Article & images submitted by Valerie Rube
University of Pennsylvania
Inspiring Teens Magazine: itmgz.com
Summer 2016 Issue
As the youngest of three girls in my family, my sisters were endless sources of inspiration and guidance to me. I started gymnastics because I wanted to be just like my older sister. At the time, she was one of the coolest people I knew, and being an impressionable four year-old, I gave gymnastics a shot. Little did I know that a 15-year journey, full of more literal ups and downs than you can possibly imagine, would begin on that first day of gymnastics class.
Beginning by taking classes and then by working my way on to the competitive team, gymnastics began to take over my life. With each increasing level, more time was being demanded from me. As high schooler, there were times when I didn’t want to rush home after school on a Friday, grab a quick snack then hurry off to the gym for four hours. Those Friday night practices stopped me from attending football games and other school-sponsored events that I vicariously attended through the snapchat stories of my friends. During the rest of the school week, , There were times when the AP classes, extra curriculars and homework piled up. But when 6 PM rolled around each night, I had to forget all of that stress and focus solely on gymnastics. It wasn’t as if practice wasn’t exactly a mental break either. Gymnastics is as mentally taxing as it is physically. It requires so much attention and focus; every little detail matters in the quest for perfection.
Gymnastics tests you. Are you willing to dedicate countless hours to a sport that is constantly trying to bring you down when you’re trying to reach new heights? Are you willing to get back up on that beam after a wipeout worthy of America’s Funniest Home Videos? Are you willing to spend another hour on bars when your hands are literally on fire and your rips (blisters) are getting rips (blisters) of their own? Are you willing to give this sport your blood, sweat and tears?
My answer to all of those questions has been, and will always be yes.
While the sacrifices are continual, there is no better feeling than when you see and feel all of your hard work pay off. At the biggest meet of the year, when you stick the landing, when you see that score, when you stand on the podium—it is these moments when you wouldn’t change a thing.
While success at competition is a great motivation, most of the time, I have found that winning t is not the best of part about being a gymnast. Gymnastics brings the most eclectic group of personalities together. And while we might not always have the same talent, attitudes or interests, we bond through our love and dedication to this amazing sport. Gymnasts as a collective, understand the time commitment, the stress, and the pain associated with the sport and it creates an unbreakable bond. Teammates have seen each other at their worst and their best and offer support and love every step of the way.
My transition from my club team at Central Bucks to Penn has only strengthened my belief in the importance of teammates. In college gymnastics, I have come to truly understand the concept of team above self. Club gymnastics was very much focused on the individual and, while you competed under your club’s name, essentially you competed only for yourself. You supported your teammates, but their performance had very little bearing on your personal performance. At Penn, you compete under the name of Penn Gymnastics and compete for Penn Gymnastics. Every individual performance on every event is for the team, and if you win, you win only as a team. Because every member of the team has this mentality, the cohesiveness and strength of the team cannot be beaten. You want to see your teammates succeed now more than ever, and because of that you will do anything to help them get there and they will unconditionally support you in your effort to help the team win.
After 15 years of traveling it, I know the road through gymnastics is difficult, but it’s worth it. It creates incredible memories with exceptional, amazingly driven people. Not to mention, you learn some really cool skills. In three years, when I have to say goodbye to this sport forever, I’ll always remember that four-year old who fell in love with this sport and be forever thankful that she never looked back.