[April 2017] Gymnastics, it’s not you, it’s me: a break-up letter to the sport that changed me for the better

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Inklings

By: Alex Spadacenta ’17

When I was five years old, I turned to my dad after marveling over the older girls in the gym and said, “I’m never going to be able to do a cartwheel.” Now, 12 years later, after achieving my goal of mastering a cartwheel and competing back-handsprings and back tucks, I am forced to wave farewell to you, gymnastics, the sport that has shaped who I am today.

Sometimes I wonder why I chose you as my sport. Your four events include hauling myself over a stationary object, flipping around a tiny wooden bar, cartwheeling across a four-inch-wide beam and twisting on the floor in ways I didn’t know I was capable. You have injury written all over you, and it is because of the numerous injuries you have given me that I must say goodbye.

My dad knew that, too. Before I was born, he told himself I could play any sport but gymnastics. So for starters, sorry Dad, but I don’t regret a second of it.

For the most part, I was a fearless child. I always loved flipping around and jumping off objects. After playing many different sports as a kid it was obvious you were my favorite. Soccer clearly wasn’t my sport, as I was always “that kid” doing cartwheels in the middle of the field during games.

You taught me discipline and how to work hard for what I want. As a kid, I never understood how the time I spent conditioning and working on the basics would benefit me. But now, even though my six-pack is gone, I realize that all the hard work, sweat and tears I put into training were for a purpose. Yes, it made me stronger and made me a better gymnast. However, I also learned that sometimes to accomplish what you love, you need to do things that are not always easy or fun.

I’m going to miss you. I’m going to miss the idea of having somewhere to be and somewhere to belong.

The friendships and connections I have made with other gymnasts throughout the past 12 years have stuck with me until this day. Even though I have not seen some of my teammates in years, I can still talk to them like its nothing. You have taught me how to work with and support others even when I am down, which has given me the leadership skills I possess today.

The gym was the first place in Westport, besides my house, where I felt I could be my real self. It was and will forever be an environment where I never felt judged for what I was saying or doing. So many times at practice I stood on the beam jamming along to music, and instead of laughing at me, my teammates laughed with me and joined in on the fun.

As excited as I am for the next four years, I hate to leave you behind.

So now the big question is, what’s next? I have no idea. Maybe I’ll join a club team. Maybe I’ll coach and pass my knowledge on to future gymnasts. Whatever I do, I know I need to keep you in my life.

But for now, I say goodbye to my first ever love.