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Contender

July 2, 2009

Oh, my goodness, I feel like I have been away for forever! And in a sense, I have—it’s been close to three weeks since I have really crashed, like I’m doing right now, on the comfort of my couch with the dog, the remote, and my laptop. I love to travel, but love coming home even more. There’s something about sinking down into my corner of the sofa, knowing exactly how far that worn out cushion is going to give, and having a perfect view of green leaves and blue sky outside the windows across the room, that is soothing to my jet-lagged self (although that isn’t as bad coming as going).

 

I am home.

 

It is good to be home, especially after Autumn’s disappointment. It’s good to be back, in familiar surroundings, and just breathe. If you’re my friend on Facebook, you’ve already heard that after working so hard to get to Nationals for the past year, and facing so many struggles competition-wise since this past January, Autumn did not do so very well this year. It’s tough for her, because despite all of our warnings that “you might not place this year,” and “you have to be prepared that you won’t wind up third in the nation this year, Autumn…you have some stiff competition,” she still really, really believed and expected to just walk in there, start flipping, and win it all.

 natl2

I’ll tell you what—it’s hard to sit there in the stands and watch your child after she’s just screwed up royally on her second double-mini pass. Her coaches stood behind her as she stood and stared out at the floor, tension in every line of her body, a vulnerable determination not to cry etched on her face. Her arms were crossed tightly across her body, and every now and then one of her coaches would rest a hand lightly on her shoulder or head. It’s hard to sit and watch that tableau play out from fifty yards away when all you want to do is wrap her in your arms and hug away the hurt.

 

I’m amazed, and so proud, that she did hold it all together until she was outside the convention center. Another child in her double-mini flight had made a similar mistake, but had not had as high a first pass score as Autumn’s, and thus received last in flight. She was wailing. Autumn waited until we were seated and waiting for the VTA train to arrive before she let the first tear fall.

 

So what happened? What went wrong? I think nerves got to her, and this terrible pressure she puts on herself to be the best. Her coach changed her tumbling pass the day before she competed, so that may have had something to do with that routine, but it doesn’t negate the truth that she simply could not, all of a sudden, complete a whip, a move that she has been doing with incredible grace and ease the entire season. In the middle of her second pass, she stopped dead still, and after a moment arched into a series of three back-handsprings in order to complete the pass in some fashion. I’m amazed that she could do this from such a dead stop—usually it requires a running start—but she was determined to finish that pass.

 

On trampoline, her weakest event, she handled herself very competently, managing to hit somewhere in the middle of all of the girls competing.

 

I believe that in Autumn’s mind, it came down to double-mini to pull out all the stops, redeem the tumbling error, and place. Her first pass was beautiful, her score a close to perfect 29.30. She flubbed the second pass, however, coming down in her final bounce on a bad spot on the trampoline and rebounding a little too far. She stumbled, put out a hand to keep herself from falling, and that was it. Null on the second pass.

 

As we told her, time and again, we are so proud of her simply for getting there this year. What an incredible accomplishment to make it to the Junior Olympics in anything, and especially after what a difficult learning curve this year has proved to be for her. What an accomplishment to simply march out there on that floor, and to contend. My husband stumbled across a quotation in a book he read over the course of our vacation that is perfect for the circumstances:

 

It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbled or how the doer of deeds might have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with sweat and dust and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, if he wins, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. (from The Man in the Arena)

 

At her tender age of ten, Autumn has already experienced the thrilling highs and the crushing lows of competition. She is acquainted, in equal measure, with both that triumph and that failure. I can’t help but think it will forge her into an even more formidable contender in the future.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 6, 2009 11:37 am

    I am so proud of this little girl that I have never met. I love that you are teaching her that everyone doesn’t win every time by letting her be in a truly competitive sport. I signed my oldest up for soccer when he was in kindergarten and couldn’t believe the whole idea that ‘everyone wins’. They never kept score. I figured I was too competitive and that perhaps that was the best way to go for kids that age. My 10-year-old signed up for a city baseball league last year and it was the same thing – no scores kept, everyone wins. What does this teach kids?

    Anyway, I didn’t intend for this to be a tirade. Hooray for Autumn! She has years ahead of her to hone those skills… and I’m sure she will.

  2. July 6, 2009 9:55 pm

    I’m a little late for a “welcome home” post, but just the same, I hope you’re settled in by now. I’m glad you’re doing your best to prepare Autumn. It will keep her strong later in life. HUG

    I took a ‘leave of absence’ from my blog, due to my daughter’s dance schedule. I understand being the wind beneath your daughter’s wings.

    You inspire me to be a better mom!

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