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Monday, November 7, 2016

You're never fully dressed without a custom leotard

When I was eleven or twelve, I started doodling ideas for leotard designs. In the late 80's competitive gymnastics leotard designs were color blocked in your custom colors--that is, geometric designs were sewn into place. My gym? Well, we were the prettiest-- dark purple, light purple, and turquoise were color-blocked into a common design of the time, a v-shape across the chest that continued up the underside of each arm.

So my hobby sort of took off; being the fidgety type, I couldn't watch TV without entertaining myself on the side. Soon I had a folder full of leotard images that looked something like this:

I brought my leotard folder on every trip, always with my bag full of my favorite markers. After a few years, I had about 500 leotard designs. Also in my leotard supply bag: I sent away for leotard catalogs, or took my coach's cast off ones, of the big three: GK, Alpha Factor, and Valentine's. I can still picture every page of those catalogs!

At fifteen, I finally did something tangible with my leotard obsession. I sent one of my favorite designs to GK to have it custom designed. I still remember that $85 price tag, I couldn't believe I was spending that much of my own money! And my coach was happy to humor me--I got to wear my own design in my final optional competition. 

This hobby directly led me to my college major, in fashion design. And in a dream job scenario, after graduation, I flew up to Pennsylvania for a job interview with GK. The most surprising part of my interview was finding out that the design team (at the time, at least) didn't have anyone with gymnastics experience. I discussed my design aesthetic and my likes and dislikes for competition leotards. When I mentioned that I preferred designs that elongated the arm--a vertical stripe down the arm is flattering, while sleeves with asymmetrical horizontal stripes going across one arm can look distracting--they actually said they hadn't thought of that!  While I didn't get the job--admittedly, I was a terrible interview and probably looked like an underage child wearing mom's best church clothes--it was an amazing experience. 

Has anyone ever been this obsessed with leotards before? It would be great to know I'm not the only one!
This was 1992, before gymnastics parents were expert action photographers. 

Clearly a deduction for pausing too long before a skill, since my folks were able to catch this photo of me being still long enough. 

My leotard sketch folder was lost in Katrina but I salvaged my original leotard!

Monday, January 11, 2016

How to Win at Gymnastics Every Time

I coach my own kid. That arrangement has pros and cons, but one of the best parts is that being her coach gives me a better understanding of what success means for her in gymnastics.

It can be difficult for parents to understand how routines are judged, but I can assure you it's a very complex system that strives for maximum fairness. But you don't need to understand the judging rules if you're aware of what your child, personally, has been working on.

My kid loves gymnastics and it doesn't come easy for her. She works so hard and it's  frustrating for both of us when she struggles with skills that other kids master very quickly. A back that just won't bend, flat feet, and low muscle tone have made a roundoff back handspring an ongoing struggle for her, while her friends are performing that skill effortlessly with hardly a second thought.

But yesterday was different. Fueled by the adrenalin of competition, she finally performed that skill with the technique that allowed her rebound and finish properly, instead of landing tha-thump with hands still on the ground. I could see the excitement in her smile. When she came off the floor, grinning, she exclaimed, "It was so high! I felt like I was FLYING!"

And THAT is why your kid does gymnastics.

Don't underestimate kids by assuming that they're disappointed if they didn't win. Ask them what skill they love. What skill they want to achieve next. What's hardest, most fun, scariest, easiest. If you're in tune with what your kid is working on, what they're good at and what they struggle at, you'll have a better idea of what constitutes a "win" for them. Because most moments of exhilaration and joy and don't happen on the awards stand.