11.04.2016

Gymnastics Dreams: Looking Back on Quitting the Sport

I did gymnastics competitively for ten years. One day I stopped competing. Here is the story.

"I can't do it any more!"

“….”

"But..."

“….”

"No..."

“….”

"Okay. I’ll stay on the gymnastics team."




I headed back to my dorm room to retrieve my leotard and grips so I can resume training with the team. I know my body is still capable so the hard work won't be a problem. But my head. Can I get my head around it? I guess I'm forced to go through with it.

Tons of thoughts swim through my head as I half-heatedly head back to the gym. Is winning really everything? Is this really fair to the girl whose spot I take? By going back, I'll take someone's chance to compete just so our team will continue to dominate. No big deal, right? There are worse things. Just brush it off and do it for the team.

What would my therapist say about all of this? Oh, right, no time for a therapist. Just gymnastics and school. Sleep, eat, class, gymnastic, repeat.

It's just gymnastics. Why do some people, myself included, make such a bid deal out of it?

The gym comes into view. “Just keep it together,” I tell myself. “Train like you know you can. Put your fear aside and don't think about it. Just go for it. You told them you would and you can't back out now.”

Pep talk over. I open the gym door…

I wake up in a slight state of anxiety. Quickly I realize this is just a dream. No one was making me do gymnastics and if they had tried to, there's no way I'd have gone through with it. Even back then, no one could have made me stick with the sport it if my heart wasn't 100% into it. 

I never had any anxiety about quitting gymnastics all those years ago but for some reason, this time in life has come back to me repeatedly in my dreams and always leaves me in a slight state of panic.

Some little girls were meant to flip and bend, and I took to gymnastics instantly. It was a huge part of my life for ten years and I couldn’t picture life without it. Who would Ann Vinciguerra be without gymnastics? As a college student, I was to find out the answer quickly. 

It was my goal to complete on a college gymnastics team. I found a school and a gymnastics team that were a good fit for me, and I began training with the squad as soon as my first semester started. I lasted for three weeks of training and while I loved the hard work, I was coming to realize that it was time to move on. Between classes, daily practice, and the newfound freedom and social opportunities that came with college, balancing everything was more than I had bargained for. In an instant, I was ready to go from living the life of a gymnast to living the life of a typical college student.

When I told the coach the news, I got a big lecture. She tried to talk me out of it, and when I explained that I was having a hard time balancing school, training and social life, she responded harshly with something about “having your whole life to socialize.” (“But only four years of college,” I answered timidly.) I don’t remember what more she said to me but it wasn’t a short or easy conversation.

When I think about this, I wonder why I didn’t consider scaling back – specializing on one or two events instead of being an all-around gymnast and training on all four events? It never occurred to me. 

Why didn’t I look into taking four courses per semester rather then the full five? As for taking longer to finish college, that wasn’t something that occurred to me either. The go/achieve/success attitude that was instilled in those of us who grew up in Randolph, NJ washed that thought from my mind a long time ago.  

The coach didn't suggest those options either.

One day gymnastics was my life and in the blink of an eye, I was ready to be done with it. I don’t regret quitting. It was the right thing to do at the time yet I sometimes think, “What if I stuck with gymnastics?” It would have been cool to have been part of a college team but I knew I was no longer able to do it all.  It wasn’t what I wanted my college life to be.

Why does quitting gymnastics still come to me in my dreams? Why do I agree to stay on the team when I know my heart is not into it? The sleeping mind tells us strange things. Do we listen to these messages? Perhaps one of these days a voilà moment will come. If it doesn’t, I don't think it will matter. For now, it’s best to just write about it.