The Rotary Club of Pismo Beach / Five Cites
John Pollard, Third Place
Grade 6, Ocean View Elementary School
Teacher: Eric Ray
Shawn Johnson said, “Gymnastics taught me everything – life lessons, responsibility and discipline and respect.” I am a gymnast and I can tell you that gymnastics is more than a sport. I am 12 years old and I have been doing gymnastics almost every day since I was six. I’ve competed for four years. Gymnastics is a way of life for me.
Test Number 1. Gymnastics is the truth. There is no faking skill. Either you know your skills or you don’t. Judges are very strict on form and they grade you. It’s just like a test at school but in this test, it’s using more than your mind. It’s using every tiny muscle in your body too. It’s everything. Gymnastics isn’t necessarily about winning, but it’s nice when you do. Even though you are competing against other gymnasts, you are really only competing against yourself. It’s about doing your best and getting better every time you compete.
Test Number 2. Gymnastics is fair to all concerned. You will only get out of it exactly what you put into it. Every gymnast is scored by the same judge on the same event at a competition. When you are done with one event, you move on to another and another judge. The judges grade you and your competition using the same set of requirements for everyone. If you make a mistake, they deduct points. If you do well, then your scores are higher. If you don’t work hard or focus on getting better all the time, the only person you are cheating is yourself.
Test Number 3. Gymnastics builds good will and better friendships. As a competitive gymnast, you will work out more than 700 hours a year, so you will spend a lot of time after school with your teammates and you get to know them very well. You see all sides of them – happy, sad, funny, serious, frustrated, sick, and healthy. After a while, there aren’t very many secrets! When you’re traveling to competitions, you get to meet other gymnasts and make new friends. After a few trips, you have friends all over the state. It’s always fun to run into someone you know when you’re at a new place. For example, I went to the Stanford Open college competition in January and I knew three of the guys competing on the University of Washington college team. I met them last summer at a weeklong clinic I went to. I also got to meet Team USA Olympian gymnast Sam Mikulak. He’s my role model, so that was incredible.
Test Number 4. Gymnastics is beneficial to all concerned. In doing gymnastics, you learn to work hard and you learn that it takes time, patience, and discipline to get really good at something. You can’t give up because it isn’t easy or if it hurts. You have to work hardest at the skills that don’t come naturally and you can’t take the skills you’re good at for granted. You have to work on those too. You have to be confident about your performance no matter what. You have to be a good sportsman even when things don’t go as good as you hoped they would. You have to be proud of what you already know and not feel bad for the things you don’t. That’s pretty good advice for a lot of things in life.
Gymnastics is about respect. You have to respect your coach, your teammates, the competition, and yourself. You have to respect the families of gymnasts too. Without the support of your family, gymnastics would be impossible. It’s a very big commitment for everyone. It is a privilege to be a gymnast and I am thankful that I can do it.