Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Skewed Vision

I got angry today.  I'm not the type of person that gets angry easily, but let me explain what happened this morning.

I came home from teaching my morning class (I teach a parent-tot gymnastics class... and yes, it's as cute as it sounds) and began to get ready for the rest of my day.  A habit I've developed while living alone is to have the TV on for background noise.  I never feel completely by myself with the TV on.  Anyway, cue background noise, and me at my computer... when I hear a conversation about body image.  Naturally, my curiosity spikes and I tune in to what is being said.  A talk show was discussing a "look better naked" issue of a magazine.  Apparently, several celebrities posed nude for this particular magazine issue.  Included in the issue, the celebrities talk about their own "body issues" and what they have struggled with.  The hosts of said talk show mocked these celebrities asking, "what body issues?" They went on to discuss how they don't think that the average woman would benefit from reading this article, because all of the celebrities pictured are very thin.  One of the talk show hosts said she wanted to see "a woman like me! But nobody wants to see me naked!"  Who says that is true?! And, why do these hosts automatically think that skinny people can't have body issues!

First of all, yes, these women are beautiful... you can't argue that Heidi Klum, Maria Menunos and Debra Messing aren't gorgeous.  However, who are you to say that they didn't struggle the way you have.  Sure, you may think they are beautiful, but body image is an INTERNAL thing.  Just because a person is overweight, or underweight, or has scars or pimples, doesn't mean they hate themselves... it doesn't mean they are happy either.  It doesn't mean anything... except that they are overweight or underweight or have scars or have pimples.  Just because a woman smiles doesn't mean she is happy... and just because a woman cries doesn't mean she hates herself.  Appearance is just that... APPEARANCE, and life isn't always what it appears to be.  I really despise judgement.  And I'm not going to judge the women who said these things, because who knows what they deal with internally on a daily basis... not me.  I would never assume anything about them.  But I would hope that they could learn to do the same someday.  That is what frustrates me.  Can we all just show a little compassion for one another regardless of size, beauty, or celebrity?  We have been objectified long enough, and conversations like the one I saw on TV today are only adding to the confusion in the media.  Stop assuming things about people, and start standing up for women.  Not fat women, not thin, JUST WOMEN!  We can make this change if we want to... we just need to start speaking out!

Day 27: If something irks you the wrong way... don't be afraid to speak out.  Don't hold your tongue... "you must be the change you wish to see in the world." -Mahatma Ghandi

Love True,

Friday, April 13, 2012


It has been 21 days since my team changed history.  My last blog was written just hours before the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawk Gymnastics team won it's first ever National Championship.  I have waited three weeks to write this entry... in part because the celebration only ended yesterday... but also, because I have been so overwhelmed with pride, I was afraid I wouldn't be able to find the words to do it justice.

Before I came to Whitewater, the team struggled to win meets.  After I came to Whitewater, the team struggled to win meets.  It was an uphill battle from the beginning, but my teammates and I had incredible leaders.  Our coaches were fearless in pushing us to our limits, sometimes past them, but all in an effort to create a family that could depend on one another, and believed in each other.  In 2007 we participated in our first ever national championship and placed 4th.  We didn't qualify for that meet, we hosted it, and as the host team earned an automatic bid.  Placing 4th proved to us that we belonged there.  We were a team on the verge of breaking through a wall that felt 7 miles high.

In 2008, we qualified for Nationals by placing 2nd at our Regional meet.  A significant dent in the wall was  established.  This was the highest Whitewater had ever placed at the Regional meet, and the first time to ever qualify to the national championship.  It was a huge deal for us!

In 2009, we dug a little deeper into that wall qualifying for the second year in a row.  Only this time, we made a huge statement.  Whitewater came away with a third place trophy that year, as well as the National Coach of the year.  Everyone knew it... we were well on our way.

2010, brought a monumental accomplishment.  The Warhawks won their first ever conference and regional championship.  The wall was coming down around us.  I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of accomplishment on that day.  Again, we placed third at Nationals.

We took another step forward in 2011, as we captured another conference championship.  This time, inching closer to the ultimate goal.  We placed second at the National Championship.  This was my first year in a new role.  I had always been a gymnast, a teammate and a friend.  Now, I was a coach.  It was a strange sense of pride... one I had not felt before, but incredibly satisfying.  The little team that could... was proving in fact, that they would.

