Yep, I’m THAT Mom

Midway through  my daughter’s gymnastics career I was waiting with the other moms for her practice to finish. One of the mothers asked me a question about the upcoming meet. Before I could answer, her 6 year old son piped up, “Mom, what are you asking her for? You said she never knows anything!” Gasp. The other moms stopped talking. Some were stiffling a giggle. But who could blame him? or her? It was true.

When my daughter was trying out for another team – a much more competitive team with coaches from Russia and practices 4 hours a day, 4-5 days a week in a gym one hour from our home – another mother at the try-out introduced herself to me. We chatted for a while and then she asked, “Does she have her kip?” I asked, “What’s a kip?” She smiled with satisfaction –  convinced my daughter would never make it. Then she asked me to point her out. I did. They were on the uneven bars and evidently, my daughter had her kip. I watched the mom’s face fall.

I used to be a competitive swimmer. And then I coached competitive swimming. I’ve dealt with many a pushy parent. Armchair coaches, we called them. The ones that saw a few races on television during the Olympics, but never swam a day in their life and thought they knew everything. I prayed that my daughter would chose a sport that wasn’t competitive swimming. I wanted her to choose a sport I knew absolutely nothing about.

And she did.

I was thrilled. And she turned out to be pretty good. Then, at the top of her game, she quit.

Off to another sport I knew nothing about. Rowing. I love the water but I knew absolutely nothing of this sport. And the kind of boats? I just had to look up on Wikipedia what kind she raced. K-1 and K-2. But it was so much fun to watch.

And then she discovered a sport I didn’t even know was a sport. Competitive Cheerleading. I had to do everything in my power to keep a poker face when she told me she wanted to try out for the squad. Cheerleading? A sport? Whoop-de-doo. Learn a few chants. Let someone stand on your shoulders. Do a few cartwheels. That’s hardly a sport.

Boy, was I in for an education!

Not only is it a sport, it’s a very dangerous sport. Sixty-five percent of all catastrophic injuries to young women in high school involves cheerleading. You better believe once I heard this statistic I educated myself about this sport. Back in my day doing a cartwheel or a round-off got you on the squad. Now? At my daughter’s school it’s required that you have a standing back tuck. On top of that you need: round off back handspring front layout, round off back handspring full, strength training, dance skills and the ability to stunt. I was thrilled that when she made the squad her position was a base. I did not want her to be a flyer (that’s the one that gets tossed 30 feet in the air.) When we went for her physical her doctor asked what position she was. When I expressed my relief that she wasn’t a flyer the doctor smiled and told me she sees more injuries from the other positions (broken noses, broken clavicles, dislocated elbows and shoulders). What has she gotten into?

Before I signed anything (and you better believe there are release forms for this sport!) I spoke with the coach. She’s a former gymnast and competitive cheerleader, certified, trained and educated. They go to another gym for tumbling where again, they are certified. I breathed a tiny sigh of relief. She’s in her third year and so far, so good.

But beyond me checking out the safety of her coaches, gym and squad I still know very little about the sport. We just returned from the state championships and they made it to finals. A couple of the moms and I were sitting with the coaches at lunch after sectionals. I asked a question. Evidently, a bit of a dumb question. I saw those knowing glances all over again between the moms as the head coach patiently answered me.

I will never be one of those moms that sits in the stands with her pen and schedule, making notes on the other squads, counting how many fell, how many stepped off the mat, how many didn’t complete a stunt. I have no idea how to rank them, how many points are deducted for a fall or what the judges are looking for. I had to ask my daughter a few moments ago to tell me the names of the things she does during her tumbling run. She gave me that look, too.

But that’s ok. I will be my daughter’s cheerleader. I will watch diligently from the stands with eyes on her praying she doesn’t get hurt. I still know less than half of the girl’s names on her squad. I know she gets annoyed whenever I ask, “Now, who is Chelsea?” for the 50th time. But that’s ok. I’m there for her. I’m so proud of the hard work she puts into this sport. It’s a team sport that still showcases her amazing gymnastics ability. Her work ethic is fantastic. She performs in front of thousands of people. She is a consistent athlete. And she loves her teammates. I can’t ask for anything more.

 (Not our squad but an example of what a competitive squad does from last year’s championships)

20 Comments

Filed under Moms, Motherhood, Observations

20 responses to “Yep, I’m THAT Mom

  1. angelcel

    Er…so what *is* a kip?!

    The video? Wooooaaah! No, I had no idea it was a sport either but watching that video, it makes perfect sense – it’s basically group floor gymnastics. And yes, it er does look a tad dangerous!

    Congratulations to your daughter and her team – they are clearly talented, and brave, young women. Good luck in the finals! 🙂

  2. “Get on out there and win one for the Kipper!” It that the correct way to use it in a sentence?

    I didn’t quite realize it until now, but I’ve been feeling uneasy about competitive cheerleading for some time. Granted it is something that pops up on my radar once every other blue moon, but I have heard about the injury rate. Clearly there is pressure to be innovative and to push hard on those extreme moves, the moves that are high risk for injuries and such.

