According to Livestrong.com, there are nearly 5 million young people who participate in gymnastics in the United States, and although only a handful make it to Olympic competition, their parents shell out enough money for lessons, leotards , custom-embroidered gym bags, hair bows, clips — and other gear my wife didn’t tell me about — to fund Russia’s entire sports doping program.
Yes, my three daughters have participated in gymnastics at one time or another, and we gladly spent whatever it took to give them the opportunity to learn some balance, discipline, coordination and fitness (and looking really cute) – while I numb my buns in the waiting room eating Cheez-Its and playing Angry Birds on my cell phone.
I even tried my own calloused Atari-joystick hand at gymnastics for a brief time as a youngster, but gave up after being traumatized by a disagreement I had with the pommel horse. I don’t remember exactly what happened, but I’m pretty sure it involved a combination of my fear of heights and an unintended split performance.
Although I once thought my days as a reluctant gymnastics spectator were long over, I recently found myself at the Texas Gymnastics Conference Championships to watch my eldest and dearest daughter (now in college ) compete with Texas A&M University Gymnastics. Yes, she’s the same girl who over the years has also taken us on exciting and heartbreaking adventures with ballet, fiddle, horseback riding (Western and English), tumbling and team dancing – for to name a few.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely proud of her for her hard work and for trying so many new things. I just wish I could leverage my finely honed skill of sitting for up to eight hours at a stretch waiting to watch my child do something that lasts about three minutes. The sport could be called “competitive inactivity” and cash prizes could be awarded based on how well your rear end gets to the consistency of melted Silly Putty.
My wife and I started the morning with a trip to Chick-fil-A for some “Lord’s Carbs” to sustain us physically and spiritually through a long day at a gym that smelled just like – you got it guessed – a gymnasium. Once seated, I was amazed at the level of activity taking place throughout the establishment, but immediately identified the most important areas of the venue, which were the men’s room and the concession stand.
The early hours of competition involved the men’s teams and featured incredibly chiseled athletes with bulging muscles even from their earlobes. While I was impressed with their talent and athleticism, watching the men mostly made me want to do sit-ups, so naturally I went for a snack.
Amid the competitions going on at the facility, I also noticed several gymnasts getting warm-up massages, and I briefly considered slipping on a “big and tall” leotard to see if I could get someone working. one on my lumbar region. Luckily for my wife (and everyone else), my daughter’s floor routine competition was just getting started.
My daughter, who inherited my nervous stomach, looked almost as nauseous as I did, but she did very well and, as usual, made us proud. I don’t know how many flips she did in that routine, but it was really impressive – especially for a guy who’s never flipped a flip that didn’t end in a belly flop after the high dive. .
After the competition was over, we took our student to catch up on some Mexican food. The whole experience was a great reminder to appreciate the precious time I have left to sit and watch my kids do the things they love, especially when the day starts with Chick-fil-A and ends with tacos.
Jase Graves is an award-winning comedy columnist from East Texas. Contact Graves at [email protected]