This year things went a little different.  For the first time in 5 years, we weren't sure if we had what it took to go all the way.  We struggled a lot during the season, with injuries and illness.  So much so, that we were unable to capture our third regional title.  We fell to second at that meet, and an unspoken disappointment was clearly evident among the team and the coaches.  Though the coaches were incredibly proud of what the team had accomplished... it was a small let down after the previous two victories.

The next three weeks were spent completely reinventing the way we coach, and the way we ran practice.  It was obvious there was some concern about what we were doing, and to be completely honest, I had my own reservations.  Not for long, though.  After the first few days I started to see the changes in the girls.  Their attitudes were different, the way they practiced was different.  It was as if every turn they were taking, they were imagining competing on the national stage.  BINGO.  That is exactly what we were hoping for.  I never doubted these girls for a second, but I was completely baffled by what some of them were capable of.  In one entire week of practice, two of the girls only fell of the beam once.

Going to nationals, I felt an incredible calm.  As I stood listening to the national anthem, praying for guidance, support and confidence for my girls, I could feel the magic that was about to happen.  I was right.  From the very first routine, they proved that NO WALL was too high for UW-Whitewater.  No one was going to put limits on what they were able to do.  One after another, they continued to soar through their routines, adding to the electricity that could be felt throughout the entire arena.  Sure, there were mistakes, but it was the way they rallied each time... never letting down, never placing blame, only encouragement in its purest form.  There was no way we couldn't win.

By the time we made it to our final rotation it was a matter of 0.15 that separated first and second place.  We had to be as perfect as possible on vault... and that had not even come close to happening for us this year.  It was like someone said to them... Fly... just fly.  Because that's exactly what they did.  Each girl got up and did THE BEST they had done all year.  Have you ever heard of peaking at the right time??  Meet the UW-Whitewater vaulters.  The crowd was on fire... literally.  Our fans were "starting the fire" before each vaulter started her sprint down the runway.  Everyone else in the arena knew just how close it was... and every person was sitting on the edge of their seats, watching, waiting.

As soon as the last vaulter landed, the crowd went nuts.  The team was so fired up, they probably could have competed all over again.  After we finished our post-vault huddle I stepped out into the hallway and burst into tears.  Happy tears.  Tears that had been waiting 7 years to fall.  I felt so incredibly blessed in that moment... and I had no idea we had won.  In my heart... I knew that no matter what, I could not have been more proud to be a part of this program.  In my head... I was trying to calculate whether on not we pulled it off.

We did.  We actually tied.  And that felt just as good.  Watching the girls hear their names called for first place is something I will never forget.  EVER.  We returned to Whitewater with a Team National Championship, an individual National Championship, 11 All- Americans and 3 Academic All- Americans.  Whitewater was proud, and we were proud to be a part of an athletic department that is full of champions. This year, we brought home the 5th National title to UWW, joining Football, Men's Basketball and Men's and Women's Wheelchair basketball.  Yesterday, the Whitewater Fire Department took our team for a memorable ride through town on top of the town fire truck.  Sirens blazing, the whole town stopped to wave at the newest national champions.  It was amazing.

A few years back I fell in love with a song that I felt defined the journey ahead of us.  Three weeks ago, the sound of it brought me to tears.  It is so true to any athlete working year after year towards a goal.  Perseverance and dedication trumps all... regardless of the outcome, because, "in the end, the journey is the destination."

Taylor Swift, "Change"

And it's a sad picture, the final blow hits you
Somebody else gets what you wanted again
You know it's all the same, another time and place
Repeating history and you're getting sick of it

But I believe in whatever you do
And I'll do anything to see it through

Because these things will change, can you feel it now?
These walls that they put up to hold us back will fall down
It's a revolution, the time will come for us to finally win

We'll sing hallelujah!
We'll sing hallelujah! Oh

So we've been outnumbered, raided and now cornered
It's hard to fight when the fight ain't fair
We're getting stronger now from things they never found
They might be bigger but we're faster and never scared

You can walk away and say we don't need this
But there's something in your eyes says we can beat this

'Cause these things will change, can you feel it now?
These walls that they put up to hold us back will fall down
It's a revolution, the time will come for us to finally win

We'll sing hallelujah!
We'll sing hallelujah! Oh

Tonight we standed on our knees
To fight for what we worked for all these years
And the battle was long, it's the fight of our lives
Will we stand up champions tonight?

It was the night things changed, can you see it now?
These walls that they put up to hold us back fell down
It's a revolution, throw your hands up, 'cause we never gave in

We'll sing hallelujah!
We sang hallelujah!

Love True,