A Gymnastics Love Story: Talking Injury, Athlete Memories, and Advice for the Current Athlete

Updated: Dec 11, 2018

Meet Bailey. Former gymnast of 13 years, youth soccer player, lover of all things country (including her most recent home… TEXAS!) Goodness I miss her so! Bailey reached the collegiate level for gymnastics, yet a knee injury re-directed her to the next chapter. After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies, she moved where a piece of her heart had always been... You guessed it… Texas! She pursued her Master’s degree in Communication Studies, and also met her now hubby! Bailey currently serves as a Student Development Specialist for first year students at Texas State University and loves connecting and helping students plan for their goals. I’m so very grateful she took the time to share her sports story with us!

"The good days are easy, the bad days determine who will be champions. Soak it all in. The wins, the losses, the good days, the bad days and everything in between."

HSS: What is your fondest memory in being an athlete?

Bailey: "I can’t narrow it down to one, that’s impossible. I started gymnastics when I was six and my entire childhood, high school years and even college years are made up of memories from the sport."

HSS: How was the day-to-day grind?

Bailey: "Our practice schedule was pretty brutal, we trained a minimum of 30 hours a week all year round. I would give anything to be in the shape that I was back then (ha!). More than that though, we spent so much time with each other, we became a little family. I really miss going to practice each day excited to tell my teammates about what happened at school, or just any random thing that happened over the weekend."

"My old teammates and best friends are now living all over the country so I really miss that feeling of knowing that I would see them every single day."

HSS: Speaking of teammates... any particular fun memories?

Bailey: "One of my teammates competed with me in both club gymnastics (little kids through high school) and college. Having known each other for so long, we knew what made the other person tick. On any given day, I could look up and we would make eye contact across the gym, usually with some sort of intense glare, and we would both start laughing. Everyone around us would look us like we were crazy because we typically were just standing there by ourselves or moving mats, but we had that moment that was like ‘yeah, it’s been one heck of a day.’ Never failed to make me feel better."

HSS: How about any competition memories?

Bailey: "Gymnastics is technically an individual sport, but you still competed together as a team. One of my favorite memories was right before a competition when all the teams were warming up on the floor together. That initial rush of adrenaline and all the teams sizing each other up. Sometimes it would be new teams that you have never faced before or it would be rivals that you competed against throughout the entire season. I can’t quite put the emotions from that time in the competition into words, but that was when we all had our game faces on. Looking around you would see your teammates and your competition, and I would just think to myself, ‘alright, let’s do this.’ It was our one chance to psyche out the other teams before breaking apart to start warming up on the events. Then of course you had the whole meet to keep that composure and competitive spirit. Whenever we would see a girl on another team nail a routine, I would joke with my coaches ‘that was an awesome routine, now watch me go do better.’ It was never meant to be mean, because everyone at that level is ridiculously talented, but that competitive feeling and the feeling of ‘all eyes on you’ is one of the things that made me fall in love with the sport."

HSS: As girls and women, we sometimes experience insecurity, negative self-talk/self-image thoughts, or our very critical of ourselves… How would you coach an athlete experiencing this?

Bailey: It is so easy to go down the rabbit-hole of negative thoughts. Gymnastics is a brutal sport, everything gets judged. Your thoughts follow you everywhere and it can be really easy to be over critical of yourself. As an athlete, you have to be very conscious of the random thoughts that you let through your mind and then call yourself on them.

The more aware you are, the less negativity will make it through your mind. It takes practice and being super self-aware to keep yourself focused on only allowing productive or positive thoughts. It’s hard, but it’s a skill that applies to every aspect of your life.

HSS: If you could go back and mentor yourself as a girl growing up and being a competitive athlete, what would you tell her?

Bailey: "So, there are two main things that I would tell myself. These are based on my experiences in gymnastics primarily, but I think that they apply to any sport:

Bad practices and even bad game/competitions are going to happen. What makes you a better athlete is what you do next. Bad days force you to choose: keep going or give up. Don’t let the bad days win. Push through and remind yourself why you want to keep going."

"The good days are easy, the bad days determine who will be champions.

Soak it all in. The wins, the losses, the good days, the bad days and everything in between. Cherish that feeling when you walk out onto the competition floor and get to face down your opponents. You will never find another hobby/skill/job that brings you the rush you get when all eyes are on you and you nail your routine. I miss it every single day."

HSS: How do you think sports contribute to your life as an adult?

Bailey: "Sports made me thick-skinned, and able to take criticism, which has in turn made me a valuable asset in my professional pursuits. On a personal level, some of my best friends are from my days as a gymnast. They are my extended family. More than anything though, I learned that no matter what I was faced with, I could make it work. I do not back down in the face of a challenge and when things get hard, I know that I can finish what I started on my terms.

HSS: How did injury impact you?

Bailey: "When I broke my knee, I was out of commission 6-8 months. I really struggled with whether I wanted to keep going. I loved the sport of gymnastics, but rehabbing and getting back to the level I was at was absolutely daunting."

To this day, I still remember the advice my dad gave me. He said, “you can walk away any time you want, but if you still love the sport, you should try and get back to where you were. The shape you were in, the skills you had. That way, if you decide it’s time to walk away from the sport, you did it because it was time. Not because of fear or lack of ability.”

I got back to the level of competition I was at before my first injury and managed to compete another few seasons. However, I was plagued with injuries for the next few years and ultimately had to retire, but I learned just how strong I actually was. I pushed myself far past what I had thought possible both physically and mentally and it made me who I am today.

The confidence I have when approaching my adult life was gained through the countless hours I spent in the gym.

-Bailey, former gymnast, sister, best friend, teacher, wifey, battler, athlete, country lover, and the first Her Sports Story interviewee!

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