, and everyone has the chance to join if they put forth the effort. 

In the end, people enter gymnastics because they love it, and everyone has the chance to join if they put forth the effort. ”

— Maryssa Rodriguez, 10

Although my little sister has recently changed to a gym where I can’t watch her practice, she originally trained at a place where bringing family members for support was encouraged. This, of course, meant my mom would find any opportunity to drag me to the gym. While there, I would have to either sit on one of the few chairs sitting in the small area, or I could join Christina in her stretching. Sadly, athletics is not my strong suit, so I tended to spend the majority of my time on my phone. However, whenever I went to watch Christina train, I would be the one to hold her while she cried from frustration after making a mistake.

Christina is a person who prefers being alone after she messes up on a routine, but when she does, she tends to do badly on her next event.  Because of this, my older sister and I often have to cheer her up before she leaves to compete again, but she usually tries to force us away when we are trying to help her. In order to raise her spirits, my older sister and I will play music for her, tell her jokes, talk about anything and everything except how she did and sometimes just sit next to her quietly. It is hard to figure out what Christina needs us to do, but when we figure it out, she always does better.

It’s amazing to see how supportive everyone can be of people they don’t even know.”

— Maryssa Rodriguez, 10

Whether it’s at a local gym or a giant convention center, I always see a variety of people training, laughing and taking part in a world often overlooked by others. Much like other sports, gymnastics can be intense, and people get hurt. However, it’s amazing to see how supportive everyone can be of people they don’t even know.

For example, at one of the events I attended, a girl was performing on the trampoline when she fell. Normally, falling on a trampoline will not hurt a person, but the ones at these events are covered in mats which can hurt if you hit them at an awkward angle. This girl was unlucky, because her leg broke at nationals in front of everyone while she was competing, but nobody laughed at her or mocked her. Instead, everyone cheered and clapped when the paramedics arrived and said she was fine.

Something I’ve noticed while attending these events is the close relationships built between the people at the different gyms. The trainers are constantly there supporting the people competing, but not just because it is their job. I’ve seen the difference between those who care and those who don’t. Those who care are the coaches who laugh and joke with their team members. These are the people who high five the members who move on and hug those who barely placed and cry with those who do not. As far as I’ve seen, kindness goes a long way when competing.

As far as I’ve seen, kindness goes a long way when competing.”

— Maryssa Rodriguez, 10

I’ve also seen children come out of the competitions with sprained wrists, ankles and occasionally a broken bone will be the outcome of a small misstep. One wrong move and the competitor can end up seriously injured, but for those who really love gymnastics, I doubt they’d quit. In fact, I believe the only way to truly become good at the sport is to devote a large part of your life to it. 

However, despite all the training a person puts into their routines, a win is not always guaranteed. Even when a person puts their heart and soul into the event, someone else could be better, but something I’ve noticed when going to these meets is the drive to keep going. An example would be a little girl I met at Christina’s last meet. Previously, this little girl had been hurt during one of her routines and ended up breaking her arm. The surprising fact, however, is rather than resting, she spends an hour every day practicing so she may compete in the next competitions.

Teamwork is evident and kindness is everywhere in this community.”

— Maryssa Rodriguez, 10

Of course, gymnastics for me is not always glitter and glam. These events commonly begin early in the morning meaning my family and I have to leave before the sun has come out, or we leave late at night and sleep at a hotel. It’s not surprising for us to be stuck inside of a convention center for a long time. This forces us to buy the often overpriced food at the concession stands which usually have incredibly long lines.

The long car rides are most likely my least favorite part of Christina’s meets. Spending hours listening to bad music I refer to as hippy music while being cramped in a tight space with only a pillow and a blanket as comfort is not fun to me. I think the few times it is actually enjoyable is when we stop to look at sights or go to places famous. Overall the experience in the car is tiring and draining, but stopping to look at something amazing or the little moments when my little sister and I drive our parents crazy will always be enough to overcome the bad.

Even though there are many shortcomings along with the competitions, I would never ask my little sister to stop. I don’t think she would even if I did though. Although she has been injured before, Christina does gymnastics, because she enjoys it. Sure, it stresses her out sometimes, but everyone deals with stressful activities. Gymnastics is so integrated into her world it’s unlikely anyone could get her to give it up, and I’m glad they couldn’t.

Gymnastics has become part of my sister’s life, so it’s become part of my life. Yes, waking up early and having to deal with a lot of people is not what I consider fun, but I’ve grown used to it. I may not like the competitions, and I’ve definitely become annoyed at the long lines that come with the concession stands, but it’s all worth it to see my little sister standing on that podium.

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Spotting from the sidelines