Sunday, March 31, 2013


Have you ever had one of those moments where you realize that you are incredibly, maybe impossibly happy?  A moment so thrilling, so blissful, and so inspiring, all at the same time, that when you get right down to analyzing it, the only real word that you can use to describe it is Happy.  I had one of those moments last week.

I worked almost 40 hours in the three days leading up to hosting the NCGA National Championships.  In those three days I may have totaled about 10 hours of sleep.  (Not by choice, but as a stress management technique I've adopted; Stay up all night FREAKING out about things I cannot control and load up on caffeine the next day- I'm in the market for a new technique).  By Thursday morning I had reached extreme exhaustion, and extreme excitement as we entered our beautifully decorated basketball arena that would be the site of our epic championship.

 The gym was perfect when I walked in that morning.  Professional, clean... and purple.  God, I love purple.  That gym was ready for the Warhawks.  Practice went fine that day, nothing outstanding, but nothing earth shattering either.  The last practice before a meet is notoriously bad for my girls, and they managed to come out of that day relatively unscathed. - Good energy.

We headed to the hotel where the girls got ready for the Championship banquet.  They were beautiful.  They always are.  But in a world where sweat and chalk and bloody hands and taped ankles are the norm, and pretty leotards and make up and hair ribbons only occur on occasion- it's nice to have nights like the banquet; when tough athletes can take a moment to feel like the beautiful women they are.

The night was awesome, with inspiring speeches (our friend Chellsie Memmel came by to share some wonderful words of wisdom), great music, and hilarious bingo games! - Shout out to Troy who is officially the BEST BINGO CALLER ON THE PLANET!  The girls had a great time, and when it was time to call it a night, we all headed to one room to have our team meeting.

If I didn't already know it (though I'm pretty sure I did), that meeting did it for me.  I had always believed in my girls.  But that night, they were so enveloped in each other, so behind one another, and so undeniably together as one unit that there were no doubts in my mind about the next day.  They had it.  They wanted it.  And it was theirs for the taking.

Friday was a beautiful day.  The sun was shining, breakfast was delicious, and the girls were all smiles.  I freaking LOVE meet days!  The energy was so high, and I couldn't help but remember how I used to feel on meet days knowing that I was about to compete.

We hosted Nationals my sophomore year at Whitewater.  It was, without a doubt, my greatest memory as a collegiate athlete.  That beam routine right there >>> when I landed that dismount Jen picked me up off the ground.  That was, with complete certainty, my proudest moment as a collegiate athlete.

Nostalgia aside, I felt pretty invincible when I walked into the gym that morning (and I'm just an assistant coach!).  Stars hung from the ceiling, and balloons were being strung from the podium.  It was like 'Warhawk Pride' threw up in there.  BEAUTIFUL.  Did I mention that I love purple??

Nationals is always a long couple of days, but the day flew by in a sort of, I'm living in this moment and don't want it to ever stop, way.  Everyone was on their game and no one was going to rain on our
parade.  I mean... the gym was PURPLE, please.

The National Anthem was sung, and like usual I took that moment to say my prayer that I have said before every meet since I've become a coach.  It goes something like, "Dear God, Please be with my girls today.  Please keep them safe, healthy and help them to enjoy every moment of today.  Please help them to realize their blessings and watch over them as they compete to the best of their abilities. Please, please, be with them, and help them to believe in themselves as much as I believe in them now."  And then a new prayer I've adopted this year: "Sweet Avery, please watch over the girls today.  Help them to know that you are by their side, and keep your Warhawks safe.  This is for you, Angel."  --You see, as coach, when we get to the meet... my job is damn near done.  I can offer inspiring words, or corrections about a skill, but in actuality, the work has already been done long before the gymnast salutes the judge.  So I put my faith in my girls, and in my God, and in Avery... and pray that all of their hard work pays off in the end.  That's all we can do right?

The meet went forward then, and the Hawks came out blazing.  We were up first on floor, and one after another our girls nailed their routines.  It was like they came out thinking this was the "UW-Whitewater Show" and no one else mattered.  We were in first place after the first rotation; and we never once fell from that spot.

By the time we reached our final rotation, we were in the lead by almost 3.5 points.  In a sport that is sometimes determined by .0025... I was in complete shock to see that lead.  Nevertheless, we still had one event to do.  Beam had been hot and cold all year... mostly cold, and we couldn't lose this now.  We needed to stay hot.  And we did.  Sure there were a couple of mistakes, but those girls
are fighters... and they were NOT about to let someone steal their thunder.  By the time our last girl landed her dismount I was already fighting back tears.  I knew it.  I didn't know if anyone else could beat us at that point.  I didn't care.  It wasn't about that.  It was about my girls, knowing everything they had been through this year, and seeing them overcome it.  In that moment, I knew I was proud... and that was all I cared about.