    I just don’t get it. Just because you can do a thing doesn’t always mean you should. But it another one of those pandora’s box sort of things and I don’t know how or if it can ever be reigned back in.

  3. From one clueless mom to another–don’t let the assholes get you down! 🙂

    And cheerleading IS dangerous when they get that good! I’m proud of her!

  4. 2 of my girls were cheerleaders, both flyers. I swear I threw up every time they tossed them. It is nerve wracking, you support them, you love them, you encourage them but sometimes it takes everything you have to let go so they can do their own thing. 2 concussions, 1 wrenched shoulder and a dislocated patella, you better believe it’s dangerous.

  5. HOLY CRAP! There’s some fantastic precision and talent there, but there is no way they should be called cheerleaders. What they’re doing is a whole different ballgame.

    I would be an absolute wreck.

    What ever happened to pompoms and letter sweaters?!

    Ah yes, the dreaded helicopter moms are still circling, huh?! Ugh.

  6. My son did gymnastics — he was five and clumsy and there was no way in hell he was ever going to be competitive, but the snotty Moms still pissed me off.

    And I’m Canadian — I don’t even think we have competitive cheerleading. I didn’t even know enough to feel glad about that 🙂

  7. This is a great post. I hope your daughter gets to read it some time and know how much you were there for her. Forget those other parents. I think they say and do those things to live vicariously through their children, when all we really need to do is be there to encourage them. Good for you!

  8. How refreshing to find there is another kind of mom out there other than the-my-kid-must-be-trained-by-experts-because-he/she-will-be-the-next-star-and-the-coach-knows-nothing. You sound much more healthy than those other competative moms.

    • Thanks, Fae. It’s funny you should bring up the “my kid must be trained by experts” part of my story. Actually, the whole reason we were trying out for that gym (1 hour away) that had Russian, former Olympic athletes for coaches was because the old gym (15 minutes from our house) I didn’t feel had the quality of coaching to keep my daughter safe. The head coach there accused me of thinking my daughter was the next star. I told her, no. I just didn’t want her to be the next statistic (meaning injury or worse.) And when I tried to get my daughter to try soccer instead she told us, “NO! I would just die without gymnastics.”

      • Well, some coaches are idiots. I’m impressed that you worked so hard to find the best fit for your daughter, especially since you didn’t know the sport. It seems most parents only get excited when their kid is doing something they can get into too.

  9. unabridgedgirl

    I think you’re a great kind of mom! Nothing is more distracting than a really pushy parent.

  10. Now that’s where you want your team to be. My teams may have made it to Nationals and International, but that was back in the 80’s and 90’s
    You can see more of my story on my web page and order a book at about 1/2 off the Amazon price.

  11. I love the humor and self-deprecation in this post. What matters – and you are wholly aware of this – is that you are there for your girl, on the sidelines of whatever it is she is doing. This is about more than sports. This is about love and support. And I can tell from this one post that you shroud her with both. A lucky girl indeed.

    (As an aside, this post gets me excited for what’s to come. I played sports growing up and I hope that my little girls get involved in sports or other activities. I can’t wait to be on the sidelines although I can only begin to imagine the periodic worry.)

  12. submom

    Thank you for this post. My son is an aspiring gymnast (Level 6) and after so many years, we still have no idea what he does. What is a giant? Then he rolled his eyes at me too. Of course we attend his meets and hold our breath and watch, ready to comfort him or to cheer him on. But we never brought pencil and paper with us to keep the scores. I always feel inadequate surrounded by parents poised with a pen and a specialized scorebook in hand. Some of them would bring their laptops with Excel files open, ready to calculate the outcome. They know the routines well, so when someone misses a routine, they would know. I am just happy as long as my son STICKS IT, which is one of the few gymnastics terms I know, and I learned it from the movie. It’s going to be tough this year though ’cause they are going some turning around and flying away thing. I don’t think I will be able to watch without having a heart attack. How did you quiet your heart? Oh goodness…

  13. Oh, you are not kidding about how hard cheerleading is and the danger. When I was in High School they banned pyramids because one of our cheerleaders fell off the top and broke BOTH of her arms. It was a state wide ban after that [which was lifted a few years later because parents complained].

    The squad in my daughter’s school try to recruit her and she simply said no thanks – when I asked her why she told me that they wanted her for the “thrower” position [the ones that get tossed?] and she said she wasn’t stupid enough to want to do that. She likes all the cheerleaders, they are a great group of kids, but I was happy she declined.

    Now I am really happy! 🙂

  14. LisaF

    Wow, this brought back all kinds of nightmares…I mean memories. My oldest was in competitive gymnastics. I’ll never forget the day I saw her airborn at age 10. My heart jumped immediately into my throat never to return! She graduated from gymnastics to junior high cheerleading, and was a flyer since she was the smallest. She also did the tumbling runs…on the gym floors. This blessed her with two knee surgeries because of the impact. Then she took up golf and played for her high school.

    My youngest skipped competitive gymnastics and cheerleading, went straight to golf and ended up with a scholarship for college! Golf is not without its risks as she once played through a tournament with a jammed shoulder. Once she played while recovering from food poisoning.

    I never played any sports (still don’t), but sure can talk the talk with the best of them now!

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