We won... in case you hadn't heard yet.  ;-)  The back to back NCGA Division III National Champions hail from Whitewater, WI.  But I still had some work to one of my seniors and I completely switched gears and went to meet our GymHawks.

Nearly 30 of our cute little gym bugs had worked extremely hard to prepare a routine to be performed in front of all the collegiate athletes and coaches, as well as the crowed of over 1200 people!  They were a little nervous, but they were amazing!

My collegiate team had just won a National Championship, and I was watching the next generation of gymnasts fall in love with performing.  I was living in a perfect moment.  I remember sitting on the floor with the kids, as the college girls surrounded us (clapping and cheering the kids on), and I was thinking to myself, "Al, I don't think you've ever smiled this big."  This is what it means to be happy.  This is as good as it gets.  I often say I have the best of both worlds.  I get to share my love for the sport with kids who are just happy to learn a cartwheel,  and share my passion for the sport with college athletes who live for gymnastics like I have for so many years.  In that moment, I realized that I was 100% truly and blissfully happy.

Shortly after the GymHawks performed, the Warhawks were handed their Championship banner, trophy and medals in front of all of their family and friends in their own gym at their own school.  Wow!  It was an incredibly powerful moment for me.  Still reeling from my extreme happiness, I had a hard time fighting back the tears, yet again.  These are the moments that remind me why I do what I do everyday.  Because Happiness isn't something you look for.  It's not something you uncover or discover, or find at the end of a dark road. Happiness is a gift, and when you come across it you need to hold on to it, cherish it, and immortalize it.  As long as you have those moments, you have happiness.  Always.

Congrats to my favorite team on their amazing win!  One Family, One Team, One Dream!  #WarhawkNation

Love True,


Friday, March 22, 2013

We are ONE

We are ONE.

A simple statement with a meaning so deep and complex, it's difficult to explain.

I have a wonderful and loving family who supports me through every endeavor.  They laugh with me, they cry with me, they work incredibly hard, make me stronger, make me smile, and I try like hell to do the same for them.

We are ONE.

Most of you know that I eat, sleep and breathe gymnastics.  I will openly admit that I probably have an unhealthy attachment to the sport at times.  It fuels me and motivates me and has helped shape the person I am.  But in all honesty, it's the people that are in my life because of this sport that binds me to gymnastics.  The gymnasts, coaches, administrators, families-- all the friends I have made in my over 20 years in this sport.... that's what keeps me coming back day after day.

We are ONE.

Each team is different.  At UW-Whitewater I have had the pleasure now of being a part of 8 different gymnastics teams.  I can't even begin to explain how blessed I feel to have had the opportunities that I have, and for the lifelong friends and sisters I have met along the way.  That amazing family I was talking about... that's them.  My soul mates.

We are ONE.

The team this year is incredible.  It is led by five amazingly talented young women who are sure to do amazing things in this world.  When these girls stand together, there is more talent in one room than in any other room on the planet.  I guarantee that.

We are ONE.

As a team we have been through a roller coaster of a year.  All the traditional ups and downs that teams go through were present... injuries, boyfriend issues, learning new skills, etc.  You name it, we conquered it.  Even tragedy.  When life hit us hard this year... we didn't stay down.  We helped each other up and trucked on... because that's what Avery would have wanted us to do.

We are ONE.

Families come in all shapes and sizes.  One of mine is made up of 20 girls who support one another, work together and push each other to be better in EVERY aspect of their lives.  There are 4 people in that family (myself included) who would do ANYTHING for any one of those girls... because we love them, cherish them, and count each one of them as a blessing in our lives.

We are ONE.

Today is the culmination of another season at Whitewater.  And the year behind us, though filled with loss and struggles, triumphs and victories, has lead us to this point.  If there is one thing we've learned this year, it's that nothing can stand in our way as long as we have faith.  My family has grown so much in their faith this year, and I know it will lead them today in everything they do.

We are ONE.

There are not enough words in the English language to describe the love and the passion I have for this family.  I believe more in you all than ever before, and I know that we can do this!!  Our team has it's guardian angel watching out for us, each and AVERYday!  So, today... we will do what we have done all season.  We will be ONE family, ONE team, with ONE dream.  *Nationals 2013*

We are ONE.

Love True,